Princess Diana Had 'Backbone' and Wasn't 'Play-Doh That Was Going to Be Molded' by the Royals

In an exclusive clip from CNN's Diana, the Princess of Wales showed her telegenic spark in an interview with Prince Charles ahead of their 1981 wedding

Pre-wedding jitters or a sign of things to come?

In an archival clip shared exclusively with PEOPLE by the creators of CNN's upcoming documentary series Diana, Princess Diana and Prince Charles take part in an ultra-awkward interview ahead of their highly anticipated July 29, 1981 wedding.

After ITV newscaster Andrew Gardner's general question about their hopes for newlywed life is met with stilted silence, the journalist gets more specific, asking then-Lady Diana Spencer if she was looking forward to making a home at her fiancé's Highgrove estate.

"Oh yes, very much so," 20-year-old Diana replies with what might be a hint of mischief in her eyes, "looking forward to being a good wife."

"Gracious," sputters Charles, then 32, with an awkward smile.

Diana follows up, "I have to say that, you're sitting there!"

<a href="https://people.com/tag/prince-charles/" data-inlink="true">Prince Charles</a> and Princess Diana wedding
Princess Diana and Prince Charles. Terry Fincher/Princess Diana Archive/Getty Images

Years later, it's known that Diana often stayed in London while Charles spent time with his longtime love Camilla Parker-Bowles, who would eventually marry into the royal family and become the Duchess of Cornwall (Highgrove is located in Cornwall). And it's said that Diana discovered around the time of the wedding that Charles and Camilla's affair had not ended, as she believed it had.

Angela Rippon, who conducted the interview alongside Gardner, looks back on the conversation 40 years later for the CNN series.

"There was something more to Diana," she recalls, "something that was not the marshmallow or the Play-Doh that was going to be molded into what they [the royals] wanted."

She continues, "Running through all of it was a backbone, a knowledge of her own self."

Christmas Card From The Prince And Princess Of Wales In 1987. The Picture Shows <a href="https://people.com/tag/prince-charles/" data-inlink="true">Prince Charles</a> Princess Diana (diana Princess Of Wales Died August 1997) <a href="https://people.com/tag/prince-william/" data-inlink="true">Prince William</a> And <a href="https://people.com/tag/prince-harry/" data-inlink="true">Prince Harry</a> On Holiday Together In Spain.
Nick Skinner/Daily Mail/REX/Shutterstock

And it was Diana's growing sense of self — and the embrace of the public — that, in part, led to the dissolution of her relationship with Charles. After 11 years and two sons, Prince William and Prince Harry, the couple's separation was announced in December 1992. Their divorce was finalized in August 1996, and a year later the princess died at age 36 in a car crash in Paris.

The scope of her remarkable achievements is explored in CNN's six-part series, which "re-examines the life of an icon through the lens of modernity: reframing her story to discover the real woman behind the 'People's Princess,'" according to a press release.

Diana aims to show how she was "truly a blueprint for the modern woman."

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Diana premieres at 9 p.m. ET on Sunday and can be streamed that day via the CNNgo app. Next month, CNN Audio will also be launching When Diana Met…, a new podcast hosted by Aminatou Sow that will take listeners inside Diana's most notable meetings with public figures, politicians, dignitaries and celebrities to reveal often-overlooked truths and misunderstandings about her life as Princess of Wales.

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