Today we look into the world of the British monarchy. We talk about lords, earls and princes involved in a recent story of lies and scandal from one of the most respected journalistic organisation in the UK and by far one of the most popular royal members Diana, Princess of Wales.
Today we use a lot of English phrases and vocabulary that you might associate with detective and investigative stories. We use idioms like “come to light” as we explore a recent scandal involving the BBC and the British royal family. A scandal is the term used for an event that people typically see as morally wrong.
Although this scandal has taken 26 years to be uncovered ( <- spot the prefix from last weeks lesson?), it is still making the headlines in newspapers because it involves some of the largest and most trusted institutions in the UK.
I’d like to be a queen in people’s hearts but I don’t see myself being queen of this country.
⭐ Diana, Princess of Wales
You may not be a royalist, you may not know the names of the people involved (some were new to me!) but the story is an age-old story of betrayal, lies, greed and the desire for recognition. So it’s time to find your headphones, mobile phone and 15 minutes to practice listening to some English language on a very British topic.
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Hi I’m Hilary and welcome to this podcast from Adept English. Here we are providing you with good English listening material to help with your English language learning.
If you find the podcasts difficult even so, then it may be a good idea to lift the level of your understanding of English, by doing our Most Common Five Hundred Words Course. Once you know the Most Common Five Hundred Words in English really, really well, the podcasts will be easier.
So here goes today, in this podcast – on an item in the British news at the moment. Great for practising your understanding of spoken English.
One of the news items that has been around, which has aired in the last couple of weeks in the UK – the story of Princess Diana and that famous or perhaps infamous interview with the journalist Martin Bashir in 1995.
This interview was really big news at the time. It was and is rare to hear a member of the British Royal Family speak so openly, so candidly about their life. And in particular, there were some big revelations about her marriage to Prince Charles. A ‘revelation’, REVELATION – means something that’s ‘big news’, something that’s surprising information, which changes our view on something. So this interview, which was televised in the UK and reportedly had 23 million viewers on that evening alone.
It was given by Diana to journalist, Martin Bashir. Diana and Prince Charles had separated in 1992, but had not yet divorced. After Diana gave her interview in late 1995, it is thought that the Queen commanded them to get a divorce, and this happened in 1996. A ‘divorce’, DIVORCE means that you dissolve a marriage, you end a marriage. This was, as we all know, followed by Diana’s death in Paris in 1997.
So this 1995 interview was big news at the time. Diana was open about all kinds of things – like having an eating disorder and about Prince Charles continuing his relationship with Camilla Parker Bowles, now of course his wife, the Duchess of Cornwall – all the way through their marriage.
She said famously ‘There were three of us in the marriage and it was a bit crowded!’ So really shocking at the time.
I rather liked Diana – I felt that she was misused by the Royal Family and I liked her openness and feel that she was a good person and a good mother. I think that Princes William and Harry are so popular today, partly because of the influence on their characters of their mother. And the portrayal of the relationship between Charles and Diana in the series The Crown – I know it’s part-fiction, but you do end up actually feeling sorry for both of them.
Things that the real Diana said and admitted in the interview with Martin Bashir went very much against the way that the Royal Family normally do things. Diana’s openness was shocking back in 1995. But why is this story in the news right now?
Well, it has gradually emerged that the journalist who did this interview with Diana used deception to get the interview. ‘Deception’ is a noun and it means when you deceive someone – you tell lies, you tell them untruths. And it has come to light, it’s become apparent that the journalist, Martin Bashir used deception to obtain that interview with Diana.
Clearly Diana isn’t here any more to speak for herself, but one person that Diana could always trust was her brother Charles, Earl Spencer. And he was involved in the process running up to the interview – and he kept records of the conversations.
At the time, Diana was separated from Prince Charles – the marriage had come to an end, but they were not yet divorced. It was not clear what role Diana would play. She felt vulnerable. She was no longer enjoying the same protection, inside the Royal Family.
It wasn’t clear whom she could trust – and she obviously had a sense that she was being watched, monitored. There are of course lots of ‘conspiracy theories’ around Diana – and of course, around Diana’s death too – most of which I don’t think are true.
