Princess Diana's Most Surprising Character Trait—and Why It Caught the ‘Diana: In Her Own Words’ Filmmaker Off-Guard

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editor@purewow.com (PureWow)
·3 min read
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The Princess Diana tapes are legendary for a reason. Recorded by journalist and royal biographer Andrew Morton, they became the primary source for his subsequent tell-all, Diana: Her True Story, released in 1992. (Of course, at the time of publication, no one knew that it was Princess Diana herself who was spilling the royal tea on her husband’s infidelity, her battle with bulimia and so much more.)

Fast forward to 2017 when journalist and documentary filmmaker Tom Jennings released Diana: In Her Own Words, a film narrated exclusively by Princess Diana using the audio procured by Morton decades before. Recently, the documentary experienced a bit of a resurgence after Netflix pointed to it as a way to corroborate their fictionalized version of Princess Diana’s arrival on the royal scene in the early 1980s, which played out in season four of The Crown.

Jennings dropped by the Royally Obsessed podcast to chat with me and my co-host Roberta Fiorito about what it was like to convince Morton to sign on to work with him and also to share his reaction to the first time he heard Diana’s voice on those tapes.

According to Jennings, Morton wasn’t immediately sold on working with him. “I straight out asked him: ‘We’d love to use your tapes.’ I remember the conversation vividly. He said, ‘Get in line, mate. You’re about the 2,000th producer that has asked me for those tapes. I plan on taking them to my grave.’”

That’s when Jennings made his hard sell. “‘Wait, Andrew, wait!’” he said over the phone to Morton. “‘We do these things differently. There’s no narration and we’re not going to interview anyone to tell us what Diana was like. We want to use the tapes and just let her talk. We want to let Diana be the narrator of her own story.’”

Morton was intrigued. Per Jennings, there was a long pause before he replied, “No one’s ever asked me to do it like that.” Two days later, Jennings was on an overnight flight to London to meet with Morton at his publisher’s office in South London.

As the pair listened to the tapes—seven hours in total—Jennings recalls that there was a lot to take in. But there was also an unexpected detail about Diana that struck him immediately: her sense of humor. “I didn’t get how funny she was. There’s a lot more in the tapes where [Diana’s] telling little asides about her day and making jokes. Some of it was gossipy, but a lot of it was just her turning a phrase and making a joke about something...The whole way back to the airport, I kept thinking: Princess Diana was really funny.”

If you haven’t yet streamed Jennings’s documentary, it’s available to watch on Disney+. As for whether or not we’ll ever get to hear the tapes in full (the documentary only uses about 90 minutes worth), per Jennings, discussions have begun, but time will tell.

For more from Tom Jennings, listen to the Royally Obsessed podcast with co-hosts Rachel Bowie and Roberta Fiorito. Subscribe now or follow us on Instagram @royallyobsessedpodcast.

Listen to the full podcast below.

RELATED: ‘The Crown’ Season 5 May Be a Long Way Off, But We’ve Got New Details from Royal Biographer Andrew Morton