The British Broadcasting Corporation has postponed plans to air a controversial documentary about Prince Charles' life and alleged bid to repair his public image following the death of ex-wife Princess Diana.
The program, Reinventing the Royals, was made without the cooperation of the royal family and was set to air on BBC 2 on Jan. 4. The BBC, a public station that British residents fund via a TV license fee, said in a statement that the documentary would be postponed indefinitely "while a number of issues, including the use of archive footage, are resolved," The New York Times reported.
The U.K. newspaper The Radio Times reported that the BBC made the decision to postpone Reinventing the Royals after "an intervention from lawyers known to represent senior members of the royal family, including the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall." The station has not commented. A spokesman for Clarence House, where Charles and wife Camila Parker Bowles live, have denied asking that the documentary be pulled or postponed, saying, "scheduling of television programs is a matter for the broadcaster," according to The New York Times.
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Reinventing the Royals shows how Charles allegedly tried to repair his "battered image" after Diana's 1997 death, following their divorce and admissions of extramarital affairs, including his with now-wife Parker Bowles, Duchess of Cornwall, according to the U.K. newspaper The Radio Times.
Charles, documentary presenter Mark Hewlett says, had in the '90s hired Mark Bolland, a "new sort of a royal media manager—a spin doctor," who his and Diana's sons, Prince William and Prince Harry, nicknamed "Blackadder." The name appears to be a reference to Mr. Bean actor Rowan Atkinson's conniving opportunist character in a popular British comedy series of the same name.
Bolland, Hewlett told the newspaper, took "every opportunity" to show Charles' "his different side as a single parent and caring father" and also wanted to "bring about a degree of public acceptance" for Parker Bowles, a PR campaign palace insiders dubbed "Operation Mrs. PB," Hewlett added.
Diana, one of the most beloved royals of all time, died at age 36 in a car crash in Paris in 1997 after being chased by the paparazzi. She and Charles had quietly separated in late 1991. Three years later, the prince admitted in a BBC interview that he had cheated on his wife.
A year after that and two years before her death, in 1995, Diana gave a candid interview to Martin Bashir for the news show Panorama, in which she talked about her troubled marriage and her husband's infidelity, citing Parker Bowles and saying, "There were three of us in this marriage, so it was a bit crowded." She also admitted to her own adulterous affair with another man—her former riding instructor. Hewlett was the editor of the program at the time.
Diana's interview made international headlines and weeks later, Charles' mother and British monarch Queen Elizabeth II urged her son, the heir to the throne, and Diana to seek an "early divorce." It was finalized in August 1996. Charles married Parker Bowles in 2005.
Hewlett told The Radio Times that Reinventing the Royals also includes the first TV interview with Sandy Henney, who served as Charles' press secretary at the time of Diana's death. Hewlett says Henney says in the documentary that in 1993, Charles was "getting some pretty virulent criticism—bad father, unloving husband. I think he was pretty hurt...if you've got a middle-aged balding man and a beautiful princess, it's a no-brainer as to who is going to get the media coverage."
William met Parker Bowles for the first time nine days before his 16th birthday and 10 months after Diana's death. Henney was the one who broke the news to him that the British tabloid The Sun had published a story about their meeting, Hewlett told The Radio Times, adding that she says on the show that the teenage prince was "understandably really upset because it was private" and that it marked a "defining moment" for him, because he "felt as if he had been used to further his father's interests."
Hewlett also told The Radio Times that Reinventing the Royals also features an interview with a former royal correspondent and former personal confidant of William and Harry, who says the two never lost their disdain for the press. The now-adult princes, and William's wife Kate Middleton and son Prince George, 1, nowadays make numerous public appearances and are the most popular and most photographed British royals.