A Brief History of the Royals’ Most Explosive Interviews

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Martin Bashir interviewing Princess Diana in Kensington Palace.
Photo by Pool Photograph/Corbis via Getty Images

At this point, Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s upcoming tell-all interview with Oprah Winfrey is the Super Bowl for royal watchers. What started off as Winfrey’s promise that “there is no subject that's off-limits” has burgeoned into a full-on frenzy of leaks allegedly from Buckingham Palace, complete with accusations that Markle once “hissed” at a staffer, reducing her to tears.

The teaser that CBS dropped on Thursday confirms that Winfrey, at least, is telling the truth. “I don’t know how they could expect that after all of this time, we would still just be silent if there is an active role that the Firm is playing in perpetuating falsehoods about us,” Markle tells her. “And if that comes with risk of losing things, I mean, there’s a lot that’s been lost already.”

The three days to go before March 7 will no doubt bring more unconfirmed reports from the British press. In the meantime, there’s a whole trove of juicy royals content to consume that’s been verified; it came straight from the royals themselves. Here, a recap of some of the most controversial, headline-making interviews they’ve given over the years.

Prince Charles on His Infidelity (1994)

Charles went to great lengths to restore his reputation after separating from Diana in December of 1991. (They married a decade prior, when he was 32 and Diana was 18.) In 1994, he participated in a documentary that was largely sympathetic towards the royal, but took a turn when he honestly responded to the question of whether he’d tried to be “faithful and honorable” in his marriage. “Yes, absolutely,” Charles replied, then changed his answer: “Yes, until it became irretrievably broken down, us both having tried.” Two-thirds of those who responded to The Sun’s telephone poll in the aftermath said they now felt Charles was unfit to be king.

Princess Diana on Bulimia and Infidelity (1995)

If you know any details about Princess Diana’s personal life, there’s a good chance they came from her tell-all 1996 BBC interview with Martin Bashir. While they weren’t yet officially divorced at the time, the late royal candidly addressed their “obviously turbulent” private life, as well as Charles’s infidelity (and her own). The most memorable line, about Camilla Parker Bowles: “Well, there were three of us in this marriage, so it was a bit crowded.”

All that, Diana continued, led to a years-long struggle with “rampant bulimia,” which became her “escape mechanism.” (That topic, in particular, was what made the actor Emma Corrin push for its proper portrayal in The Crown.) “It was a symptom of what was going on in my marriage,” Diana said. “I was crying out for help, but giving the wrong signals, and people were using my bulimia as a coat on a hanger. They decided that was the problem—Diana was unstable.” She also accused them of numerous remarks that she was wasting food.

Lingering on the topic of mental health, Diana also discussed her struggles with self harm (“I just hurt my arms and legs”) and post-natal depression. “It gave everyone a wonderful new label—Diana’s unstable and Diana’s mentally unbalanced,” she said of the latter. “And unfortunately that seems to have stuck on and off over the years.”

There’s a likely reason why Diana chose to burn so many bridges: Bashir reportedly gained her trust by doctoring bank statements, suggesting that royal employees close to Diana were being paid to spy on her. The BBC recently reopened its 1996 investigation into the claims, which is still underway.

Prince Philip on Gun Control (1996)

You could fill a book with the number of controversial statements Prince Philip has made in his 99 years on Earth. (A list from The Mirror features as many quotes as the royal’s age.) They range widely, starting with simply rude or awkward like this 1970 remark about Princess Anne, a longtime horse girl: “It if doesn’t fart or eat hay, she isn’t interested.” On the opposite end of the scale, there are instances like Philip’s reaction to the Dunblane massacre, a primary school shooting that took the lives of 16 students and one teacher.

“Look, if a cricketer suddenly decided to go into a school and batter a lot of people to death with a cricket bat, are you going to ban cricket bats?,” Philip said, going on to laugh. “I can't believe that the members of the shooting clubs are any more dangerous than members of a squash club or a golf club or anything else. I mean, they're perfectly reasonable people. There's no evidence that people who use weapons for sport are any more dangerous than people who use golf clubs or tennis rackets or cricket bats.’” Buckingham Palace later issued a qualified apology, stating that Philip “had no intention whatsoever of causing offense or distress to anyone and he is sorry if he has done so.”

Meghan Markle on Mental Health and the Media (2019)

It’s difficult to overstate the extent to which the British press has attacked Meghan Markle, from the moment she was rumored to be dating Prince Harry in 2016. Harry initially released a statement practically begging for the media to leave her alone, though the “wave of abuse” instead just became the norm. Three years in, Markle candidly shared how she was managing—or in fact not managing to cope. Clearly not expecting an interviewer’s query as to whether or not she was okay, Markle answered candidly: “Thank you for asking, because not many people will have asked if I’m okay, but it’s a very real thing to be going through behind the scenes,” she said of the “struggle” in an ITV documentary.

By that point, Markle had come to consider her earlier skepticism about the tabloids’ ruthlessness “very naïve”: “When I first met my now-husband, my friends were really happy because I was so happy. But my British friends said to me: ‘I’m sure he’s great. But you shouldn’t do it because the British tabloids will destroy your life,’” she said. “I’m American—we don’t have that there. ‘What are you talking about? That doesn’t make any sense. I’m not in tabloids!’ I didn’t get it.”

Prince Andrew on Jeffrey Epstein and Sexual Assault (2019)

The 2019 death of Jeffrey Epstein prompted a renewed examination of the late sex offender’s “little black book,” which contained hundreds of contacts. Many belonged to public figures—including Prince Andrew, whose spectacularly catastrophic response led him to step back from his royal duties. (He was even reportedly kicked out of Buckingham Palace.)

For reasons unknown to anyone but Andrew himself, Queen Elizabeth II’s rumored favorite child decided to figure it all out on TV, with no questions seen ahead of time and no topics banned. (Not even Andrew’s publicist could understand his thought process; he resigned two weeks before it aired on the BBC.) Things got off to a rocky start, with Andrew describing Epstein’s charged sex trafficking and abuse of dozens of underage girls as behaving in an “unbecoming” manner. From there, he claimed that Epstein’s sex trafficking coterie was as easy to overlook as Buckingham Palace staff.

That’s not all. The most damning (and lengthy) portion of the interview concerned his alleged sexual abuse of then 17-year-old Virginia Giuffre in 2001. Andrew’s assertions that she was lying just kept coming, growing increasingly bizarre. Take Giuffre’s detail that they spent part of the night dancing, and therefore getting sweaty, at the club. “There’s a slight problem with the sweating because I have a peculiar medical condition which is that I don’t sweat or I didn’t sweat at the time,” Andrew said. “Because I had suffered what I would describe as an overdose of adrenalin in the Falkland’s War when I was shot at and I simply… it was almost impossible for me to sweat.”

Besides, Andrew continued, he spent the night in question at a Pizza Express. What’s more, while the man with his arm around Giuffre’s bare waist was indeed Andrew himself, the royal said he couldn’t “be certain as to whether or not that’s my hand.”

Last but not least, Andrew meditated on the topic of sex in general. There was no way, he asserted, that he could have had sex with Giuffre or any of the young women whom Epstein trafficked. “If you’re a man, it is a positive act to have sex with somebody,” he said. “You have to … take some sort of positive action. And so therefore if you try to forget, it’s very difficult to try and forget a positive action and I do not remember anything.”

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