Diana to spill the royal beans Happy birthday, Charles: As the prince marks his 47th birthday, his estranged wife announces she is going to chat for an hour on TV.

November 15, 1995|By Bill Glauber | Bill Glauber,SUN FOREIGN STAFF

LONDON -- Diana talks.

In the celebrity chat show of the year, Princess Diana discusses her marital breakup during an hourlong interview to be aired Monday night by the British Broadcasting Corp.

The interview comes 16 months after Prince Charles used a TV documentary to reveal he had been unfaithful to his wife. The couple has been separated for more than two years.

"It will cover every step of her life as Princess of Wales, her family, her separation and her future plans," a BBC spokeswoman said.

It is too early to tell if the full interview will be shown in America, according to spokesmen for U.S. television networks, although snippets certainly will be broadcast as part of national and local news coverage.

The program was announced in Britain yesterday -- on Prince Charles' 47th birthday. It even overshadowed reports about final details of today's Queen's Speech to parliament, the British equivalent of the State of the Union address, which only sets the course of the ruling government for the next year.

Neither Prince Charles, nor his mother, Queen Elizabeth, were consulted before the interview, which took place at Kensington Palace. The BBC only made the announcement of the program after Diana had told Queen Elizabeth.

The BBC reported that Buckingham Palace "was in shock." A Buckingham Palace spokesman said that Diana gave the interview on her "own initiative."

Basically, it has been a bad TV week for the royals. Tomorrow night, another network will air a documentary claiming that the Duke of Windsor, formerly Edward VIII, was an active participant in a Nazi plot to betray Britain during World War II.

The program, titled "Edward VIII, The Traitor King," claims he was bent on revenge after his abdication, and prepared to use Nazis to stir up a revolution in Britain, topple Churchill's government and depose his brother King George VI.

The program alleges he acted in part to regain the throne with his wife, Wallis Warfield Simpson, formerly of Baltimore.

Diana is apparently playing for different stakes. Royal watchers say her game isn't politics -- it's publicity.

Only two years ago, Diana announced, "I hope you can find it in your hearts to understand and give me time and space that has been lacking in recent years."

To shape her image, Diana has frequently talked to reporters who cover the royal beat, but only on background and never alone before TV cameras. She has also used friends as messengers to convey her point of view to journalists.

Journalist Andrew Morton was thought to have received Diana's tacit approval when he disclosed in a book her problems with bulimia, alleged suicide attempts and distress at her husband's relationship with Camilla Parker Bowles.

For years, Diana reigned over the royal beat with her ever-changing wardrobe and glittering lifestyle. But recently, she has been losing the battle for publicity. Diana was savaged by the tabloids for her friendship with English rugby star Will Carling. Previously, she was linked in the tabloids with a married art dealer and a former cavalry officer.

Meanwhile, Charles has apparently recovered from his TV interview in which he claimed to have "no regrets" about admitting his infidelity, and answered questions about his relationship with Ms. Parker Bowles, who was divorced earlier this year.

Harold Brooks-Baker, who edits the influential Burke's Peerage, said Diana is making a mistake.

"I think it will be another nail in the coffin of the monarchy," Mr. Brooks-Baker told Britain's Press Association.

He added "things were beginning to get more civilized, a little more grown up. The Prince of Wales was beginning to slowly win more understanding.

"If the program is full of tears, and I believe it will be a tear-jerker, it will put the future of the monarchy and the Commonwealth in danger," he said.

But the program should help the BBC's bottom line. Within two hours of yesterday's announcement, the network had fielded calls from broadcasters around the world, trying to buy up rights.

The BBC said details of the interview would not be divulged -- even to the queen -- before Monday's broadcast.

He said, she said, doesn't get much better than this.

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