Tony Greenstein | 11 August 2022 | Post Views:

 The reason the BBC wants to bury Diana’s Panorama Interview has nothing to do with fake bank statements – it’s about protecting Charles

Martin Bashir Interviews Princess Diana for Panorama 20.11.95.

I don’t expect the interview to remain up for long as Youtube has already placed this warning

Recently there was been quite a campaign about that famous Panorama interview that Martin Bashir conducted with Princess Diana on 20 November 1995. As the day of the Queen’s death approaches and Charles becomes King and Camilla ascend to the throne (assuming the people don’t rebel), determined efforts are being made to rewrite the history of Charles divorce with Diana and the fallout from that interview.

The BBC, whose film it is, might be expected to defend the interview. However, ever loyal to the British Establishment, the BBC has rolled over and issued an abject apology because Bashir apparently used forged bank statements to gain access to Diana via her brother Lord Spencer:

‘This led to a full-scale independent investigation by Lord Dyson, published in 2021, after which the BBC officially apologised for the way in which the interview had been obtained and the unacceptable standards of its journalism.’

We can expect no better of the BBC than this fawning apology for what was one of the best examples of BBC journalism. For ‘unacceptable’ journalism one need only look at its coverage of Palestine or its uncritical coverage of US imperialism in the Pacific.

The interview by the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee of Tony Hall and John Birt, two former BBC Director Generals about the Diana interview

Diana was not the first woman to enter the British Royal Family and be repelled by its archaic traditions and protocols, to say nothing of what she saw and experienced in this dysfunctional family. Nor was she the first woman to reject the role that she was expected to play as the bearer of a future king’s children.

That honour belongs to Princess Caroline of Brunswick who was Princess of Wales from 1795 to 1820 and Queen and wife of King George IV from 29 January 1820 until her death on 7 August 1821.

George IV was already illegally married to Maria Fitzherbert when he married Caroline. Theirs was not a happy marriage. In 1814, Caroline moved to Italy, where she was reputed to have taken a lover. In 1817 her only child Charlotte died in childbirth. Caroline heard the news second hand as George had refused to write and tell her.

Caroline refused George’s demand for a divorce and returned to Britain to assert her position as queen. George attempted to divorce Caroline by introducing the Pains and Penalties Bill 1820 to Parliament.

Caroline however was very popular with the London ‘mob’ whilst George was not. They surrounded the House of Lords every day; her coach was escorted by the cheering mob whenever she had to appear there. The evidence against her was that during a cruise she slept on deck in a tent with her servant Bergami and took her baths with him in full view of the other servants. In Italy she was in the habit of wearing dresses open to the waist!

Tim Davie, current BBC Director-General disowns Diana Interview

George lived a hugely extravagant life on the taxes collected by Parliament, whereas Caroline appeared to live modestly. Satirists and cartoonists published prints in support of Caroline and depicted George as debauched and licentious. She received messages of support from all over the country.

Caroline was a figurehead for the growing radical movement that demanded political reform and opposed the unpopular George. By August, Caroline had allied with radical campaigners such as William Cobbett, and it was probably Cobbett who wrote these words of Caroline’s:

If the highest subject in the realm can be deprived of her rank and title—can be divorced, dethroned and debased by an act of arbitrary power, in the form of a Bill of Pains and Penalties—the constitutional liberty of the Kingdom will be shaken to its very base; the rights of the nation will be only a scattered wreck; and this once free people, like the meanest of slaves, must submit to the lash of an insolent domination.

The day before the trial was due to start, an open letter from Caroline to George, again probably written by Cobbett, was published widely. In it, she decried the injustices against her, claimed she was the victim of conspiracy and intrigue, accused George of heartlessness and cruelty, and demanded a fair trial. The letter was seen as a challenge, not only to George but to the government and the forces resisting reform.

After 52 days the Lords decided to drop it. George IV’s Coronation was to on 29 April 1821. Caroline asked the Prime Minister what dress to wear for the ceremony and was told that she would not be taking part.

In January 1820, George became King and Caroline was nominally queen. However when Caroline arrived at the door of Westminster Abbey demanding to be admitted she was refused entrance. She shouted “The Queen…Open” and the pages opened the door. “I am the Queen of England,” she shouted and an official roared at the pages “Do your duty…shut the door” and the door was slammed in her face.

