Ex-bodyguard says Diana would have loved candid documentary
Producers of a new documentary about Princess Diana say it offers insight. Critics say it’s nothing but exploitation. But a former bodyguard says Diana would have been pleased that candid recordings of her are being broadcast in Britain for the first time.
Friends of the late princess have slammed a British broadcaster’s decision to air private recordings in which she speaks frankly about her unhappy marriage to Prince Charles, commenting on their sex life, her fury at her husband’s mistress and her love for another man.
Yet Ken Wharfe, Diana’s protection officer between 1986 and 1993, says the princess, who died in 1997, would appreciate the chance to be heard.
“She would love it,” Wharfe told the Associated Press in an interview Wednesday. “‘For the first time’, she would say, ‘people are actually listening to and hearing what I am saying.’”
Wharfe also serves as a commentator in the documentary.
Diana was a huge star in her lifetime — at once princess, style icon, charity worker and tabloid celebrity — and has rarely been out of the news since her shocking death in a Paris car crash 20 years ago this month. But she has usually been seen through the eyes and words of others.
“Diana: In Her Own Words,” which airs Sunday on Channel 4, includes portions of recordings made by Diana’s voice coach Peter Settelen in 1992 and 1993, just after Diana and Charles separated.
They divorced in 1996, and Charles married his longtime paramour Camilla Parker Bowles in 2005.
Portions of the tapes were broadcast by U.S. network NBC in 2004 but they have never been shown in Britain.
The tapes were made to help Diana practice public speaking as she struck out on her own in a career devoted to charity work. On camera, she seems relaxed and keen to tell her side of the story.
She recounts Charles’ awkward attempts to woo her — “He chatted me up like a bad rash” — and says of the couple’s sex life: “Once every three weeks and then it fizzled out.”
Diana discusses her battle with bulimia, saying: “I didn’t think I was good enough for this family, so I took it out on myself.”
Diana also talks about falling “deeply in love” in the 1980s with her bodyguard Barry Mannakee, who later died in a motorcycle accident.
“That was the biggest blow in my life,” Diana says.
She also describes confronting her husband and Parker Bowles at a party — a moment that Wharfe said marked “the real beginning of the end” of the royal marriage.
“She realized there was no chance of reconciliation,” he said. “There was only one direction and that was divorce.”
The intimacy of the conversations has drawn criticism from some people close to Diana. Her friend Rosa Monckton said the material “doesn’t belong in the public domain.”
“It is a betrayal of her privacy and of the family’s privacy,” she told The Guardian newspaper.
The office of Diana’s sons, Prince William and Prince Harry, has declined to comment on the program.
Channel 4 said the tapes are “important historical source” and the subjects covered “a matter of public record.”
The videotapes have had a twisting journey to public view. They were seized by British police during a 2001 raid on the home of Diana’s former butler, Paul Burrell, who was accused of stealing from the princess.
The case against Burrell was later abandoned. Diana’s family made a legal claim to the recordings but they were eventually returned to Settelen.
Wharfe — who has a book coming out next week on his time with the princess — says the documentary is a valuable reminder of Diana’s role in “the reshaping of the monarchy.”
Her death unleashed a public outpouring of grief in Britain and around the world. The royal family, whose stoic reserve suddenly seemed out of touch, has since softened its stiff upper lip.
William and Harry have both campaigned for more open discussion of mental health, and have spoken of their own struggles after their mother’s death when they were only 15 and 12.
“They are picking up exactly where their mother left off,” Wharfe said. “In my view, the queen — to this day — and other members of the royal family have a lot to thank Diana for.”
The Senate on Thursday gave final approval to legislation to finance the Food and Drug Administration, clearing the measure for President Donald Trump and tapping drug manufacturers once again to help pay for the federal review of prescription drugs and medical devices.
The 94-1 vote came just hours after the Senate passed a separate bill expanding access to experimental treatments for people with terminal illnesses. This bill, the Right to Try Act, will now go to the House, where more than three dozen lawmakers have endorsed similar legislation.
Trump is expected to sign the bill reauthorizing user fees to pay for the agency to review medical devices, brand-name drugs, generic drugs and biosimilars, which are copycat versions of costly biologic drugs made from living organisms.
The House approved the user fee bill by voice vote July 12.
The vote capped an often frustrating seven months for Republicans, who hoped to churn out reams of conservative legislation with their control of both chambers and the White House. Since the dramatic failure of the Senate’s health care repeal bill last week, lawmakers have seemed resigned to more incremental successes.
“We’re passing critical legislation. We’re confirming nominees to important positions,” Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the majority leader, said from the Senate floor Thursday, citing a series of veterans’ bills and the confirmation this week of a new FBI director, Christopher Wray. “We’re taking steps in the right direction.”
Yet, even on their final day in session, lawmakers were reminded of the often uncomfortable marriage between Trump and the Republican-led Congress. Trump lashed out over a bill — which he signed grudgingly this week — to sanction Russia for meddling in last year’s presidential election and for its aggression toward its neighbors. The legislation also limits Trump’s ability to lift or suspend the sanctions himself.
The measure, which the administration sought to block as it moved through the Capitol in recent weeks, is among the most significant accomplishments of this Congress.
Some senators are also maneuvering in response to the White House’s criticisms of Robert Mueller, the special counsel leading the investigation into ties between people in Trump’s orbit and Russia. On Thursday, Sen. Thom Tillis, R-N.C., and Sen. Chris Coons, D-Del., introduced legislation that would allow for judicial review if a special counsel was removed.
The FDA bill, which passed overwhelmingly in both houses, was a struggle, taking lawmakers more than a year to forge a consensus among Republicans, Democrats, FDA officials and drug and device companies.
“This is a bill that’s been done the right way,” said Sen. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, chairman of the Senate health committee, in a subtle dig at Republican leaders who bypassed the committee and Democrats on their failed push to repeal the Affordable Care Act. “It’s an example of the way the Senate is supposed to work.”
The food and drug agency depends on user fees to speed the approval of drugs while maintaining strict standards of drug safety.
“User fees, where companies fund a portion of the premarket review of their products, account for more than a quarter of all FDA funding, yet the FDA’s authority to collect these fees will expire at the end of next month unless Congress acts. That’s the urgency of getting this bill across the finish line,” said Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine.
The bill includes a proposal by Collins intended to prevent huge, unjustified cost increases on decadesold prescription medicines that have no competition. The legislation directs the agency to speed the review of generic drug applications when products on the market have little or no competition.
The “right-to-try bill,” introduced by Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., aims to establish a new pathway for terminally ill patients to gain access to experimental drugs that have not been approved by the FDA.
Britain’s Princess Diana and her husband, Prince Charles, take shelter under an umbrella in June 1990 while attending the Royal Ascot horse race. A new documentary on the late princess airs in Britain on Sunday.