James Colthurst, who was the pal responsible for secretly delivering tapes to her biographer, has revealed Diana feared there were those in the Palace who saw her as “unsuitable”.
In new feature-length ITV film Diana, marking what would have been her 60th birthday, James claims his friend was concerned for some time that she was being painted as an “unfit mother”.
There is never-heard-before testimony and rarely-seen archive footage to immerse viewers in the most iconic moments of the late Princess’ life, aiming to tell the definitive story of the most famous woman in the world.
Diana’s own mother, Frances Shand Kydd, lost custody of her children and members of her own family testified against her at the custody hearing, which made the fear greater for the Princess.
Speaking in the film, James says: “At that stage she feared she would lose her position as mother of the boys.
“She was well aware legally The Queen would be ultimately controlling the boys. The monarch has control over the Princes so whatever The Queen said would have gone.
“She sensed very much they were trying to push her aside as being unsuitable as a mother and that was it.
“Getting between the lioness and the cubs was a very dangerous step.”
James and Diana first met as teenagers on a skiing holiday and instantly grew close due to their shared sense of humour.
He was the first person to photograph Diana doing a ‘royal wave’, years before she even met Charles, admitting: “I find that funny. She didn’t even know then.”
It was James who Diana turned to for help with her tell-all 1992 book Diana: Her True Story, but she feared he would be targeted.
James had the task of cycling with secret audio tapes to deliver them to biographer Andrew Morton as part of a “very covert” operation.
According to James, Diana feared that her lifelong friend would be “deliberately knocked off his bike” while cycling to the handover point – a restaurant in south London
“I think I had a great relief every time I handed over a tape. Diana always had a problem, knowing this was going on, was worried I’d be knocked off my bicycle deliberately,” says James.
“There were some very anxious moments, not least when I had one batch of transcripts and I was going past the Houses of Parliament and a bus moved me over to avoid some traffic onto a pothole
And I hit it hard and all the papers went all over the road right outside the House of Parliament. That was an anxious time.”
Diana was asked by palace if she had any involvement in the book and strongly denied, leading to a huge scandal when the book was released.
The Queen and Prince Philip held crisis talks with Diana and their son, Prince Charles, urging them to mend their marriage but they soon separated.
Elsewhere in the documentary, Diana’s cousin reveals she had a “childhood crush” on Charles before they had even met.
While the other kids at her boarding school has snaps of famous singers, Diana opted to have pictures of “dashing” Prince Charles at her bedside.
Speaking publicly about her cousin for the very first time, Diana Macfarlane explains that Diana’s choice of photos were very different to everyone else her age.
“We all used to have pictures of various popstars that we liked. The Monkees, Rod Stewart, people like that,” explains Diana’s cousin.
“I can tell you she used to have photographs of Prince Charles around her bed at West Heath. A sort of childhood crush really.
“With Diana it was always pictures of Prince Charles. She had a schoolgirl crush on him for a very long time.
“The dashing young man – absolutely. So she would have been 14 or 15.”
The cousins shared a close bond and were both bridesmaids as Diana Macfarlane’s sister’s wedding.
“She was full of life, great fun, loved a giggle, wicked sense of humour. I think we used to think you could get away with something naughty looking angelic afterwards,” said Diana.
The new ITV documentary gives an extraordinary behind-the-scenes story of the Princess who changed the world, using a rich tapestry of footage, photos and letters from those who were closest to her.
It pieces together her incredible journey from being a teenage Pimlico nursery assistant to finding her voice as the Princess of Wales, going behind-the-scenes to provide a vivid insight into the complex woman behind the public image.
Speaking about her trip to Angola with the Red Cross to support its campaign to ban landmines, James says: ” I remember her thinking that she really wanted the boys to be proud of her, so therefore building her own path was important.
“And I think she succeeded in that, she really did make her own stamp.”