‘Explosive’ Princess Diana tapes aired on TV

Do or Di: As a teenager, she “knew that something profound was coming my way”. © Getty

As the 20th anniversary of Princess Diana’s death nears, Channel 4 has broadcast personal conversations about her marriage and childhood. Should her private words have been made public?

Diana Spencer was 19 when she first started dating Prince Charles. He was 31. “He leapt upon me, he started kissing me and everything and I thought, ‘Ahh! You know, this is not what people do!’”

Diana told this frank story to her voice coach, Peter Settelen, in 1992. He was helping her to find a new voice after she and Charles had separated. They recorded hours of interviews about her personal life.

Last night, clips from those conversations were shown for the first ever time in the UK, in a Channel 4 documentary, Diana: In Her Own Words. It is almost 20 years since she was killed in a car crash in Paris.

In the tapes, she also speaks about her parents, who “never said they loved me”; she describes her sex life with Charles as “very odd”; and she is open about her struggle with bulimia.

Channel 4 has described the tapes as an “amazing historical document,” that will “create a new portrait of Diana”.

But not everyone is happy about the documentary. Her brother demanded that it be dropped. Her friend told The Guardian that it is “a betrayal of her privacy and of the family’s privacy”. And her former private secretary called the tapes “exploitative”.

Queen of hearts

They are right, say some. There has been a ghoulish fascination with Diana ever since she and Charles were first married. Now the media has hurt her again by revealing private conversations about the most personal moments of her life. When will she be allowed to rest in peace?

This is different, say others. These interviews gave her the opportunity to tell her life story in her own way, without worrying about tabloid spin or keeping up appearances for one of the first times. All she wanted, says her former protection officer, was to be heard. This programme gives her that chance. “She would love it.”

You Decide

  1. Imagine you have a private conversation about your life on tape. How would you feel if it were published 20 years later?

Activities

  1. Write a list of questions that you have for each member of the royal family after reading about this interview — including the Queen, Prince Charles, and Diana’s two sons, William and Harry. Finally, write down the questions that you would have for Diana if she were still alive today.

Some People Say...

“The private lives of public figures should not be considered history.”

What do you think?

Q & A

What do we know?
The documentary was aired on Channel 4 last night in the UK, and on PBS in the USA. The tapes were recorded between September 1992 and December 1993. They were originally shown in the USA in 2004.
What do we not know?
How reliable Diana’s narrative is — it is worth remembering that she was in the midst of her separation from Charles at the time, and was clearly angry about it.

Word Watch

Separated
Diana and Prince Charles were married on July 29th 1981. Their divorce was finalised in August 1996, a year before her death.
Car crash
Although many blamed the media for chasing Diana, the official inquest blamed the crash on the driver, Henri Paul, who lost control of the car while drunk. He, Diana, and her boyfriend Dodi Fayed all died.
Bulimia
An eating disorder in which people deliberately make themselves vomit in order to get rid of the food they have eaten beforehand. Diana’s battle with bulimia was first revealed in 1992.

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