HBO's Diana Documentary Defends Use of Panorama Clips Condemned by William

The team behind the feature-length HBO documentary of Princess Diana's life story as told through the lens of the media has defended using clips from her polarizing 1995 Panorama interview as " a moment of historical record," despite Prince William saying it should "never be aired again."

The documentary titled The Princess, currently available to stream on HBO Max, has been released to coincide with the 25th anniversary of Diana's death on August 31, 1997 in a high-speed Paris car crash.

A chronological assessment of the media's love/hate relationship with the royal, the documentary provoked a wave of discussion among viewers, many of whom drew comparisons between the treatment of Diana and that of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle.

Included in among the reproduced contemporary news and interview footage are large segments from Diana's 1995 interview with Martin Bashir for BBC's Panorama news show.

The interview delivered many royal bombshells including the princess discussing her husband's extramarital affair with Camilla Parker-Bowles which resulted in the now infamous line "there were three of us in this marriage, so it was a bit crowded."

Princess Diana Documentary
Creators of HBO's "The Princess" have defended the inclusion of clips from Diana's contentious "Panorama" interview from 1995. Princess Diana photographed April 26, 1985. John Shelley Collection/Avalon/Getty Images

An independent inquiry in 2021 into how the interview was obtained found that Bashir had acted in a "deceitful" way after it was revealed that he showed forged bank statements to Diana's brother that undermined his confidence in close staff members and influenced him to introduce his sister to Bashir.

After the inquiry was finished, Prince William issued an unprecedented statement from Kensington Palace, stating that he believed the deceitful way that the interview was obtained influenced what his mother had said. He also said that the interview contributed to the breakdown of his parent's marriage.

"The interview was a major contribution to making my parents' relationship worse and has since hurt countless others," he said. "It brings indescribable sadness to know that the BBC's failures contributed significantly to her fear, paranoia and isolation that I remember from those final years with her."

"It is my firm view that this Panorama program holds no legitimacy and should never be aired again," William added. "It effectively established a false narrative which, for over a quarter of a century, has been commercialized by the BBC and others."

Prince William Panorama Reaction
Prince William issued an unprecedented statement following the independent inquiry into how the BBC obtained the "Panorama" interview with his mother stating that it should "never be aired again." Jeff J Mitchell - Pool/Getty Images

This effective burying of the interview was confirmed by the BBC in July 2022 when the corporation agreed to pay damages to a former nanny of William and Harry, who was the subject of lurid and untrue rumors that "likely" influenced Diana into agreeing to the interview.

"Now we know about the shocking way that the interview was obtained, I have decided that the BBC will never show the program again; nor will we license it in whole or part to other broadcasters," BBC director-general Tim Davie said after the payout was announced.

Davie did however concede that clips from the interview may be used by the corporation in the future for journalistic purposes but these would be "few and far between" with them being placed in the context of how the interview was obtained.

The use of clips from the interview in The Princess caused considerable comment at the time of the statement from the BBC and after its release on August 13, a spokesperson for the film defended their inclusion.

A statement given to Newsweek on behalf of the film said: "This feature documentary tells the story of Princess Diana exclusively through archive footage from the time, without commentary from today. This interview is shown briefly, in context, as a moment of historical record."

Billed as An Interview with H.R.H The Princess of Wales, the 55-minute interview recorded within the private confines of Diana's Kensington Palace apartment, aired on November 20, 1995.

In the U.K. alone, 23 million viewers tuned in to watch the program and the BBC sold syndication rights around the world as it was hailed the scoop of a generation.

Princess Diana Panorama Interview
Princess Diana's bombshell interview with Martin Bashir for BBC's "Panorama" aired on November 20, 1995 to a U.K. audience of 23 million. © Pool Photograph/Corbis/Corbis via Getty Images

For the princess, the fallout from the interview resulted in Queen Elizabeth II reportedly instructing Prince Charles and his then separated wife to divorce, something that Diana said was a decision she didn't wish to make.

The couple did divorce the following year, by which time serious questions over how her Panorama interview had been obtained had already been raised within the BBC.

After Diana's death in August 1997, the Panorama interview became a record of the princess' unhappiness within the royal institution, something which was mirrored by her son two decades later when he appeared alongside wife Meghan Markle for a tell-all interview with Oprah Winfrey.

Newsweek has reached out to Kensington Palace for comment.

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