Princess Diana regretted her interview with Martin Bashir, former secretary once claimed: ‘A huge mistake’

Princess Diana regretted her interview with Martin Bashir, former secretary once claimed: ‘A huge mistake’

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EXCLUSIVE: Patrick Jephson once recalled how his former boss, Princess Diana, regretted her sit-down with Martin Bashir.

The 67-year-old served the late British royal as her chief of staff and private secretary from 1998 until 1996. He was responsible for every aspect of her public life, charitable initiatives and private organizations. 

Back in 2018, Jephson told Fox News he believed Diana’s interview with Bashir was “a huge mistake” and claimed it was a tell-all that she regretted doing.

“She portrayed herself as a victim,” said Jephson at the time. “In reality, she was a much stronger person. She was in a position to be a healer, rather than a victim… She could have appeared from a position of strength… I found it frustrating professionally and I think she regretted it as well, portraying herself as a victim, asking for sympathy… She missed an enormous opportunity to cement her position.”

On Thursday, The Telegraph reported that Bashir used “deceitful behavior” to secure his controversial interview with Diana in 1995.

Princess Diana with her private secretary Patrick Jephson. 
(Photo by Tim Graham Photo Library via Getty Images)

The 127-page report, released by former High Court Judge Lord Dyson, concluded that the journalist “deceived and induced” the late royal’s brother, Earl Charles Spencer, into securing the interview for Panorama.

Lord Dyson was commissioned six months ago by the BBC’s current director general Tim Davie to conduct an inquiry into the circumstances surrounding the bombshell tell-all. It was alleged that Bashir breached the BBC’s editorial guidelines by creating two false bank statements that he showed to Earl Spencer. Bashir falsely suggested that certain members of the royal household – including Jephson – were being paid for keeping the princess under surveillance.  

Earl Spencer then introduced Bashir to Diana and the interview took place two months later.

In November 2020, Earl Spencer told People magazine the documents were influential in his decision to approach Diana about the interview, as they alleged that a member of his staff was being paid by tabloids to leak information about the princess’s family.

“This was what led me to talk to Diana about such things,” he told the outlet. “This, in turn, led to the meeting where I introduced Diana to Bashir, on September 19, 1995. This then led to the interview.”

Martin Bashir interviews Princess Diana in Kensington Palace for the television program Panorama. 
(Photo by © Pool Photograph/Corbis/Corbis via Getty Images)

Jephson, who didn’t feel he and Diana were seeing eye-to-eye about her future, resigned the year before she died. He said it was the last time they spoke.

“She was increasingly taking advice from so-called friends who wanted to exploit her vulnerability,” he claimed. “For the first time in all my eight years with Diana, I felt that by serving her, I was actually running contrary to the queen’s wishes, which I couldn’t really live with.”

According to The Telegraph, Davie said the corporation accepts “in full” the findings of former High Court Judge Lord Dyson.

“Although the report states that Diana, Princess of Wales, was keen on the idea of an interview with the BBC, it is clear that the proceeds for securing the interview fell far short of what audiences have a right to expect,” said Davie. “We are very sorry for this. Lord Dyson has identified clear failings.”

“While today’s BBC has significantly better processes and procedures, those that existed at the time should have prevented the interview being secured this way,” he continued. “The BBC should have made greater effort to get to the bottom of what happened at the time and been more transparent about what it knew. While the BBC cannot turn back the clock after a quarter of a century, we can make a full and unconditional apology. The BBC offers that today.”

Martin Bashir with his BAFTA Award for best talk show. 
(Photo by Fiona Hanson – PA Images/PA Images via Getty Images)

In response to Lord Dyson’s report, Bashir released his own statement.

“This is the second time that I have willingly fully co-operated with an investigation into events more than 25 years ago,” said the 58-year-old, as quoted by the outlet. “I apologized then, and I do so again now, over the fact that I asked for bank statements to be mocked up. It was a stupid thing to do and was an action I deeply regret. But I absolutely stand by the evidence I gave a quarter of a century ago, and again more recently.”

“I also reiterate that the bank statements had no bearing whatsoever on the personal choice by Princess Diana to take part in the interview,” Bashir shared. “Evidence handed to the inquiry in her own handwriting (and published alongside the report today) unequivocally confirms this, and other compelling evidence presented to Lord Dyson reinforces it. In fact, despite his other findings, Lord Dyson himself in any event accepts that the princess would probably have agreed to be interviewed without what he describes as my ‘intervention.’

“It is saddening that this single issue has been allowed to overshadow the princess’ brave decision to tell her story, to courageously talk through the difficulties she faced, and, to help address the silence and stigma that surrounded mental health issues all those years ago. She led the way in addressing so many of these issues and that’s why I will always remain immensely proud of that interview.”

Charles Spencer, 9th Earl Spencer.
(Photo by David M. Benett/Dave Benett/Getty Images for Charles Sabine     )

In October 2020, the Sunday Times alleged that Bashir manipulated Diana into giving the tell-all by showing those faulty bank statements to her brother. After facing pressure from Diana’s family following the report, Davie commissioned an independent inquiry to investigate Bashir’s tactics.

Bashir has stepped down from his role as the editor of religion for BBC. The departure was confirmed in an email BBC’s deputy director of news Jonathan Munro sent to staff.

In the infamous interview, the Princess of Wales said “there were three of us in this marriage,” referring to Prince Charles’ relationship with Camilla Parker-Bowles, who he married after Diana’s death. Diana, who divorced Charles in 1996, died in a Paris car crash in 1997 as she was being pursued by paparazzi. She was 36.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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