She is one of the most written-about women in history, but Princess Diana rarely got the chance to tell her own story.
No matter how damaging the tabloid lies or hideous the harassment, the Princess of Wales was always advised by those within the family and institution of the monarchy that dignified silence and a stiff upper lip was best for everyone.
It contributed to a tortured existence for Diana – one she only built up the courage to speak about towards the end of her life behind palace walls.
As Prince Charles continued his affair with Camilla Parker-Bowles, Diana searched for ways to be heard without facing the wrath of the “men in grey” she feared.
Taking comfort in the safety of anonymity, we first saw her turn to journalist Andrew Morton to secretly co-operate on a definitive biography that would not only set the record straight on the dire state of her broken marriage, but also reveal the institutional cruelty and heartlessness she experienced within the royal establishment.
The 1992 release of Diana: Her True Story shared the first accurate insight into her private world. But the book – which included heartbreaking stories of suicide attempts, bulimia, and the cold indifference from her absent husband – still left questions about her life unanswered.
Three years later – and as it became clear that the marriage was virtually finished – Diana chose to speak out herself, finally opening up to BBC’s Panorama. It was raw, real and the most watched interview of all time in UK history.
Diana’s decision to do a televised sit-down was rooted in a deep desire to be heard and finally dispel many of the false narratives told in the press. But despite requests from the likes of Oprah, it was TV presenter Martin Bashir who landed the exclusive.
It has since transpired that a series of unethical tactics and gaslighting led by Bashir convinced her that the BBC show was the right broadcaster to land the interview.
A 2021 independent investigation into the allegations untangled a disturbingly coordinated web of deceit, which included forging bank statements to convince both Diana and her brother Earl Spencer that they were being spied on by British secret intelligence services.
Last week it was announced that, after demands from the Duke of Cambridge – and paying damages to a number of affected individuals including William and Harry’s childhood nanny Tiggy Legge-Bourke – the BBC will never again air the interview or license footage from it.
The network’s punishment was necessary and deserved. But given Diana personally wrote to Bashir after the broadcast to say she had “no regrets”, it’s puzzling why anyone would think it’s appropriate to remove one of the few first-person accounts of her life from the public domain.
Most surprising is the role her own son has played in the decision. While Harry has called out the "culture of exploitation and unethical practices” that his mother fell victim to, it was William who took it a step further and claimed the interview now has “no legitimacy” and “established a false narrative” about Diana’s life.
It’s a bold statement, and one I don’t agree with given that the majority of Diana’s Panorama revelations were already in Morton’s book years earlier. But our differences in opinion are exactly why it’s important for the public to have access to such a historically important interview.
Without being able to hear Diana’s own words again, I fear we may be about to enter what could potentially lead to the slow rewriting of her life. After all, with stories of her suffering at the hands of the Royal Family and why she felt Charles was unfit to become the king, there are many aspects of this interview that the institution would love to be forgotten.
Unlicensed snippets will continue to have life online (until they are no doubt deleted for copyright infringement) but the full feature, in all its context, now only exists within the dusty archives of a BBC vault.
It’s been 25 years since Diana’s death, and although the world is a vastly different place, 'The Firm' is largely not.
Just last year we heard echoes of Diana’s own painful experiences in some of the stories shared by the Duke and Duchess of Sussex when they opened up to Oprah.
Unethical and immoral practices in the media should always be fought against. But just as important as ensuring the integrity of journalism is freedom of speech for those suppressed or silenced by higher powers.
Diana fought for much of her royal life to share her side of the story and be better understood. She put everything on the line, and her braveness has inspired millions around the world. Sadly now, her voice has been silenced once again.