Entertainment TV Controversial Princess Diana documentary In Her Own Words divides viewers

Controversial Princess Diana documentary In Her Own Words divides viewers

prince charles princess diana
Britain's Channel 4 broadcast private video tapes showing Princess Diana candidly discussing her marital problems. Photo: Getty
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A Princess Diana documentary controversially featuring never-before-seen private video tapes of Princess Diana has been described as a “heartbreaking” insight and dismissed by many others as “morally wrong”.

Aired on Sunday to coincide with the 20th anniversary since the princess’ tragic death, the British Channel 4 documentary Diana: In Her Own Words is also revealing of the broader royal family.

The tapes were recorded by Diana’s voice coach, Peter Settelen, at her home in Kensington Palace in 1992-93. She can be heard speaking openly about her marriage struggles with Prince Charles and their sex life.

Channel 4 had earlier claimed the show aimed to reveal Princess Diana “at her most candid, natural and charismatic”.

As the documentary aired The Sun reported further details it claims came from a BBC cameraman: “Princess Diana claimed she once spied on Prince Charles on the toilet having ‘phone sex talk’ with his now wife Camilla Parker Bowles.”

Documentary highlights:

  • Prince Charles was an awkward wooer of Princess Di and was “all over her like a rash” and would “ring me up every day for a week and then wouldn’t speak to me for three. Very odd”.
  • The couple met only 13 times before being married. Princess Diana looked to the Queen, sobbing and asking for help, but felt she received no support.
  • Princess Diana said she was traumatised during a post-engagement TV interview when the couple were asked if they were in love to which Prince Charles responded, “whatever love means”.
  • She had fallen in love with someone else by 1985, believed to be a bodyguard, and was devastated and suspicious when he was killed in a motorbike incident three weeks after being forced to leave the palace.
  • The princess had confirmation Prince Charles’ affair with Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, was going on within five years of her marriage.

While the documentary appeared to succeed in offering compelling material, not all viewers were pleased with the ethical decision of airing highly personal and intimate details of the late princess’ life.

“Sensationalist. Over dramatic. Unsympathetic to anyone, including Diana. Trash,” was one viewer’s assessment.

Another said: “Can’t comprehend why Channel 4 broadcasting Diana In Her Own Words. It’s just so wrong. Haven’t press caused enough suffering to this family?”

Meanwhile, others were moved by the insight into her struggle, with some of the belief that the princess would not have permitted the recordings to take place if she had wanted them to remain private.

“Even 20 years after her death Princess Diana comes across as warm and kind,” one viewer tweeted.

“No wonder the whole world was in love with her.”

Another wrote: “There will never be another like Diana.”

The Evening Standard reported that Channel 4 had strongly defended its airing of the tapes in the lead up to the program’s broadcast due to historical importance.

“The word that has been used is that the footage is somehow ‘ghoulish’. I simply don’t agree with that,” Ralph Lee, the broadcaster’s deputy chief creative officer, said.

“She is self-consciously and clearly taking part in a filmed process. I don’t think viewers will feel greatly uneasy with that.”

The documentary received much criticism prior to being televised, with Princess Diana’s brother Earl Spencer reportedly begging Channel 4 not to broadcast the show.

A second documentary of the same name, also containing secret tapes, is to air in Australia on Tuesday 15 August on National Geographic TV.

These recordings were reportedly smuggled out of Kensington Palace in 1991 and supplied to journalist Andrew Morton.

– with ABC