Caroline died 19 days later and was buried in Brunswick, and on her coffin was inscribed… ‘CAROLINE THE INJURED QUEEN OF ENGLAND’.

See Queen Caroline of Brunswick, wife of George IV

Another unhappy princess was Empress Elisabeth of Austria, (Sisi) consort of Emperor Franz Josef. Elisabeth was a 19th-century Diana: both were beautiful and charismatic, had unhappy royal marriages and met violent deaths.

Both married very young after what were portrayed as fairytale romances. Both felt ill at ease in their husband’s families – especially Elisabeth who found the rigid protocol of the Austrian court difficult after her informal upbringing – and disliked many of her royal duties.

Both women shared a love of fashion and beauty. Elisabeth’s obsession with keeping slim led to an extreme diet regime which some modern commentators have interpreted as a form of eating disorder, akin to Diana’s bulimia.

Both were also famous for the causes they espoused.  Elisabeth was a strong advocate for the rights of her Hungarian subjects. Diana was famous for the campaign to ban landmines and also her association with gay people and open espousal of the victims of aids.

See The Little-Known Empress with Striking Similarities to Princess Diana

See Elisabeth of Austria – the Hapsburg Princess Diana

ABC – Allegations that Special Forces killed the princess surfaced during a court-martial.

There have been repeated suggestions that Diana was murdered by the British state on 31 August 1997. However proving this has always been difficult since British intelligence are rather coy about what they do! Certainly the father of Diana’s boyfriend, Dodi, Mohamed al-Fayed believed that she and his son were murdered.

However what is not in dispute is that the Royal Family were not exactly saddened by what had happened. Diana had been a running sore and embarrassment while she was alive. She cast a shadow over the future king Charles and his adulterous relationship with Camilla.

3 in a marriage was ‘a bit crowded’

Diana had openly embraced causes such as landmines and Aids that the royals steered clear of but then there was that interview with Martin Bashir and the accusation that there had been 3 in what was a ‘crowded’ marriage.

The reaction of the Queen to Diana’s death was to carry on as normal. The Royal Standard could not be flown at half mast at Buckingham Palace because the Queen was not in residence. Their reaction was very much out of cync with the popular mood and we had the spectacle of the likes of the Mail and Express, who saw popular support for the monarchy draining away, beseeching the monarchy to make it clear that they weren’t celebrating Diana’s demise (at least not openly).

The Queen had apparently been initially opposed to the use of an aircraft of the Queen’s Flight to bring Diana’s body home, much to the alleged frustration of her advisers. Her deputy private secretary, Sir Robin Janvrin, is said to have asked the Queen: ‘What would you rather, Ma’am, that she came back in a Harrods van?‘ (Harrods was then owned by Al-Fayed.)

Journalists were also briefed that the Prince of Wales had decisively countermanded the original decision for Diana to remain in a public mortuary in Fulham, West London. Instead, according to his aides, he’d ordered that the princess should rest in the Chapel Royal.

But Andrew Morton, whose 1992 book Diana: Her True Story began the whole drama, (revealing in a later version that Diana had been the main source for the book) wrote:

public anger was also directed at the Royal Family, not only for their slow and muted response to the tragedy but also for their indifference to her during her lifetime. Downing Street officials feared that rioting could break out.

Courtiers tried in vain to convince the Queen and Prince Philip to recognise the increasingly precarious situation and fly back from Balmoral.

After the Queen had realised the public mood

she travelled back to London a day earlier than planned and, for the first time in history, allowed the Union Flag to fly at half-mast at the palace.

As a senior aide explained:

At Balmoral, she hadn’t taken it in. You never know what it is like until you are actually there.

All the remarks and people hugging each other, sobbing — the whole nation seemed to have gone bananas. The Queen and Prince Philip felt utterly bewildered.

Nor did they fully appreciate the impact of Diana’s death on the national psyche. Along with her family, the Queen was mourning the flawed individual she knew rather than the saintly icon.

In only the second special televised address of her reign and

‘With a nod to the criticism of herself and her family, the Queen conceded: ‘I for one believe there are lessons to be drawn from her life and from the extraordinary and moving reaction to her death.’

It cannot be denied, however, that she’d been slow to change direction when it became clear she was out of step with the nation.

What then explains the public reaction to Diana, who was hardly a radical figure? Compare the reaction to her death to that of Prince Philip, the husband of Elizabeth. When he died last year the BBC was flooded with complaints because it had decided to stage the same tributes to him on every TV channel! 

