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Princess Diana: the real story behind her recorded phone call scandal

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Princess Diana is remembered as “ the princess of the people ”, but she dealt with her fair share of royal scandals during her tenure as Princess of Wales.

From critics of her fashion sense to rumors of problems in her marriage to Prince Charles (these have proven to be true), Diana has faced a number of struggles while she was a member of the monarchy.

Diana, the Princess of Wales, is pictured at an evening reception given by West German President Richard von Weizsacker. (AP / AAP)

But one of her biggest scandals started on New Years Eve in 1989, when she answered a phone call from James Gilbey while she was in Sandringham with the rest of the royal family. What started as a simple call between friends would quickly turn into a media nightmare that shocked the royal family and even Diana herself.

Because what she didn’t know at the time was that the call was recorded.

Diana’s relationship with James Gilbey

James Gilbey was the heir to a great gin fortune when he met Diana a decade earlier, after the couple had been put together on a date. However, Gilbey lifted Diana and left her furious. She and a roommate would have covered her flash car with flour and eggs for revenge, writes Tina Brown in Diana’s chronicles.

The couple reconnected in the late 80s, when Diana’s marriage to Charles was already failing, and they became friendly. However, it has never been clear if their relationship has progressed beyond friendship.

Princess Diana and James Gilbey. (Tim Graham / Getty Images)

Although Diana was previously involved in an affair with her riding instructor, James Hewitt, in 1986, there is no evidence that she entered into a similar relationship with Gilbey. In fact, Gilbey has denied suggestions that he and the princess were romantically involved.

Others are not so sure, with some royal experts suggesting that the pair had some sort of “banter”. But business or not, the phone call on New Years Eve in 1989 seems to suggest a certain level of intimacy between Diana and Gilbey.

Recorded phone call

Diana and Gilbey had no idea that their call was being recorded as they chatted casually on New Years Eve, Diana moving away from the rest of the royal family to take the call. Their conversation was mostly like catching up with friends, each recounting their respective vacations; Diana had gone with the royal family, Gilbey had gone for a party.

Princess Diana at a party in 1994. (Getty)

But it did not stay that way. As the conversation progressed, things became more intimate between the two, Gilbey constantly calling Diana by animal names like “darling” and “squidgey”.

At one point, he asks questions about his day, and Diana replies, “I was very bad at lunch and I almost started to bellow. I thought: Goddamn it, the things I did for this family f.

If the slight against the royal family was not controversial enough, the couple began to kiss while Gilbey mentions “playing with himself”.

“Kiss me, please,” said Gilbey to Diana on the phone.

princess diana
Princess Diana. (Getty)

“Do you know what I’m going to imagine I’m doing tonight, around 12 noon? I’ll just keep you close to me. It must be a delayed action, for 48 hours!”

Later, he said to her, “No, I didn’t play with myself, actually. Not for 48 hours.”

The entire exchange was filmed by a retired bank manager and a radio enthusiast, who claimed to have heard and recorded the conversation with his original organization. He sold the tape to The sun, and the royal correspondents in the store knew they had something dirty on their hands.

History breaks

Despite The sun having the tapes, they chose not to break the story in 1989. In fact, it didn’t come out until another person, Jane Norgrove, revealed that she would also have recorded the conversation a few days after the banker . She then shared the recordings with Richard Kay at Daily Mail and the National Enquirerfrom the London office.

Prince Charles and Princess Diana on their last official trip together - a visit to the Republic of Korea.
Prince Charles and Princess Diana on their last royal tour as a married couple in 1992. (Tim Graham photo library via Get)

the Inquire received the tapes in early 1991 and broke history in the United States in August 1992, years after the call had even taken place. British publications quickly picked up the story, and the full transcript of Diana and Gilbey’s conversation was later published by media around the world.

A horrified Diana was in Balmoral, Scotland when the news broke and would have been equally mortified and devastated when she realized what had happened. The scandal was quickly dubbed “Squidgygate”, one of the dumbest names in a royal scandal.

The truth behind the tapes

Although the two people who recorded Diana’s call claimed to have captured it on home radios, Diana’s former bodyguard Ken Wharfe hinted that it was not by accident .

Former bodyguard of Princess Diana Ken Wharfe
Former bodyguard of Princess Diana, Ken Wharfe. (Yahoo)

“Diana has told me several times that she thinks she and other family members are being watched,” Wharfe said in an investigation into the princess’ death in 2008. He claimed that a British secret service agent did record the call, then looped it in the hope that someone else would hear it and realize what it was, and then transmit it to the press.

Other royal experts have suggested that two radio enthusiasts with basic household equipment are unlikely to have heard and recorded the calls from a distance. Some have even suggested that Diana’s telephone lines are tapped, while others claim that the recording was fabricated or altered.

‘Squidgeygate’ is downgraded

Fortunately for Diana, only a few months after the end of the history of her recorded appeal, a second royal scandal shook the world: “Camillagate”.

The Prince of Wales and his longtime partner Camilla Parker Bowles leave the Ritz Hotel in London. (PA / AAP)

A phone call between Charles and his partner at the time, Camilla Parker-Bowles, were also recorded and disclosed to the press, and its contents were much dirtier than the call between Diana and Gilbey. In the appeal, Charles says he wants to be Camilla’s stamp, as well as other confessions rated x in between.

The scandal diverted attention from Diana’s recorded appeal, and even today, ‘Camillagate’ is the more infamous of the two scandals.


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