In the months before she tragically died in Paris, Princess Diana was said to have been in a state of severe paranoia and isolation.
Although she was adored by the British public and around the world, details of her personal life and marital difficulties with Prince Charles became publicised on a daily basis.
Reporters were scratching around for the next scoop and Diana was said to have become increasingly withdrawn and distrustful.
It was in this high-pressure environment that a BBC journalist took steps to secure a now-infamous interview, which many say tipped her over the edge into complete isolation in her final year.
She sat down with Martin Bashir for the tell-all interview the year before her marriage ended in divorce in 1996.
It was a massive win for the British public broadcaster – which hailed it as the scoop of a generation. The program was watched by nearly 23 million viewers in the UK. At the time, it was 39.3 per cent of the entire population.
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What did Diana say in the interview?
Gripped by what they were watching, they saw Diana alone in her sitting room in Kensington Palace – a room that would later became Prince William and Harry’s play room – where she opened up to the public like never before.
It was the first time a serving royal had spoken so openly about life in the royal family – viewers saw her speak about her unhappy marriage to Prince Charles, their affairs and her bulimia.
Diana said that she had felt enormous relief at her pregnancy with William but that she subsequently suffered from post-natal depression, which led her to be labelled by others as unstable and mentally unbalanced.
She revealed she began self-harming and became bulimic, both of which intensified following Charles’s resumption of his relationship with Camilla Parker Bowles.
She famously said, “there were three of us in this marriage” – her, Charles and his long-time mistress and now wife, Camilla.
She said she felt she had been compelled to perform her role as Princess of Wales and that her behaviour had led friends of Charles to show “that I was again unstable and sick and should be put in a home of some sort … I was almost an embarrassment”.
The media predictably lapped up the new salacious details and even more sensationalised stories about the royal marriage filled the British papers in the months that followed.
Two years later, Diana would die in a car crash in the Pont de l’Alma tunnel in Paris while the driver was fleeing the paparazzi.
Many, including her own son Prince Harry, believe the BBC interview was a major factor in creating the high-pressure environment that led to her death
The Duke of Sussex, 36, said in a statement today: “Our mother lost her life because of this, and nothing has changed.”
Why was it so controversial?
The infamous BBC interview has been looked at in great detail ever since it aired.
Bashir, 58, was little-known when he sat down in Kensington Palace, and the interview saw him become a heavyweight journalist.
He went on to have a high-profile career on US television networks, interviewing big-name stars, including the singer Michael Jackson, before returning to work for the corporation as religion editor.
However, questions have been asked about how a relatively unknown reporter managed to get the scoop of the decade.
A six-month investigation concluded today that Bashir faked bank statements to “deceive” Diana into speaking to him.
The bank statements falsely suggested some of Diana’s closest aides were being paid by the security services to keep tabs on her.
Bashir then showed them to Diana’s brother, Earl Spencer, in a successful bid to convince him to arrange a meeting between himself and Diana and earn her trust to secure the sit-down.
Diana’s brother said if he hadn’t seen the bank statements he would not have made the introduction and the scoop wouldn’t have happened.
He also claimed he was – falsely – told Diana was under surveillance and those close to her were plotting against her, all to make her feel increasingly paranoid.
The report found Bashir “deceived and induced” Earl Spencer, with former director-general of the BBC Lord Birt branding him a “rogue reporter”.
It also said Diana’s brother was “not approached” by the BBC over the bank statements and accepted the account Bashir gave as “truthful”.
Leading the inquiry, Lord Dyson said the failure to interview Earl Spencer was a “big mistake” and meant he could not have concluded “as he did, that Bashir was an honest and honourable man”.
Bashir today apologised, saying it was a “stupid thing to do and was an action I deeply regret” but believes Diana still would have done the interview and stood by the evidence.
The journalist was also accused of ordering a graphic artist to fake two bank statements to obtain the royal scoop after Diana and Prince Charles’ divorce.
An ex-employee of Princess Diana’s brother complained to police he was named in fake documents allegedly used to gain access to her.
The scathing report said the BBC “fell short of the high standards of integrity and transparency which are its hallmark”.
Harry’s powerful reaction
Today’s news has been met with strong reaction, particularly from Prince Harry who spoke out about the toll deceptive media tactics took on his family.
“Our mother was an incredible woman who dedicated her life to service. She was resilient, brave and unquestionably honest,” Harry said in a statement.
“The ripple effect of a culture of exploitation and unethical practices ultimately took her life.
“To those who have taken some form of accountability, thank you for owning it. That is the first step towards justice and truth.
“Yet what deeply concerns me is that practices like these – and even worse – are still widespread today.
“Then, and now, it’s bigger than one outlet, one network or one publication.”
He added: “Our mother lost her life because of this and nothing has changed.
“By protecting her legacy, we protect everyone and uphold the dignity with which she lived her life.
“Let’s remember who she was and what she stood for.”
Originally published as Infamous interview that rocked the world