National Gallery Board Chair Tony Hall Resigns Over 1995 Princess Diana Interview

May 24, 2021

Former BBC chief Tony Hall has resigned from his post as board chair of London’s National Gallery after being criticized for his role in a controversial 1995 interview of Princess Diana, which last week was revealed to have been obtained by journalist Martin Bashir under false pretenses.

Hall, who served as BBC’s director general from 2013 to 2020, was director of news and current affairs at the publicly funded organization when Bashir coerced a fellow staff member, graphic designer Matt Weissler, into unwittingly falsifying bank statements to suggest that Princess Diana’s family members were spying on her. Though Diana was never shown the forged documents, Bashir presented them to her brother, Charles Spencer, telling him he was working on a story about shady media practices, and asking him for an introduction to the princess. In the resulting interview, which was watched by 40 percent of the British population on its initial broadcast, Diana spoke unguardedly about royal family life; her unhappiness in her marriage to Prince Charles, who was at the time engaged in an affair; and her related feelings of self-loathing and attempts at self-harm.

Following the interview’s airing, Weissler alerted BBC bosses about the forged documents, leading to a 1996 internal investigation that cleared Bashir of wrongdoing. Bashir left the organization in 1999 but was rehired in 2016. An independent investigation of the circumstances surrounding the interview conducted this year at the behest of Charles Spencer called the initial investigation “woefully ineffective” and noted that “without justification, the BBC fell short of the high standards of integrity.” Prince William, Diana’s eldest son, condemned the BBC, saying the interview contributed to the failure of his parents’ relationship and fueled his mother’s paranoia.

“I am very sorry for the events of 25 years ago and I believe leadership means taking responsibility,” said Hall in a statement announcing his resignation. “I have always had a strong sense of public service and it is clear my continuing [as board chair of the National Gallery] would be a distraction to an institution I care deeply about.”

John Kingman, the board’s deputy chair, issued a statement saying the museum was “extremely sorry” to lose Hall, a board member since 2019 and chair since 2020, but that the institution understood and respected his decision to step down. Kingman will serve as acting chair for the time being.