Princess Diana rocked the British Royal Family to its core with her 1995 interview on BBC’s Panorama, offering a uniquely candid look at the one of the most famous royal marriages to date, that between her and 12-years-her-senior Prince Charles. The comment that rang ’round the world was the infamous quip that “there were three of us in this marriage” — but according to a new documentary revisiting that very interview, Diana’s on-air commentary could have been much worse. Former Daily Telegraph editor Sir Max Hastings recalled a conversation he had with Diana a few months prior to her appearance on Panorama, detailing opinions on then-husband Charles so unsettling that Hastings opted not to publish them, fearing the royal family fallout that would surely ensue. What, then, were Diana’s true feelings, the ones Hastings feared she would offer on-air a few months later? These new details are the most unguarded yet from Diana on Charles — and given her long history of unguarded comments on the subject, that’s really saying something.
Documentary Diana: The Truth Behind the Interview speaks with Hastings to get a clearer sense of where the Duchess’ mind was in the weeks leading up to the interview that shook both the royal family and her two young sons.
“She said I was terribly anxious for my side of this to come out,” Hastings recounts, per People. “It became clear, first of all. How much she hated Charles. Yes, she did hate Charles. And when I said ‘were there ever happy times?’ she said ‘no, the marriage was hell from day one.'”
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Diana certainly didn’t pretend to have any love lost for Charles by the end of their marriage, but it was also never painted as “hell from day one” — a framing that would have rendered their elaborate royal wedding awkward, to say the least. Sure, Charles hadn’t exactly sprung on her as his first choice, but we’d been led to believe there was some sort of love story between them — right?
“She said that all she cared about was William’s succession to the throne. She said to me quite explicitly — ‘I don’t think Charles can do it,'” Hastings continues. “The outcome she wanted to see was for Charles to stand aside as heir to the throne and for William to occupy the throne.”
Obviously, suggesting that the person next in line to be king is not in fact fit to be king could cause a great deal of unrest — not to mention but undue pressure on her teenage son William, whom she was so eager to have succeed her ex-husband. And while Diana would go on to hint at her true feelings on the subject of succession, Hastings couldn’t in good conscience publish her outright declaration at the time.
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“This was pretty dynamic stuff,” he recounts, adding that he wanted to “keep a lid on the worst of this.”
Given how the royal family blew up at Diana for what she did say in the Panorama interview (not to mention her icy reception from Prince William), we’re glad Hastings showed the judgment he did in keeping at least some facet of her feelings under the radar. Diana was a complex woman capable of feelings many things, like all of us — unlike us, she had the bad luck of having many of those feelings turned into public record, for better or for worse.
Before you go, click here to see the best photos of Princess Diana playing with William and Harry.