A Look Back On Princess Diana And Prince Charles' Emotional Divorce

Remembering their 1996 divorce ― and Diana's tell-all interview the year before.
Anwar Hussein/WireImage

Prince Charles and Princess Diana’s breakup stunned the world ― even if the tabloids had long claimed the royal marriage was in trouble. On Aug. 28, 26 years ago, the prince and princess reached a final agreement on their divorce.

Diana ― “The People’s Princess” ― and Charles wed in 1981 but by 1985, the marriage was reportedly already in dire straits. The pair, who had two sons together ― Princes William and Harry ― stuck it out for 15 years because, as Diana eventually told the BBC’s Martin Bashir, they “didn’t want to disappoint the public.”

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Even before the couple wed, you could sense the pressure they both were under. In one interview, they were asked if they were in love. Charles followed up Diana’s quick “of course” with the infamous line: “Whatever in love means.”

During her revealing 1995 interview, Diana told Bashir, “The pressure on us both as a couple with the media was phenomenal, and misunderstood by a great many people.”

Sitting down with Bashir was an audacious move on the princess’s part; at the time, the 34-year-old had been separated from her husband since 1992. A month after the interview, Queen Elizabeth II urged the couple to get “an early divorce”which they did on Aug. 28, 1996.

During the interview, Diana also addressed Charles’ alleged affair with Camilla Parker-Bowles ― an old friend he’d go on to marry in 2005.

“There were three in the marriage, so it was a bit crowded,” she quipped.

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In the end, Diana told Bashir she was content with her standing in the public eye, even if it was unlikely she’d ever be queen.

“I’d like to be a queen of people’s hearts, in people’s hearts, but I don’t see myself being queen of this country,” she said.

A year after the split, Diana was tragically killed in a car accident in Paris.

Below, read through the most interesting quotes from Diana’s 1995 conversation with the BBC:

