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It might be 21 years after Princess Diana’s death in a car crash shook the world in 1997, but there are still secrets and information that we don’t know as we try to untangle the controversy surrounding her marriage to Prince Charles and her relationship with the rest of the royal family. “We gossip about her as if she had just left the room,” writes author Hilary Mantel in The Guardian. Somewhere are recordings of Diana that would be sure to cause a media frenzy—if they’re ever revealed.
In the early 1990s, Princess Diana met with voice coach Peter Settelen to practice public speaking after separating from Charles. Part of their meetings included practicing what to say in interviews about her life and marriage. Their sessions were recorded on video, though the tapes were never meant for the public eye. Princess Diana was candid, revealing, and brutal, which could explain why her family went into a lengthy legal battle with Settelen over who owned the videos when police found seven tapes during a raid of her butler’s home after she died. Learn about 10 conspiracy theories around Princess Diana’s death.
Eventually, the tapes were given to Settelen, who sold some footage rights to the BBC for a reported £30,000 ($55,000) in 2006. The news organization started making a documentary inspired by the tapes but killed it after outcry that it would be in poor taste. The contents weren’t revealed for another decade, when Britain’s Channel 4 made the controversial decision to show snippets in its own documentary, Diana, In Her Own Words in 2017. The station defended its decision, reasoning that Prince William and Prince Harry were opening up about their mom, and the videos were “historically interesting.”
Unsurprisingly, those tapes caused a stir. Princess Diana was bitingly honest about her early days dating Prince Charles (“He’d ring me up every day for a week, and then he wouldn’t speak to me for three weeks. Very odd.”), their sex life (“Once every three weeks then it fizzled out about seven years ago, six years ago.”), and Queen Elizabeth’s inability to help her (replying, “I don’t know what you should do. Charles is hopeless.”). You won’t want to miss these 20 stunning, rarely seen photos of Princess Diana.
But those tapes might just be the tip of the iceberg. Seven tapes were uncovered initially, but there are said to be between 12 and 20 tapes in existence. Those remaining videos are said to be missing, according to Robert Jobson in his book Charles At Seventy: Thoughts, Hopes and Dreams.
If the rest of the tapes do come to light, they could be filled with voice exercises and small talk—or more intimate, gripping details about Princess Diana’s life.
“I believe we’ve got seven tapes,” Kevin Sim, director of Diana, In Her Own Words told The Sun. “There are more, but who knows where they are and what is on them?”
The world may never know.
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