Princess Diana Mania Continues With New August Specials on PBS and Smithsonian

Ileane Rudolph
Princess Diana Archive/Getty Images

Princess Diana in Brixton in 1983

The fractured fairy-tale life of Princess Diana—which ended tragically 20 years ago this month—continues to inspire a surfeit of minutely detailed Diana nostalgia. But why? As Charles Poe, executive producer for Smithsonian’s new docs, puts it, “Diana is the object lesson that tells us more about celebrity and the press than any other story.” Poe and Her Story exec producer Charles Furneaux preview some tidbits unveiled in three brand-new Princess Di specials.

Diana desperately wanted a real marriage.
“She says in revealing videos made with her speech teacher that she and [Prince] Charles hadn’t had sex in years,” Furneaux says of the intimate videos that are Her Story’s centerpiece. “Charles admitted that he didn’t want to be the first Prince of Wales to not have a mistress. Yet she was the one accused of being crazy for being upset about it.”

ABC Chronicles 'The Story of Diana' in Two-Night, Four-Hour Event

ABC Chronicles 'The Story of Diana' in Two-Night, Four-Hour Event

Her brother Charles Spencer is among the subjects of this exhaustive doc

Her relationship with the press was often mutually beneficial.
“Most people believe Diana was stalked to death by the press, but it was more complicated,” says Poe. “She was quite effective at using the media to embarrass Charles, like when she turned her head as Charles went to kiss her after he won a polo match. She understood the role of the media to create images of herself [in a pre-Instagram world].”

She wasn’t entitled to a state funeral because she was no longer a princess.
“Diana had become such a global icon that the British people demanded it,” says Poe, “and the Queen had to relent. As a commentator says in one of the Smithsonian efforts, ‘The queen bows to no one, and she ended up having to bow to the coffin of this woman who is no longer part of the royal family.’”

Diana: Her Story, Tuesday, Aug. 22, 8/7c, PBS (check local listings at pbs.org)
Diana and the Paparazzi/Diana: The Day We Said Goodbye, Sunday, Aug. 27, 8/7c and 9/8c, Smithsonian Channel
Documentaries

TV Guide Magazine

This article also appeared in the Aug. 21–Sept. 3 issue of TV Guide Magazine

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