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"I think when I came into marriage -- especially when you've had divorced parents like myself... You'd want to try even harder to make it work and you don't want to fall back into a pattern that you've seen happen in your own family. I desperately want it to work; I desperately love my husband and I wanted to share everything together. And I thought that we were a very good team."
"As for becoming queen, it was never on the forefront of my mind when I married my husband. It was a long way off, that thought."
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"The higher the media places you, the bigger the drop. I was very aware of that."
"It took a long time to understand why people were so interested in me, but I assumed it was because my wonderful husband had done a lot of wonderful work leading up to our marriage and our relationship. But then, over the years, you see yourself as a good product that sits on a shelf and sells well. People make a lot of money out of you."
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On her marriage to Prince Charles:"Here was a fairy story that everybody wanted to work. So it was isolating, but it was also a situation where you couldn't indulge in feeling sorry for yourself. You had to either sink or swim and you had to learn that very fast."
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On her marriage to Prince Charles:"I was very daunted. As far as I was concerned, I was a fat, chubby 21-year-old, and I couldn't understand the level of interest."
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On her marriage to Prince Charles:"No one sat me down with a piece of paper and said, 'This is what's expected of you.'"
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About becoming pregnant with Prince William:"I felt the whole country was in labor with me."
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About her postnatal depression:"Well maybe I was the first person ever to be in this family who ever had a depression or was ever openly tearful. Obviously, that was daunting because, if you've never seen it before, how do you support it?"
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"When no one's listening to you, all you feel when no one's listening to you, all sorts of things start to happen. For instance, you have so much pain inside yourself that you try and hurt yourself on the outside because you want to help. But it's the wrong help you're asking for. People see it as crying wolf or attention-seeking, and they think, because you're in the media all of the time, you've got enough attention. But I was actually crying out because I wanted to get better in order to go forward and to continue my duty and my role as wife, mother, Princess of Wales."
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"I didn't like myself; I was ashamed that I couldn't cope with the pressures."
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"I was compelled to perform. When I say perform, I was compelled to go out and do my engagements and not let people down and support them and love them. In a way, by being out in public, they supported me although they weren't aware of just how much healing they were giving me. It carried me through."
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"I had bulimia for a number of years. That's like a secret disease you inflicted upon yourself because your self esteem is lowered and you don't think you're worthy or valuable. You fill your stomach up four or five times a day, some do it more, and it gives you a feeling of comfort. It's like having a pair of arms around you, but it's temporary. Then, you're disgusted at the bloatedness of your stomach and then you bring it all up again. It's a repetitive pattern that is very destructive to yourself... It was a symptom of what was going on in my marriage. I was crying out for help but giving the wrong signals. People were using my bulimia as a coat on a hanger. They decided that was the problem. Diana was unstable."
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"My husband and I had to keep everything together because we didn't want to disappoint the public. And yet, there was a lot of anxiety going on within our four walls."
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"We had the media who were completely fascinated by everything we did. It was difficult to share that load, because I was always the one who was pitched out front, whether it was my clothes, what I said, what my hair was doing, everything. Pretty dull subjects, actually, and it's been exhausted over the years. Actually, what we wanted supported was our work as a team."
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How the press interest affected her marriage:"It made it very difficult, because for a situation where it was a couple working in the same job -- we got out the same car, shook the same hands, my husband did the speeches, I did the hand-shaking. So basically, we were a married couple doing the same job, which is very difficult for anyone and more so if you've got all of the attention on you. We struggled a bit with it; it was very difficult. And then, my husband decided that we do separate engagements, which was a bit sad for me because I quite liked the company. But, there again, I didn't have the choice."
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"I was portrayed in the media that, if I remember rightly, as someone, because I hadn't passed any O Levels and taken any A Levels, I was stupid. I made the grave mistake of saying to a child I was thick as a plank in order to ease the child's nervousness, of which it did, but that headline went all around the world. I rather regret saying it."
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"I don't think I was allowed to have any [interests]. I think that I've always been the 18-year-old girl he got engaged to, so I don't think I've been given any credit for growth. And, my goodness, I've had to grow."
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"Anything good I ever did, nobody ever said a thing, never said 'well done' or was it OK. But if I tripped up, which invariably I did, because I was new at the game, a ton of bricks came down on me."
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"Yes I was [aware of Prince Charles' relationship with Camilla], but I wasn't in the place to do anything about it... A woman's instinct is a very good one."
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"There's no better way to dismantle a personality than to isolate it."
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"Well, there were three of us in this marriage, so it was a bit crowded."
"We were a very good team in public, albeit what was going on in private."
On the outcome of Andrew Morton's book:"We got the lawyers together, we discussed separation. Obviously, there were a lot of people to discuss it with: the prime minister, Her Majesty."
"We had struggled to keep it going, but obviously we ran out of steam. In a way, I suppose it could have been a relief for us both that we had finally made our minds up. But my husband asked for a separation and I supported it."
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"I come from a divorced background. I didn't want to go into that one again."
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On telling her children about the separation:"I went down a week before [the announcement was made] and explained to them what was happening. They took it as children do, with lots of questions. And I hoped I was able to reassure them, but who knows?"
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"I think the announcement had a huge effect on me and Charles, really. The children were very much out of it in the sense that they were tucked away at school."
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"People's agendas changed overnight. I was now the separated wife of the Prince of Wales. I was a problem. I was a liability. And how are we going to deal with her? This hasn't happened before."
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"Everything changed after we separated, and life became very difficult then for me."
