Princess diana

Peter Oborne, Kate Andrews and Jonathan Maitland

18 min listen

On this week’s Spectator Out Loud, Peter Oborne reads his letter from Jerusalem (00:55), Kate Andrews talks about why Rishi Sunak has made her take up smoking (07:20), and Jonathan Maitland explains his growing obsession with Martin Bashir (12:15). Presented by Cindy Yu. Produced by Cindy Yu and Natasha Feroze.

‘What do you think the English will say?’ Pablo Larrain on his pop horror Diana film

It all looks ever so Sandringham. Formal evening garb, dining table the length of a cricket pitch, royalty nibbling in silence. As a tableau vivant it might be lit by Lichfield and styled by Hartnell. And yet something is awry. The beautiful princess feels stifled. She grabs at the tourniquet of pearls roped round her neck, whereupon it snaps. Huge gems plop into her gloopy green soup. Dauntlessly she dips a spoon in, feeds a pearl into her mouth and takes a pulverising bite. This royal Christmas is not normal for Norfolk. Spencer is the latest entertainment seeking to decrypt the myth of Diana, Princess of Wales. Its opening credits

How the BBC scapegoated Martin Bashir

I have become rather obsessed with Martin Bashir and his downfall. Three years ago, I began researching for a play based around his infamous 1995 Panorama interview with Diana, Princess of Wales, which he secured by forging bank statements and reinforcing her belief that there was an Establishment conspiracy against her. When I started writing I thought I would soon understand him. But he still baffles me. When we corresponded recently via email, he suggested playing himself on stage or, failing that, what about Idris Elba? I couldn’t tell if he was joking.   I knew Bashir pretty well back in the day. We were fellow reporters at the BBC and

The monarchy will survive Diana’s death (1997)

Today marks 25 years since the death of Diana, Princess of Wales. Andrew Roberts wrote The Spectator’s cover story that week, republished below and available at our digitised archive. The story that ended so horribly in that functional concrete Parisian tunnel early on Sunday had begun with a television show in 1969, when the victim was seven years old. In contradiction of Walter Bagehot’s advice, daylight was let in on the magic of the monarchy. Before 1969, all had been deliberately obscure. Who now remembers Commander Colville? For over two decades, Commander Richard Colville DSC was press secretary, first to George VI and then to the present Queen. In Ben

The definitive Diana doc? Possibly not: The Princess reviewed

The Princess, a new documentary film, is the first re-framing of the Princess Diana story since it was last re-framed, about ten minutes ago, and before it will be re-framed again, probably by Tuesday. We’ve had The Crown recently, and Spencer, and our favourite, Diana: The Musical (‘It’s the Thrilla in Manila but with Diana and Camilla’), and there are several upcoming books, one of which, R is for Revenge Dress, ‘explores the celebrated life of Princess Diana through the alphabet’. To those who say the poor woman should be left to rest in peace, I would say: F is for Fat Chance. But is this the definitive documentary we’ve

What the Romans would have made of Diana’s statue

The recently unveiled funerary monument of Princess Diana prompts comparison with Greek and Roman archetypes. To many, Diana was a heroic figure. Greek sculptors represented females as dignified figures, intricately coiffed, in graceful, loose-fitting, free-flowing tunics and ankle-length cloaks, with contrasting vertical and diagonal folds. Males were nude, a public statement of power and physical perfection, as if human significance did not end in death. Both were idealised figures, illustrating character and quality, not likeness. There is no hint of heroic ideals in this Diana, dressed presumably as a nursery teaching assistant. She does not even look like Diana, an attractive, delicate-featured woman. For Romans, in contrast to Greeks, likeness

In praise of the Ford Escort

It’s safe to say that the Ford Escort does not enjoy a straightforward place in the British national consciousness. And it’s not a position, furthermore, that is simplified in any way by being reminded that the Prince of Wales actually bought one of them for Lady Diana Spencer as an engagement present in 1981. I challenge you to think of a less romantic engagement gift – albeit the car did have a frog mascot on the bonnet – for a bride-to-be, especially one due to be joined in holy matrimony to the heir to the throne. (God alone knows what Meghan Markle would have said if Prince Harry had turned

The echoes of Diana in Prince Harry

Oscar Wilde’s Algernon observed: ‘All women become like their mothers. That is their tragedy. No man does, and that is his.’ No man? Not quite. Prince Harry is in so many ways turning into a version of his mother. The first sentence of the joint new year statement from the Duke and Duchess of Sussex on their Archewell Foundation website declares: ‘I am my mother’s son.’ For those of us who were around when Diana was on the scene, there’s a pang of recognition here. Prince Harry is indeed his mother’s son. He’s what might have happened to Diana if this essentially English girl had been transported to California, had

Confessions of a failed royal reporter

Half a lifetime ago, I was, briefly, an occasional royal reporter – and watching The Crown, season four has revived memories of that inglorious chapter.  It began with my one and only encounter with my favourite Crown character, Princess Margaret, on a sweltering July evening in 1997. I had arranged a trial night shift on the Evening Standard, starting at 5pm, which only allowed me ten minutes to get from my day job at the Old Bailey across London to their offices in Kensington, by bicycle, in 90-degree heat. I arrived breathless, only for the news editor to spin me straight back out, saying I had just five minutes before

Did any of this actually happen? The Crown, season four, reviewed

‘We have to stop it now!’ says Princess Margaret (Helena Bonham Carter), smoking another cigarette, obviously. She’s talking about the impending royal wedding between her nephew Charles and a pretty but gauche young thing called Lady Diana Spencer. Spoiler alert: none of the family will listen. Yes, The Crown is back on Netflix for its fourth season, and naturally I skipped straight to the episode that will be of most interest to everyone: the royal engagement and its aftermath. Why is this subject so grimly, pruriently, enduringly fascinating? Because even though it really did happen and many of us remember it vividly, it yet has the fantastical implausibility of the

Did Panorama use tabloid methods to lure Diana?

As time passes, there is — blessedly — ever less need to pay attention to ‘untold’ stories about Diana, Princess of Wales; but the Channel 4 documentary Diana: The Truth behind the Interview did make me sit up a bit. It revealed, and the BBC does not deny, that Martin Bashir and Panorama colleagues caused fake invoices to be created purporting to show that a rogue employee of Charles Spencer, the Princess’s brother, had sold stories about her to newspapers. It seems this forgery — and Panorama’s assurances about Bashir’s good character — persuaded Lord Spencer to meet Bashir and to urge his sister to do the same. The result