News25 years ago: When Charles and Diana's marriage broke...

25 years ago: When Charles and Diana's marriage broke up

A quarter of a century ago, Princess Diana and Prince Charles divorced. The break was sparked by an interview Diana was tricked into using false claims. Could everything have turned out differently?

London – “Queen orders divorce” was the headline of the British tabloid “The Sun”. A few months later, on August 28, 1996, it was official: Heir to the throne Prince Charles and Princess Diana – the former royal couple in Great Britain – were divorced.

It wasn’t a surprise. The idyll of the royal model family with the two sons William and Harry had collapsed much earlier. At that time, the couple had been separated for more than four years. Charles had publicly admitted to cheating on his wife after the marriage was “irretrievably broken”. The British had long since come to terms with it.

The fatal BBC interview

The decisive factor for the final step, however, was that Diana put her frustration off her mind in a sensational BBC interview. The exclusive talk, broadcast on prime-time television, attracted around 23 million people in Great Britain to their screens in November 1995.

Diana described how she was first left alone by the royal family in the media and then after the separation she felt downright sabotaged and deliberately damaged in her reputation – also out of envy of her great popularity, as she found. She also expressed doubts about Charles’ ability to succeed his mother on the throne one day.

“There were three of us in this marriage so it was a bit tight,” she said into the camera. She was referring to her husband’s affair with Camilla Parker-Bowles – an outrageous breach of taboo and too much for the royals: Shortly afterwards, she received a handwritten letter from Queen Elizabeth II in which she was asked to “divorce soon”. The tablecloth was cut.

It was manipulated

More than 25 years later, an investigation found that Diana had become a victim of manipulation during the interview. BBC reporter Martin Bashir had submitted forged bank statements to Diana’s brother Charles Spencer, which were supposed to prove that Diana was being spied on by people around her. The princess, who was considered paranoid and suspected rivals and conspiracies against her everywhere, felt confirmed – and unpacked.

The interview made a “significant contribution” to the deterioration of his parents’ relationship, William said in a video message after the report was published in May this year. “It is my view that the fraudulent way in which the interview came about has substantially influenced what my mother said,” the 38-year-old continued. The reporter’s behavior contributed significantly to their fear, paranoia and isolation. He finds it particularly painful that his mother no longer learned the truth. A first internal investigation into the completion of the interview had exonerated the reporter from allegations that were already circulating at the time.

Diana reportedly received £ 17 million as a one-off payment in the course of the divorce and several hundred thousand pounds annually to keep her charitable activities going. But it should have hit her hard that she lost the title of “Royal Highness”. A butler reportedly overheard William trying to comfort his mother. “Don’t worry, Mommy, I’ll give it back to you when I’m king,” the then 14-year-old said.

Tragic accidental death

But William, who, like then, is still second in line to the throne, will never be able to keep this promise. His mother, who wanted to be remembered as the “Queen of Hearts”, died just a year later. She was on the run from paparazzi with her boyfriend Dodi Al-Fayed when their car crashed into a Paris tunnel.

Would the relationship with Charles have been saved again had the interview not taken place? That seems doubtful. After all, the couple was already deeply divided back then. In fact, the relationship is said to have relaxed a little after the divorce.

But Diana’s brother Charles Spencer believes that his sister could still be alive if she hadn’t lost trust in everyone around her because of the reporter’s lies. When she died, she was “without any form of protection,” said Spencer in an interview with the BBC. dpa

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