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On how the details of an alleged telephone call with James Gilby were released:"I felt very protective about James, because he had been a very good friend to me and was a very good friend to me. And I couldn't bare that his life was going to be messed up because he had the connection with me."
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On how the details of an alleged telephone call with James Gilby were released:"He is a very affectionate person, but the implications of that conversation were that we had an adulterous relationship, which was not true."
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On how the details of an alleged telephone call with James Gilby were released: "It was done to harm me in a serious manner. That was the first time that I had experienced what it was like to be outside the net, so to speak, and not be in the family."
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"I'll fight until the end, because I believe that I have a role to fulfill and I've got two children to bring up."
On why she withdrew from public life:"The pressure was intolerable then and my work was being affected. I wanted to give 110% to my work and I could only give 50. I was constantly tired, exhausted because the pressure was just... It was so cruel. So I thought the only way to do it was to stand up and make a speech and extract myself before I started disappointing and not carrying out my work. It was my decision to make that speech, because I owed it to the public to say, 'Thank you. I'm disappearing for a bit, but I'll come back.'"
"The campaign [against me] at that point was being so successful, but it did surprise the people who were causing the grief. It did surprise them when I took myself out of the game. They hadn't expected that. And I'm a great believer that you should always confuse the enemy."
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"The enemy was my husband's department, because I always got more publicity, my work was discussed much more than him. From that point of view, I understand it, but I was doing good things and I want to do good things. I was never going to hurt anyone. I was never going to let anyone down."
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"I put it to William, specifically, that if you find someone you love in life, you must hang onto it and look after it. If you are lucky enough to find someone who loves you, then one must protect it."
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"William asked me what had been going on and could I answer his questions, of which I did. He [asked], was that the reason that our marriage had broken up. And I said, 'Well there were three of us in this marriage and the pressure of the media was another factor. So the two together were very difficult. Although I still love papa, I couldn't live under the same roof as him and likewise with him.'"
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"[William] is a child that's a deep thinker, and we won't know for a few years how it's gone in. But I put it in gently, without resentment or any anger."
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"I take some responsibility that our marriage went the way it did. I'll take half of it, but I won't take any more than that because it takes two to get into a situation."
On the publishing of the book in which James Hewitt exposed their relationship:"[James Hewitt] was a great friend of mine at yet another difficult time, and he was always there to support me. I was absolutely devastated when this book appeared, because I had trusted him and because, again, I worried about the reaction of my children. And yes, there was factual evidence in the book, but a lot of it comes from another world. It didn't equate to what happened."
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On the publishing of the book in which James Hewitt exposed their relationship:"It was very distressing that a friend of mine who I had trusted made money out of me. I really minded about that. He had rung me up ten days before it had arrived in the bookshops to tell me that there was nothing to worry about, and I believed him stupidly."
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On the publishing of the book in which James Hewitt exposed their relationship:"When it did arrive, the first thing I did was rushed out to talk to my children. William produced a box of chocolates and said, 'Mummy, I think you've been hurt. These are to make you smile again.'"
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On the publishing of the book in which James Hewitt exposed their relationship:"I adored [James Hewitt]. I was very in love with him, but I was very let down."
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"People think that, at the end of the day, a man is the only answer. Actually, a fulfilling job is better for me."
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"Living in Kensington Palace is a little isolating, but maybe we all feel like that."
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"I actually don't like being the center of attention. When I have my public duties, I understand that when I get out of the car, I'm being photographed. But actually it's now when I got out of my door, my front door, I'm being photographed. I never know where a lense is going to be."
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"A normal day would be being followed by four cars. A normal day I would come back to my car and find six freelance photographers jumping around me... They've decided that I'm still a project after 15, 16 years that sells well and they all shout at me telling me that. 'Oh come on Di, look up. If you give us a picture, I can get my children to a better school.' You can laugh it off, but when you get that the whole time, it's quite difficult. "
"I am a free spirit, unfortunately for some."
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"I'd like to be an ambassador for this country. I'd like to represent this country abroad. As I have all of this media interest, let's not just sit in this country and be battered by it. Let's take them, these people, out to represent this country and the good qualities of it abroad."
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"I think the biggest disease this world suffers from in this day and age is a disease of people feeling unloved. And I know that I can give that love for a minute, for a half an hour, for a day, for a month. But I can give and I'm very happy to do that and I want to do that."
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"I would like a monarchy that has more contact with its people."
"I don't want a divorce, but obviously we need clarity on a situation that has been an enormous discussion over the last three years in particular. So all I say to that is that I await my husband's decision of which way we're all going to go."
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On why she doesn't want a divorce:"What about the children? My poor boys, that's what matters, isn't it?"
"I'd like to be a queen of people's hearts, in people's hearts, but I don't see myself as being queen of this country."
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"I lead from the heart, not the head. And albeit that's gotten me into trouble in my work, I understand that. But someone's got to go out there and love people and show it."
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"I think every strong woman in history has had to walk down a similar path. And I think that it's the strength that causes the confusion and fear. Why is she strong? Where does she get it from? Where is she taking it?"
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"My wish is that my husband finds peace of mind."
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"I don't sit here with resentment. I sit here with sadness because my marriage hasn't worked. I sit here with hope because there's a future ahead, a future for my husband, a future for myself and a future for the monarchy."

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