What was the fuss about Channel 4’s Princess Diana documentary?

Fury erupted after it was learnt that Channel 4 would broadcast a documentary about the late Princess Diana, based on private video recordings made in 1992 by her then voice coach Peter Settelen – who went on to sell them.

The documentary, made to mark 20 years since the people’s Princess died, received complaints about betrayal of privacy from a friend Rosa Monckton, and her brother among others who ‘begging for these tapes not to be shown’.

Channel 4 aired parts of the intimate tapes of Princess Diana filmed by voice coach, Peter Settelen. ©Channel4

Why was it mostly the late Princess’ family shouting from the rooftops?

After watching the documentary, which presented an authentic, relatable and inspiring Princess, it is hard to understand why. There was nothing new from the documentary that wasn’t already public knowledge, i.e:

  • Diana was young (16 years of age) when she first met the Prince, who was 13 years her senior
  • They met at a sleepover and in the 4 years prior to engagement, they had only seen each other 13 times – that is approximately 4 times per year. The Prince could call her endlessly for a week and not be in touch at all for the following 3 weeks, according to Diana
  • She got engaged at 20 to the then 33 year old Prince who was already in and out of an affair with Camilla Parker Bowles
  • She was fed to several wolves; the Royal family, Camilla and the public

Full documentaries and news on these subjects have been around for years and are available to watch online. The Princess herself commissioned an explosive tell all book written by biographer, Andrew Morton in 1993, to re-invent herself.

Voice coach, Peter Settelen sold the tapes partially to pay off legal debts ©NBC

While it may have been a breach of privacy by Peter, who used the fee earned to pay off his legal fees, the people truly affected by the video’s content are – The Royal, Prince Charles and Camilla.

Before their meeting and engagement, Prince Charles echoed what was soon to be a reality when asked by a journalist: “Do you have any thoughts about the lady that a Prince of Wales should marry?”

He replied, “…you have got to remember that when you are in my position, you have got a marry somebody who perhaps one day is going to become queen, and you have got to choose someone really carefully, and its got to be somebody pretty special, because if you choose somebody who isn’t used to it, it can…probably cause the most awful tension.”

That awful tension seemed to have started – at least – by the time they were engaged. When asked by a journalist “and I suppose in love?” at the public announcement of their engagement, the Prince of Wales answered “whatever in love means”. Ouch.

In choreographed pictures and videos, Diana always appeared angelic and perfect, the documentary showed us she wasn’t perfect.

It showed us she was human who threw side digs, turned to self harming to deal with anger, had anxiety, cried at a public event and was not afraid to laugh at herself. Through all this, it was interesting to hear her voice and how she dealt with life, dealt with the Queen, Camilla and decided to overcome shyness and loss of self-worth to become one of the most loved women in history.

The Channel 4 documentary is available to watch for the next 26 days on Catch Up

Princess Diana showing her playful side in the Channel 4 documentary. ©Channel4
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