Viewers switched off their TVs in droves after broadcasters aired blanket coverage of Prince Philip’s death, audience figures revealed on Saturday, and the BBC received so many complaints it opened a dedicated complaints form on its website.

Phillip was hardly a figure of adoration. I suspect that when the Queen dies that the BBC will go in for more overkill and thoroughly alienate the one-third of the British people who aren’t take in by all the nonsense about the Royal family.

Why then did Diana and before her Caroline and Elisabeth of Austria attract such adoring crowds and mass popular affection? Why did so many people identify with Diana?

To understand this one has to understand the role of the monarchy itself. For the ruling class it has immense benefits in symbolising in their person the British state itself. It acts as a unifying force. However rich or poor you are you can identify with the monarch.

However the monarchy, by its very nature, must retain its distance from the masses if it is to command their respect. As Walter Bagehot, wrote in The English Constitution (1867) ‘mystery is its life. We must not let in daylight upon magic.

So people are encouraged to identify with the royals at the same time as the monarchy must keep its distance from them. And in these days when the popular press go over every aspect of their lives it is difficult to retain much mystery. For most people the royals are aloof and  remote. In the case of Andrew Windsor there is mass loathing and contempt for what is reputed to be the Queen’s favourite son!

In the case of Diana, as her own personal situation worsened with the breakdown of relations with her husband she increasingly took on a public persona of her own. The sheer volume of press coverage of her private life, a coverage that she both detested and courted, increased peoples’ identification with her as the embodiment of what they would like to be. When it was revealed that Charles had been carrying on an adulterous relationship with Camilla when Diana was supposed to be faithful (to the extent of having been tested for her virginity prior to marriage) then many women in particular identified with her.

It was all very well Charles telling Diana that ‘I refuse to be the only Prince of Wales who never had a mistress.’ but the public was more likely to sympathise with the wronged woman. In fact Charles seems to have had a string of mistresses. Spare Rib in the week of their marriage carried the headline ‘Don’t Do it Di’!

In some ways the Royal Family, which is the icing on the cake of a very ugly class riven society, functions as religion, a source of consolation or in Marx’s words the ‘soul of a souless world.’ People are encouraged to identify with what is a protocol riven, parasitic bunch of sociopaths and to imagine that they have something in common. When someone like Caroline or Diana comes along they can create a mass following because people see in them a reflection of themselves.

That is another reason why the Establishment and the BBC want to bury the Panorama interview. According to John Birt, the former BBC Director-General, it was ‘an absolute horror story’. If Charles is to gain the support of his ‘subjects’ then it is necessary that people are taught to forget Diana and pretend that that interview was not what it seemed at the time. Diana had been tricked into it and her paranoia fed by tales of malfeasance by the rest of the royals.

The fact is though that Diana never expressed any regrets over the interview, quite the contrary. She made it clear that she approved of the fact that she had been allowed at last to tell her side of a marriage in which she had been expected to produce an heir and a spare but otherwise to keep quiet.

So her eldest son and second in line to the throne, Prince William, comes out with the statement that the BBC had used ‘deceitful behaviour’ to obtain the interview and that the 1995 Panorama interview led to Diana’s “fear, paranoia and isolation”.

Martin Bashir attacked by the fawning, forelock tugging MPs with their synthetic outrage at his ‘methods’

Interview Digital, Culture, Media and Sport – Committee 15 June 2021

Chair: Without the benefit of hindsight, but considering what you knew at the time, why did you report to the BBC board of governors that you believed that Mr Bashir was an honest and honourable man?

Lord Hall: Uppermost in our minds then was: had the interview with Princess Diana, the decision that she made to be interviewed, been done fairly or not? That was absolutely uppermost in our minds. The first investigation we did before Christmas under Tim Gardam talked to all the people concerned and produced a letter where she said very clearly that she had been shown no documents by Martin Bashir, she was not made aware of anything by Martin Bashir that she didn’t already know and she had no regrets, underlined, by the interview. It is quite interesting that Lord Dyson himself says that an interview of some sort would probably have taken place anyway. At that point in our inquiries, in our investigations with Tim Gardam, we came to an end that there was no case to answer.

For oral interview see here

To download the Diana interview click here

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Tony Greenstein

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