As we approach the 20th anniversary of the death of Princess Diana, a resurgence of interest has appeared in the media. Although it seems that interest in Diana has never actually disappeared. Channel 4 hit the jackpot with their latest documentary, Diana: In Her Own Words. The documentary went out at the peak time of 9pm, to be watched by 3.5million viewers, and was the most watched programme for the channel in 2017 (so far).
Between 1992 and 1993 in Kensington Palace, Diana worked with voice coach Peter Settelen. Diana and Prince Charles had become increasingly separate, and Diana wanted to improve her speaking skills and public image, as she was often undertaking duties alone. A lot of these sessions were recorded, and it is this footage which is shown in full on UK television for the first time.
These tapes are revealing in showing Diana as her relaxed self. The peering up behind her hair and quite voice is still there, but her words are different. Her thoughts on meeting Charles, their marriage and subsequent separation are played over footage of their ‘fairy tale’ Wedding, the Royal family, and various charity visits which Diana undertook.
Woven between these off-duty clips and public footage of Diana, there are several interviews with those who knew her. We hear from a protection officer, her secretary, her dance tutor and others, as they are shown walking around and recalling the memories they have of her.
The editing of this documentary has an interesting impact upon viewing. For example, several mentions of Camilla Parker Bowles by the narrator are accompanied by home footage of a stern looking Diana, silently raising an eyebrow. Similarly, footage of The Queen looking despondent at the wedding of Charles and Diana is interspersed with a 1995 recording of Diana, talking about trying to make the marriage work.
Having clips and sound bites from different time periods cross over provokes the audience into feeling a certain way, and the menacing background music adds to this provoking. It is seemingly done to show that Diana is alone, up against everybody else.
Hearing Diana speak openly in the home footage is the most interesting aspect, but it is unlikely that you will learn anything new in this documentary. It is almost a pre-curser to the famous Panorama interview with Martin Bashir in 1995, where Diana famously said; “Well there were three of us in this marriage, so it’s a bit crowded.”
If you have an interest in Princess Diana, you will enjoy seeing her in relaxed and informal conversation. Her childhood and death are only touched upon, as the focus is her marriage and separation. If you are watching to learn something new, you will not find it here; there is nothing said in this documentary that hasn’t been written about before.
Diana: In Her Own Words is available to watch now on All 4.