NBC News
updated 11/30/2004 11:26:39 AM ET 2004-11-30T16:26:39

Princess Diana continues to fascinate her fans around the world even seven years after her tragic death. In an NBC News exclusive, for the first time, revealing new tapes are coming to light. Diana herself talks about her most personal problems with a man she hardly knew.   

In 1992, an unhappy Princess Diana worked with a voice coach, Peter Settelen. During their sessions, she shared some of the most intimate details of her life, including her struggles with insecurity and low self-esteem. NBC’s Ann Curry sat down with the man who made the tapes.

Princess Diana: "I was always told by my family that I was the thick one. That I was stupid and my brother was the clever one. And I was always so conscious of that. I used to go to the head mistress crying saying I wish I wasn't so stupid."

Ann Curry: "She talks about some very personal things."

Peter Settelen: "Well, as we now know she'd already -- she'd done it for the Andrew Morton book on one level. In a sense maybe doing that had helped her understand who she was. I mean, whether it's therapy or talking to your best friend about what's really upsetting you, you feel better afterwards."

Princess Diana herself was the principal source for that explosive 1992 book by Andrew Morton -- it was part of her strategy to reshape the public's opinion of her and her life. But the princess never meant for these tapes to become public, and Settelen has been intensely criticized for deciding to release them.

Princess Diana: "The odd thing was when I was bulimic I wasn't angry because The anger, I thought, was coming out that way. And it always felt better after I’d been sick to get rid of the anger. And I'd be very passive afterwards. Very quiet."

Curry: "Why would she agree to be taped talking about her most deepest secrets to Peter Settelen, a man she barely knew?"

Patrick Jephson: "Because Diana lacked a happy and secure domestic base, it seemed to me that she very often wasn't very discriminating in who she confided in."

Patrick Jephson should know. He was Diana's private secretary for six years. He has just published a book about her, called 'Portraits of a Princess.'

Jephson: "She was under a great deal of stress. And, like anybody under stress she wanted to unload. And there weren't that many people she could unload on."

The Princess was about to become even more indiscreet -- offhandedly revealing the story of a private showdown she'd had with the Queen over Camilla Parker-Bowles, the woman Diana thought had stolen her husband.

Andrew Morton, Princess Diana biographer: "She felt there was a basic conspiracy inside the royal family, amongst friends, courtiers, bodyguards, valets, to deceive her about the presence of Camilla in her life. So it was a canker that ate away at her."

By 1985, Diana told Settelen, she had had enough. 

Princess Diana: "So I went to the top lady. And I was sobbing and I said, ‘What do I do? I'm coming to you. What do I do?’" 

The "top lady," otherwise known as Her Majesty. It was a bold move.  According to Morton, Diana was in awe of her mother-in-law and terrified of her as well.

Morton: "The queen always had tremendous amount of authority and power in Diana's life. And Diana made an effort to understand her, but never could."

But if Diana had hoped to get support from the Queen, she was sorely disappointed. According to the princess, the Queen turned a cold shoulder to her appeal for help.

The princess described an emotional scene inside the walls of Buckingham Palace

Princess Diana: "And she said, ‘I don't know what you should do. Charles is hopeless.’ And that was it. That was help! So I didn't go back to her again for help because I don't go back again if I don't get it the first time, right. And so over the years, ‘Diana never talks.’ I never know what's going on. ‘Silly girl.’"

Jephson: "When Diana said that she didn't get any help from the Queen, I think we have to treat that with a pinch of salt."

Curry: "Why?"

Jephson: "There was a generational difference. There was a difference of attitude. And for a lot of the time, there wasn't enough common ground. Diana was angry. She felt isolated and let down."

It had begun as a casual conversation between a speech coach and his student. By now, Diana's interview with Peter Settelen had become an extraordinary window into the private life of one of the world's most intriguing women.

Curry: "It's interesting to watch her face. It's as if, watching her face, one could surmise that she is relishing, enjoying, maybe needing this attention, needing to talk about these stories."

Settelen: "The thing is, we got on -- and you know, we talked and she would twinkle and I was twinkling. I mean she had a fantastic smile, so if she smiled I would smile and she'd smile back, and so you get to a place which is -- you're having a nice time."

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