IT was one of the most controversial documentaries about the royals since Princess Diana’s interview with Martin Bashir in 1995 brought her marriage problems into the open. Here a Herald columnist gives his verdict on whether last night’s Channel 4 programme, Diana: In Her Own Words was worth the wait.

MUCH of it had already been trailed, of course, especially the irresistible snippets of royal gossip. The revelations about an eager Prince Charles being all over a young, innocent Diana “like a bad rash”; the Queen’s baffled, distant response – “I don’t know what you should do”– when, Charles’s ardour long since having cooled, a sobbing Diana told her that her marriage was a loveless one.

Many of Diana’s close friends had argued the taped interviews recorded with Diana at Kensington Palace in 1992 and 1993 by her speech coach, Peter Settelen, amounted to therapy and the decision to broadcast them was “an outrage”.

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Diana’s brother, Earl Spencer, reportedly warned that the broadcast could hurt her sons Princes William and Harry.

All of which – coupled with the fact the 20th anniversary of Diana’s death in Paris is but a few weeks’ away – ensured a large audience for this feature-length special.

We’ve never quite lost our collective fascination with, and sympathy for, Diana, nor forgotten her many flaws and strengths.

And to an extent, the extracts from the taped interviews – when we got to them, amid the endless archive footage and the recounting of events familiar to everyone over the age of 40 -–showed a spirited, free-speaking, reflective Diana. Part of the narrative was based on her famous Panorama interview, though her remarks to Martin Bashir were here voiced by an actress.

With hindsight, of course, Charles’s feelings towards Diana were evident from that strange, strange remark he made, early on, when asked if he and Diana were in love: “Whatever ‘in love’ means”.

As Diana recounted, “That threw me completely”. It was only later she discovered that Charles’ romantic interests truly lay elsewhere.

Some of the people interviewed for the documentary had rarely if ever spoken publicly about Diana before.

Anne Allan, the dance teacher who taught her in private, said: “She loved Charles, yes, but Charles loved another woman. It’s very hard for any woman when you love someone and you realise that perhaps they don’t love you. I think it made her very sad – devastated. She felt she wasn’t enough”.

Ms Allan said it had been “quite brave” of Diana to ask Camilla to leave her husband alone – “I know how much that must have taken for her to do that”.

Dr James Colthurst, a close friend of Diana’s, added: “I don’t think the concerns about Camilla ever stopped”.

Indeed, Ms Allan, Colthurst and Diana’s private secretary, Patrick Jephson, provided some of the most compelling insights in this documentary.

Diana told Mr Settelen about her infatuation with Barry Mannakee, a royal protection officer.

“I should never have played with fire, but I did and I got very burnt”, she said; he was “the greatest fun I have ever had”.

In the end, however, even allowing for the snippets highlighted in the pre-publicity, it was striking just how fragmented were the actual extracts from the Settelen interviews.

They took up relatively little of the programme’s 110 minutes.

That said, this was a sobering portrait of the fracturing of a high-profile royal marriage; and it was a reminder of why, for several years, Diana was, in the words of her brother at her funeral in 1997, “the most hunted person of the modern age”.