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NBC News
updated 12/6/2004 10:17:03 PM ET 2004-12-07T03:17:03

She was just 31 and already an icon, glamorous and famous beyond all measure. But in 1992, Princess Diana was desperate to become something more. With her marriage and her self-esteem in shambles, Diana was about to learn she could channel pain and anger into action. She wanted to speak for the millions who had no voice. But first she had to find her own voice -- which she did, with the help of a man who would change her life.

Since 2001, when the existence of the secret videotapes of Princess Diana first became known, there has been a frenzy of speculation about what might be on the recordings. So when the tapes were broadcast by NBC for the first time, it made headlines around the world and became the lead story on London TV channels.

The tapes are almost certain to remain in the headlines, thanks to the new disclosures in this second special report, revealing details from her childhood, and a startling admission that just four years into her marriage to Prince Charles, Diana fell in love with another man, a man she referred to as the greatest friend she ever had.

Diana made that and other disclosures to Peter Settelen, an actor-turned-voice-coach, who had volunteered to help the Princess become a better public speaker. To get her comfortable, Settelen asked Diana to sit before his video camera, and tell him her life story.

Much of the early discussion during the hour-and-twenty-minute interview, centered on a defining moment: the day her mother left her father for another man, when Diana was only six.  It was the beginning of a bitter divorce and custody battle between her parents.

Peter Settelen: “And you really didn't see your mother again until she came back married?”
Princess Diana: “Well, she-- no, she had to go away. The court said, if I remember right, she had to go away.”
Settelen: ”She's gone. Father didn't say where?”
Princess Diana: “No.”
Settelen: “She's just gone.”

Diana was devastated after her mother left. Her feelings of abandonment only intensified when, after her two older sisters went off to boarding school, her father hired a series of nannies to attend to Diana and her younger brother Charles. Diana wanted nothing to do with them. 

Settelen: “Did you just tantrum with them?”
Princess Diana: “I made life very difficult for them.”
Settelen: “In what way? Give me a situation.”
Princess Diana: “I suspect-- well, I suspect when I was jealous of the fact that they were going to be busy with my, making eyes at my father actually we wanted his attention, I think. Looking back that was what I was after. We used to put pins underneath her cushion on the chair so when she sat down she sat on a pincushion. We hid her clothes. One of them got engaged to someone and I chucked her ring down the drain. I mean, it was really nasty, spiteful stuff.”

Ann Curry: “I was surprised that she revealed so much of her anger about it, putting pin cushions in the chair.”

Settelen: “But what she was doing was taking me back to being a little girl, and she was just honestly saying what that little girl did and how that little girl coped with it. And in my terms it gave me an insight into what she was about.”

According to Andrew Morton, Diana's biographer, her relationships with men later in life would be profoundly affected by her relationship with her father.

Andrew Morton: “Diana thought that the nannies were throwing their caps at her father, Earl Spencer and that one of them would try and woo him away from her. You know because Diana felt a very mothering role towards her father. Because she could see the hurt he felt by his catastrophic divorce.”

Her parents' break-up left young Diana desperate for love and affection. Her pain only deepened when her father placed her in a boarding school when she was nine.

Princess Diana: “And when he left, he kissed me goodbye. That day I said to him, if you leave me now you don't love me. Which is a crippler, isn't it? But I meant it.”

While at school, Diana said she struggled to overcome self-doubts created by family members who repeatedly told her she wasn't bright. 

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 headmistress crying saying I wish I wasn't so stupid and thick, and wished my family felt a bit more of me. I remember doing that a lot.“

That sense of inferiority was reflected in the results of her national high school exams.

Settelen: “What did you take?”
Princess Diana: “They were English language, English literature, geography, arts, history, uh what's the other one? No, I think that was it. Oh, biology.”
Settelen: “So you took five, and got five.”
Princess Diana: “Well, I got D's. Yes.”

According to Andrew Morton, feelings of inadequacy would trouble Diana for the rest of her life.

Morton: “She was a very bright girl. But it wasn't until towards the end of her life that she became more comfortable speaking to intellectuals. She always felt very intimidated by meeting intelligent people.”

As the conversation with Settelen continued, it veered from one subject to the next. Each new topic offered a potential insight. One minute, they talked about the latest book on her nightstand, the next minute, how it was her sister Sarah who was supposed to win Prince Charles's heart.

It was in the midst of her discussion about her own relationship with Charles, that Diana turned the conversation in a surprising direction. She brought up a subject which, at the time of the interview, hadn't even been whispered about outside the palace. Diana confessed that four years after she married Prince Charles, she fell head over heels in love with a married man, an encounter that had a tragic ending.

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