Excerpts from an extraordinary series of videotaped recordings of Princess Diana, who died 20 years ago next month, in which she discusses her sex life with Prince Charles and reveals that she only met him 13 times before they married, are to be aired on British TV.
The tapes, which were recorded as part of voice-coaching and media-training lessons Diana undertook after her separation from Charles, have a murky history.
It is believed they were handed to Diana by her voice coach Peter Settelen, and their existence remained unknown, but after her death the tapes were among hundreds of items that were discovered in police raids at the home of her former butler Paul Burrell.
Burrell’s trial for hoarding Diana’s possessions collapsed after a direct intervention by Queen Elizabeth, who told the authorities that Burrell had informed her that he was keeping some of Diana’s personal effects for safe keeping.
The tapes were then returned not to Burrell or to Diana’s estate, but to Settelen, who, under British copyright law, is the rightful owner of the tapes.
The footage, captured at her private residence in Kensington Palace, shows Diana rehearsing her speaking voice—but she also apparently used the sessions as an opportunity to reflect at length about her life and air general grievances about Charles.
Snippets were broadcast by NBC back in 2004.
Three years later, the BBC spent more than £30,000 buying an option to broadcast three minutes of the tapes for the program—but the resulting controversy meant the documentary was never shown.
Now, however, Channel 4 has commissioned Kaboom Film & TV to produce Diana: In Her Own Words with director Kevin Sim, and it is thought the tapes will be a pivotal element of the show.
Although the decision to air the tapes will be widely criticized, as they were clearly never intended for public broadcast, Channel 4 said in a statement that the footage Settelen captured at her private residence in Kensington Palace in 1992 and 1993 is “the only known unmediated video with Diana ever recorded,” adding “the videos provide valuable new insight into one of the world’s most iconic women of the late 20th century and shed new light on her transformation into an enormously influential public figure who frequently dominated the world stage.”
In one of the most controversial sections of the tapes, Diana reportedly talks about her sex life with Charles.
According to a report in the Daily Telegraph, she says of her sex life with the prince “there was never a requirement for it from him.
“Once every three weeks about and I kept thinking it followed a pattern.
“He used to see his lady once every three weeks before we got married.”
Around 20 tapes comprising several hours of unedited footage are said to exist. Much of it comprises the princess practicing voice exercises, while at other times she is said to be “ratty and tired” and then at times she speaks very openly about her marriage.
Diana hired Settelen between 1992 and 1993 to help with her public-speaking voice, following her collaboration with author Andrew Morton on a biography, and ahead of her bombshell Panorama interview in 1995.
Ralph Lee, Channel 4’s head of factual programming, said the documentary was an “important contribution to the historical record.”
He said: “The tapes, which show a relaxed and off-duty Diana, are hugely illuminating about her personality, humor and charm.
“Combined with historical context and interviews with her closest confidants, this film provides a nuanced, multi-layered portrait of the most famous woman in the world and a mother who has shaped the future line of the royal family.
“This film gives Diana a voice and places it front and center at a time when the nation will be reflecting on her life and death.
“It is her account of events both private and public and is an important contribution to the historical record.”
Diana also talks about going to the queen to talk about Charles, saying: “I went to the top lady and I’m sobbing. And I said, ‘What do I do?’ (The queen) said, ‘I don’t know—Charles is hopeless.’”