A ‘conspiracy theory’ means a set of ideas that don’t have proof, but which suggest that something sinister or bad is going on underneath. Situations are not as they seem on the surface, if you believe conspiracy theories. But I think it likely that Diana probably was being watched and monitored and that the Royal Family might have seen her as a bit of a liability, a bit of a risk to their reputation, if you like. I’m sure that’s true. So she perhaps did have reason to worry – and perhaps not to trust people.
But Martin Bashir, the journalist who did the interview – is now believed to have gained the trust of Diana’s brother, Charles Spencer – and afterwards of Diana herself, in part by using fake or false bank statements. A ‘bank statement’ is the paper record of money coming in and out of your bank account – and obviously back in 1995, internet banking wasn’t such a thing – so bank statements were the evidence, the proof of money being received and spent. Martin Bashir apparently requested that a graphic designer, Matt Weissler make some fake or false bank statements.
A photograph of a woman and her pet dog looking at bank statements. We explore the types of English phrases encountered in an investigation.
The bank statements were meant to show that money was being paid to Earl Spencer’s head of security – his top bodyguard, if you like – by News International – for spying. So Martin Bashir told Earl Spencer effectively that his head of security was spying on him. ‘To spy’, SPY means to ‘watch secretly’. ‘Spying’ is what the intelligence services do. They’re involved in secret operations. And the point of this? Well, Martin Bashir hoped that these lies would gain Earl Spencer’s trust, make him feel that Martin Bashir was ‘on his side’.
At this point, Diana felt that there were lots of conspiracies against her – and she would have shared these with her brother. So perhaps it was not difficult for Martin Bashir to get Earl Spencer to believe his claims and give him access to his sister.
Little by little, Martin Bashir appears to have positioned himself as someone that Diana and Earl Spencer could trust, someone who wanted to them and help her expose what was ‘really happening’ in the Royal Family.
Martin Bashir told Earl Spencer for instance, that Prince Charles’s Private Secretary, Richard Aylard was also spying on the princess, as was Diana’s own Private Secretary, Patrick Jephson. And that both were being paid by the intelligence services to do this.
The ‘intelligence services’ means GCHQ, MI5 or MI6. And this process, whereby Martin Bashir gained Diana and Earl Spencer’s trust, partly through deception, ended with Diana willingly giving this famous interview.
Of course, Martin Bashir worked for the BBC and the interview with Diana went out as an episode of the programme Panorama. Panorama stills runs today and has a reputation for high quality, well-researched reporting, especially where there’s been a cover-up.
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Where the truth has been hidden, Panorama exposes it. So the reason that there’s a scandal now, why it’s in the papers, why it’s in the news, is that an investigation, started 25 years on and headed by Lord Dyson has taken place. It now seems that even when details of Martin Bashir’s deception started to come out, the BBC failed to investigate, they closed it down.
The graphic designer, Matt Weissler, who had been asked to make the false bank statements told his story very soon after it happened – and as soon as he realised the part his work had played. But the BBC dismissed it, they didn’t investigate Matt Weissler’s story properly. They didn’t investigate and they didn’t speak to Earl Spencer to hear his side.
The BBC continued to employ Martin Bashir as a very senior and respected journalist, since 2016 as their correspondent on religion. So it’s really interesting that he left the BBC just last week, giving ‘health problems’ as his reason.
The results of the investigation by Lord Dyson have been made public – and both Prince William and Prince Harry have made statements in reaction. Both princes have been critical of the part played by the media and the press in the death of Princess Diana.
Prince William said “The interview made a major contribution to making my parents’ relationship worse….the BBC’s failures contributed significantly to her fear, paranoia and isolation that I remember from those final years with her.” Prince William said ultimately "Our mother lost her life because of this, and nothing has changed. By protecting her legacy, we protect everyone, and uphold the dignity with which she lived her life,".
The BBC has sent written apologies to Princes William and Harry, and to the Prince of Wales and Diana's brother Earl Spencer, as well as to the graphic designer, Matt Weissler – who was never again employed by the BBC. His comment ‘Too little, too late’.
So another podcast about an ‘exposé’ being reported in the British press – rather like the one about the sub-postmasters and sub-postmistresses from the other week. Big British institutions being held to account for things they’ve done wrong. Good, I say.
Hopefully, that is an interesting listen and supplies you with some good and some useful vocabulary about the British press and news stories.
Anyway, enough for now. Have a lovely day. Speak to you again soon. Goodbye.