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Unseen Princess Diana: Row over new revelations on TV

The new Channel 4 documentary features clips from videos that Diana made four years before her death with her public speaking coach Peter Settelen.

world Updated: Aug 01, 2017 00:37 IST
Prasun Sonwalkar
Prasun Sonwalkar
Hindustan Times, London
Princess Diana Spencer,British royal family,new Diana documentary
File photo of Britain's late Princess Diana and Prince Charles taking shelter under an umbrella while attending the Royal Ascot horse race meet near London in June 1990 . Britain’s Channel 4 is broadcasting a new documentary on Diana using video tapes in which she candidly discussed her marital problems and her strained relationship with the royal family. (AP)

It is nearly 20 years since Diana, princess of Wales, died in a car crash in Paris but her hold over popular imagination is as fresh as ever: a documentary to be shown on August 6 with previously unseen footage of her has sparked a row over privacy.

Famously called the “people’s princess” by then prime minister Tony Blair to reflect the public grief, Diana died on August 31, 1997, aged 36, throwing millions of her fans in the UK and around the world into gloom.

The documentary Diana: In Her Own Words, to be broadcast on Channel 4, includes confessional videos shot by Diana with her public speaking coach Peter Settelen, during which she mentions problems she faced in her marriage with Prince Charles, her sex life, and how she sought Queen Elizabeth’s help.

Rosa Monckton, one of Diana’s closest friends, told The Guardian that she is urging Channel 4to scrap the documentary on the ground that the confessional videos were made as part of a course of speech coaching that amounted to therapy, and that using them would be an “intrusion” and “outrage” that betrays Diana’s right to privacy.

Earl Spencer, Diana’s brother, too has sought the dropping of the documentary since, according to him, it would hurt her two sons, Prince William and Prince Harry. However, Channel 4 has so far defended its decision to air the frank documentary.

In comments widely reported in the British media, Diana says in the videos made in 1993 that sex with Prince Charles happened ”once every three weeks” and that at the age of 24, when she was already married, she “fell deeply in love” with an unnamed member of the royal household, widely believed to be protection officer Barry Mannakee, who died in a motorcycle accident.

Diana reportedly recalled that in 1979, two years before her wedding, “Charles chatted me up. He was like a bad rash…He was all over me and I thought, you know, ‘Urgh’. Whereupon he leapt upon me and started kissing me and everything, and I thought, ‘Waaah! This is not what people do.’”

A spokeswoman for Channel 4 said: “The excerpts from the tapes recorded with Peter Settelen have never been shown before on British television and are an important historical source. We carefully considered all the material used in the documentary and, though the recordings were made in private, the subjects covered are a matter of public record and provide a unique insight into the preparations Diana undertook to gain a public voice and tell her own personal story, which culminated in her later interview for Panorama.”

The spokeswoman added, “This unique portrait of Diana gives her a voice and places it front and centre at a time when the nation will be reflecting on her life and death.”

First Published: Jul 31, 2017 18:37 IST