BBC has agreed to pay substantial damages to former royal nanny Alexandra Pettifer, previously known as Tiggy Legge-Bourke, after “false and malicious” claims that she had an affair with Prince Charles and terminated a pregnancy.
The allegations were made by disgraced journalist Martin Bashir, in order to secure his 1995 Panorama interview with Diana, Princess of Wales.
Last year, a report found Bashir “guilty of deceit” in which, at the time, he persuaded Princess Diana’s brother Earl Spencer with the false claims to obtain the bombshell interview. What was once hailed as one of the all-time great journalistic scoops, with Diana sharing details over her and Prince Charles’ failed marriage in front of millions of people, is now considered so toxic that BBC director-general Tim Davie has pledged never to show the program again.
Louise Prince, Pettifer’s lawyer, told the High Court that “the allegations were fabricated” and, due to the lies, Princess Diana became “upset with (Pettifer) without apparent justification.”
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Pettifer became “extremely upset and confused” over the awkward situation and felt as though “she had to prove to others that the allegations were untrue by revealing highly sensitive matters, including private medical information,” Prince shared.
Widespread publicity over the fabricated story caused Pettifer further anguish and “great distress” that has followed her “over the intervening 25 years,” the lawyer noted.
In court this morning, BBC representatives apologized to Pettifer and agreed to pay damages.
“The BBC accepts that the allegations made against the claimant were wholly baseless, should never have been made, and that the BBC did not, at the time, adequately investigate serious concerns over the circumstance in which the BBC secured the Panorama interview with Diana, the Princess of Wales,” they said.
Davie said, “The BBC has agreed to pay substantial damages to Mrs. Pettifer and I would like to take this opportunity to apologize publicly to her, to the Prince of Wales, and to the Dukes of Cambridge and Sussex, for the way in which Princess Diana was deceived and the subsequent impact on all their lives.”
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He said it was a “matter of great regret” that the “BBC did not get to the facts in the immediate aftermath of the program.”
“There were warning signs that the interview might have been obtained improperly,” he added. “Instead, as the Duke of Cambridge himself put it, the BBC failed to ask the tough questions.”
“Had we done our job properly, Princess Diana would have known the truth during her lifetime. We let her, the Royal Family and our audiences down,” Davie continued. “Now we know about the shocking way that the interview was obtained, I have decided that the BBC will never show the program again; nor will we license it in whole or part to other broadcasters.”
He explained that the program “does, of course, remain part of the historical record and there may be occasions in the future when it will be justified for the BBC to use short extracts for journalistic purposes, but these will be few and far between and will need to be agreed at executive-committee level and set in the full context of what we now know about the way the interview was obtained.”
Pettifer became a public figure during the 1990s as the nanny who looked after Princes William and Harry as children during the time their parents were divorcing.
Following the Thursday settlement, Pettifer said, “I am disappointed that it needed legal action for the BBC to recognize the serious harm I have been subjected to. Sadly, I am one of many people whose lives have been scarred by the deceitful way in which the BBC Panorama was made and the BBC’s subsequent failure to properly investigate the making of the program.”
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She continued, “The distress caused to the Royal Family is a source of great upset to me. I know first-hand how much they were affected at the time, and how the program and the false narrative it created have haunted the family in the years since.”
Pettifer’s settlement is the latest in a series of BBC payouts relating to the interview, which has collectively cost the broadcasting company millions of pounds in compensation and legal fees.
In 2020, the 25th anniversary of the Panorama interview prompted a reappraisal of the program. Diana’s brother Spencer pushed for a full investigation into how it was obtained.
Bashir quit the BBC in 2021, citing poor health.