Candid Look at a Royal Relationship


The new four-hour TLC documentary "Diana: Story of a Princess," which airs in two-hour installments tonight and Saturday at 9, offers a comprehensive overview of the turbulent relationship with Britain's Prince Charles, who was 30 when he met the initially shy Diana Spencer, all of 19 at the time.

The first hour chronicles Spencer's childhood and courtship with Charles, focusing on chats with her nanny, Mary Clarke, and cousin Robert Spencer, who disputes the claim that she was suffering from a psychological disorder at the time of the couple's fairy tale wedding on July 29, 1981, an event watched by a staggering television audience of 750 million.

"She loved the camera. She couldn't resist it. We couldn't resist her," says a veteran photographer for the Sun, a British tabloid that covered the couple's every move.

Buckingham Palace press secretary Ronald Allison says the prince was inquisitive and full of ideas. Lord Peter Palumbo is another admirer. "He was wealthy, good-looking, intelligent, sporting, a man of action. He had all the aces."

In addition to photos and news footage, the programs interweave excerpts from author Andrew Morton's "Diana: Her True Story, in Her Own Words," as well as personal letters written by Charles.

Part 2 examines the affairs involving James Hewitt, the princess' riding instructor, and Camilla Parker-Bowles, who was seeing Charles in 1980.

The candid Hewitt, speaking for the first time since Diana's tragic death in 1997, says, "She just poured out all her problems to me, which was extraordinary because that was the first time I realized how dreadfully unhappy she was."

There was a "tacit understanding," adds Hewitt, "that I was a part of her life as Bowles was a part of Charles' life."

Copyright © 2019, Los Angeles Times
EDITION: California | U.S. & World