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NBC News
updated 12/6/2004 5:38:30 PM ET 2004-12-06T22:38:30

In her extended conversation with speech consultant Peter Settelen, Diana would reveal some secrets about her life and her past. That was no accident. Settelen believed if Diana could understand who she was, she could better communicate what she cared about. But there was one revelation that definitely took him by surprise. Twenty-eight minutes into the first interview session with Peter Settelen in the fall of 1992, Diana took the conversation in a new direction. The topic was breathtaking when you consider Diana was both a married woman and a princess speaking indiscreetly inside her palace walls.

Princess Diana: “I tell you one of the biggest crutches of my life, which I don't find easy to discuss, was when I was 24, 25, I fell deeply in love with somebody who worked in this environment. And he was the greatest friend I've ever had.”

Ann Curry: “She was quite honest it seemed with you about her feelings for someone who worked inside the palace.”

Peter Settelen: “She needed somebody who would let her be herself, who would look out for her.”

Diana didn't tell Settelen the man's name, but she was talking about her bodyguard, Barry Mannakee. In 1985, seven years before she sat down with Peter Settelen, her four-year marriage to Prince Charles had all but broken down. She suspected her husband was secretly seeing Camilla Parker Bowles and Diana, then 24, had begun to show interest in the 38-year-old Mannakee.

Princess Diana: “I was always wandering around trying to see him. I just, you know, wore my heart on my sleeve and was only happy when he was around.”
Settelen: “So you had an intimacy which you weren’t getting.”

Settelen asked Diana whether she thought of the bodyguard as a kind of father figure.

Princess Diana: “Yeah, I suppose you could say I did, yes. I'm sure I did. I was like a little girl in front of him the whole time, desperate for praise. Desperate.”

Diana confided to Settelen that as she became closer to Mannakee, she even half-joked about running away with him.

Princess Diana: “I was quite happy to give all this up --well, not all this. At the moment, at the time it was quite something to have all this, just to go off and live with him. Can you believe it?”
Settelen: “Oh, I can. It's not—“
Princess Diana: “And he kept saying he thought it was a good idea, too.”

Were these idle fantasies or signs of much deeper, more intense feelings... that then became physical?

Settelen: “What you're saying is that there had been sexual –“
Princess Diana: “No.”

Curry: “There was not a romantic relationship?”

Settelen: “There may or may not have been. But that's not what she said, and in many ways I don't need to know. It wasn't the most interesting thing about her, her sex life, I'm afraid.”

Whatever the nature of Diana's relationship with Barry Mannakee, newspapers have reported it was a full-blown love affair. Though Mannakee's wife says there is no proof, gossip about the Princess of Wales and her bodyguard spread through the royal household like wildfire.

Princess Diana: “And it got so difficult. And people got so jealous, bitchy in this house. And eventually he had to go. And he was -- it was all found out and he was chucked out.”

It wasn't clear to Diana what her husband knew about her relationship with her bodyguard, but after Mannakee was moved from protecting Diana and dismissed from Royal service a few months later, Diana got the shock of her life. While she was riding in a limousine with Charles, on the way to a premiere at the 1987 Cannes Film Festival, he turned to her to tell her about an incident the previous night involving Barry Mannakee. Charles was casual, but to Diana, the news was an unbelievable bombshell.

Princess Diana: “And Charles said to me, he was killed in a motorbike accident. And that was the biggest blow of my life, I must say. That was a real killer.”

Diana said revealing the news in such a casual way, on such a formal occasion, was a particularly cruel and callous move by her husband.

Princess Diana: “And Charles thought he knew but he, he never had any proof. And he just jumped it on me like that. And I wasn't able to do anything.”

Crushed as she was, Diana still had to put on her happy Royal face for the cameras at Cannes. 

Princess Diana: “I just sat there all day going through this huge high-profile visit to Cannes, thousands of press, just devastated. Just devastated.  Because, you know, I wasn't supposed to mind as much as I did if you know what I mean… But then when I got out of the car, you know…”
Settelen: “The show must go on.”

Andrew Morton: “On that night in question, when you look at the pictures of Diana at Cannes, she looked as though she didn't have a care in the world. She was radiant. She was all smiles. And this, I think is one of those central moments in Diana's life. She finds out that the man that she's infatuated with at that time has died. And yet, she's able to project this fairytale image of the glamorous princess.”

Diana said her devastating emotional pain over the loss was soon followed by suspicion. And then, she said something even more extraordinary.

Princess Diana:” I think he was bumped off. But there we are. I don't...we'll never know.”

Curry: “She did say something that you didn't follow up on, and I'm wondering why you didn't. She said that she thought that Barry Mannakee was bumped off.”

Settelen: “I didn't get the feeling that she'd fundamentally believed that he'd been bumped off. She had a doubt, she wished that people would talk about it. It was more about somebody close to her being taken away.”

But Diana apparently couldn't shake off the nagging doubt, even though she'd already been told her suspicion was probably unfounded. The year before she sat down with Peter Settelen, Diana had asked Andrew Morton to investigate Mannakee's death.

Morton: “She always felt that some unseen forces had engineered that death. 

As it happened, a journalist friend of Morton's had reported on the accident and had been at the scene.

Morton: “And he was able to confirm that it was an accident, a relatively inexperienced driver, just passed their driving test, who had made a mistake. And that Mannakee had been killed in this very tragic accident. And I told Diana that. And whilst the logic of it was there, and whilst the evidence was there, she never really believed that.”

Now that this interview with Settelen has been released, Diana's suspicions are being taken quite seriously.  As part of an ongoing inquiry into the cause of Diana's death, police are today reinvestigating the circumstances surrounding the accident that killed Barry Mannakee.

Whatever happened to him, it was clear from Diana's interview with Peter Settelen that Mannakee haunted her long after his death. She even went to clairvoyants to try to contact his spirit.

Princess Diana: “And I used to have really disturbing dreams about him. And he was very unhappy, wherever he's gone to. And I went and laid some -- I went and found out where he was buried. I went to put some flowers on his grave.

Arriving at the cemetery, Diana discovered she was in the right place, but there was no tombstone; Mannakee's body had been cremated there, his ashes, scattered.

Princess Diana: “He was just chucked over the ground. That absolutely appalled me but whatever-- I wasn't in any position to do anything about it.”

So she laid the flowers anyway.

Princess Diana: “And the day I did that, the day the dreams stopped. It's strange wasn't it? It's like a sort of recognition.”

Diana's relationship with her bodyguard may have awakened new emotional depths in her.  But it also taught her a harsh lesson.

Princess Diana: “I should never have played with fire and I did. And I got very burned.”

But getting burned may also have made her tougher. As the conversation continued, she was about to reveal how tough she really was.

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