BBC apologises to royal nanny over false Prince Charles affair allegations

Questions about Bashir’s tactics were raised soon after the interview was broadcast, most vocally by Diana’s brother, Charles Spencer. An internal investigation by the BBC exonerated Bashir, but in 2021, an inquiry conducted by a former justice of the British Supreme Court, Lord John Dyson, concluded that “the BBC fell short of the high standards of integrity and transparency, which are its hallmark.”

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On Thursday, the BBC’s director-general, Tim Davie, issued yet another apology to the royal family, as well as a new one to Pettifer.

“It is a matter of great regret that the BBC did not get to the facts in the immediate aftermath of the program, when there were warning signs that the interview might have been obtained improperly,” Davie said. “Had we done our job properly, Princess Diana would have known the truth in her lifetime.”

The BBC, Davie reiterated, will never again broadcast the program or license it to other broadcasters. Because of its historic value, he did not rule out airing extracts from the interview.

Bashir, who went on to report for ABC News and returned to the BBC as a religion correspondent, resigned from the broadcaster in May 2021, citing poor health. He has expressed regret for his methods but insisted they did not ultimately play a role in getting Diana to sit for the interview.

Pettifer was one of a rotating cast of characters in the ceaseless tabloid coverage of Charles and Diana. The daughter of a wealthy banker who served in Royal Horse Guards, she grew up in an aristocratic world of Swiss finishing schools and an ancestral estate in Wales and later opened a nursery school. Charles hired her to be a nanny for his sons shortly after he and Diana separated in 1993.

“Had we done our job properly, Princess Diana would have known the truth in her lifetime.”

BBC’s director-general, Tim Davie

Newspapers leaped on rumours that Diana objected to Pettifer’s child care practices — she smoked while taking care of William and Harry — and passed along secondhand accounts of her views about what the young princes really needed (“fresh air, a rifle and a horse”), The Guardian reported in 1999.

But there was never any corroboration of the rumours that the nanny had become involved with the boys’ father.

In 1999, she resigned from the household of Charles and married Charles Pettifer, a former officer in the Coldstream Guards. William and Harry, who were said to adore her, attended their wedding.

In a statement published by The Sunday Times, Alexandra Pettifer said, “I am disappointed that it needed legal action for the BBC to recognise the serious harm I have been subjected to.” She said that she knew “firsthand” how much the Diana interview had affected the royal family and that their distress “is a source of great upset to me.”

This article originally appeared in The New York Times.

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