The Crown Season 5 (Courtesy of Netflix)

The fifth season of The Crown has officially dropped on Netflix, and we’re engrossed in the drama that’s unfolding over the show’s new decade — the ’90s. Ever since the highly acclaimed series debuted in 2016, it’s taken some creative liberties from time to time, despite heavily relying on history to guide its plot. As we tune into the drama “inspired by” historical events, GRAZIA USA is unpacking every time we asked ourselves, “Did that really happen?

We’re focusing on Princess Diana’s bombshell interview with BBC reporter Martin Bashir across The Crown episodes “No Woman’s Land” and “Gunpowder.”

We’re first introduced to Bashir as he is watching a news segment which reported that Diana’s younger brother Charles Spencer was having issues with his private correspondence sent to publications for financial reward. According to the segment, Spencer’s head of security, Alan Waller usurped a personal letter in which the Earl criticized Princess Diana’s behavior and delivered it to the Today newspaper.

Bashir attended a meeting with his editor, where they discussed the high praise Bashir received from his interviews, but that viewership of the BBC documentary series Panorama was low. Offering an idea to remedy their situation, Bashir suggested an interview with the Princess of Wales. In his pitch, Bashir explained that the American networks are itching for Diana to say what’s on her mind after Princes Charles’ interview.

Martin Bashir interviews Princess Diana in Kensington Palace for the television program Panorama. (Photo by © Pool Photograph/Corbis/Corbis via Getty Images)

In order to secure the interview, Bashir doctored bank statements, showing payments from News International and a suspicious offshore account. He first approached Diana’s brother in an attempt to earn trust, claiming the Earl’s former head of security was not only paid by the Today newspaper, but also by a disguised bank account, implying that he may have been compensated by British security services or even the Duchy of Cornwall. The reporter expressed his belief that MI5 or GCHQ may be the main instigators behind the leaks and explains to Lord Spencer that if they’re bugging his conversations, they may very well be bugging Diana’s as well.

Bashir also created a faux bank statement incriminating Princess Diana’s private secretary Patrick Jephson. Charles Spencer reached out to the BBC to double check that Bashir is above board, and to be trusted before calling Diana to meet with the journalist.

When meeting with the Spencer siblings, Bashir said he believes everyone is spying on Diana because she is a threat with her popularity and knowledge of what goes on behind-the-scenes. He told the Princess that his sources at MI6 confirmed that her driver Steve Davies is also in on the deal and that there’s been a concerted effort to drive Diana away from England, to live in either the U.S. or Canada. He suggested the best way for her to protect herself against these subliminal attacks, is to go public with her story — specifically with him at Panorama.

While Lord Spencer quickly got cold feet, Diana told Bashir that American journalists such as Oprah Winfrey and Barbara Walters have been vying for an interview. All parties agreed to meet again at a later date, before Diana becomes interested in Bashir’s Pakistani heritage.

The Crown Season 5 (Courtesy of Netflix)

Diana went on to meet Bashir alone in a quiet parking lot. Bashir told the Princess three lines in the castle have been tapped for sure and that she’s been followed by security services posing at paparazzi. Further incriminating her private secretary Patrick, Bashir ironically advised Diana to “trust no one,” gaining her trust and positioning himself as the only person on her side.

In episode 8, Bashir informed his editor that Diana has agreed to give the BBC free rein on questions and final cut but requested that she be the one to tell the Queen before the feature airs. They arranged to record the interview at Kensington Palace, when it will be empty on November 5, Guy Fawkes night, when the rest of the castle will attend a bonfire in honor of the occasion.

Before the interview took place, Diana’s brother went over his notes with Bashir, and noticed several inaccuracies and inconsistencies and advised his sister of his concerns. When Diana confronted Bashir with doubts, he told her he believes Diana chose the night of the interview to be on November 5th intentionally, symbolizing the 13 members of the Gunpowder Plot in 1605 and convinced her that the establishment may have “gotten to” her brother.

They record the damning interview while the castle was empty. Princess Diana informed the Queen when it will air. While the Queen vowed not to tune in, the rest of the royal family was sent into a frenzy, specifically Charles.

Elizabeth Debicki in The Crown (Photo: courtesy of Netflix)

So what really happened? “An Interview with HRH The Princess of Wales,” aired on the BBC on November 20, 1995 on the docuseries, Panorama with reporter Martin Bashir. They did indeed film the feature in Princess Diana’s sitting room at Kensington Palace. Diana revealed her mental health struggles, including postpartum depression, bulimia nervosa, and went into great detail about her husband Prince Charles’ years-long affair with Camilla Parker Bowles.

Lady Diana spoke of the lack of support she received from the royal family amid her mental health struggles, dubbed “unstable,” and “unbalanced” by the family. She opened up about her issues with self-harm, cutting, binging, and purging. “When no one listens to you, or you feel no one’s listening to you, all sorts of things start to happen. For instance, you have so much pain inside yourself, that you try and hurt yourself on the outside, because you want help, but it’s the wrong help you’re asking for,” said Diana.

Arguably the most explosive moment of the interview came when Princess Diana said, “There were three of us in this marriage, so it was a bit crowded,” referring to Charles’ extramarital affair with Camilla. The Princess also admitted to her own affair with former army officer James Hewitt, and casted doubt on Charles ability to one day become a good King.

One month after the interview aired, the Queen finally gave her blessing for the couple to finalize their divorce, which they did in August 1996.

Princess Diana With Her Private Secretary Patrick Jephson At The Burghley Horse Trials Stamford,lincolnshire (Photo by Tim Graham Photo Library via Getty Images)

As recently as 2020, the BBC hired Judge Lord Dyson to investigate allegations that Bashir used “deceitful methods,” to secure his interview with Princess Diana, including forging bank statements. Ultimately, Dyson found the claims to be true, and concluded that Earl Spencer was “deceived and induced,” by the reporter to arrange the meeting with the Princess.

This year, the BBC issued a public apology to Patrick Jephson, Diana’s private secretary that Bashir claimed was receiving payments to spy on Diana. “The BBC accepts and acknowledges that serious harm was caused to Commander Jephson as a result of the circumstances in which the 1995 interview with Diana, Princess of Wales, was obtained, which have become apparent as a result of the Dyson Report,” the UK national broadcaster said in a statement.

Diana’s brother issued his own statement after the news, posting to Twitter. “The right result – appalling what Patrick Jephson had to go through as a result of grotesque ‘journalism,’” he wrote. “Also terrible that it was covered up for so long by senior people at the BBC News– there will be more to come out on all this, before long.”