"And so, darling, what other lows today?" a man can be heard asking.
"I was very bad at lunch and I nearly started blubbing," a woman responds.
"I thought: Bloody hell, the things I have done for this f***ing family."
And so starts a 23-minute tape, a tape containing such explosive content it would rock the royal family and shock the world. A tape clouded in claims of espionage.
It was New Year's Eve in 1989 and Diana, Princess of Wales was at Sandringham with the extended royal family. The man on the other end of the line was James Gilbey, a Lotus salesman and heir to a gin fortune.
The duo had known each other for a decade, long before Diana had met Prince Charles. According to reports, the pair had been set to go out on a date when the dashing Gilbey stood her up. Enraged, Diana and one of her flatmates covered his Alfa Romeo in a flour and egg mix, Tina Brown writes in The Diana Chronicles.
Fast forward to 1989 and the duo were reintroduced, this time at the 30th birthday of a mutual friend.
By the end of the '80s, Diana's royal dream had long faded. Her marriage to Prince Charles was in tatters and since 1986 she had been enjoying an affair with her riding instructor, James Hewitt.
Quite what happened between Gilbey and Diana remains a mystery: Andrew Morton has called it a "dalliance" while Brown has pegged it as an "affair." (Gilbey himself has denied they had an affair.)
No matter what the exact nature of their relationship was, thanks to an incredibly strange series of events, we know there was a definite intimacy between the two.
On that night in 1989, as the clock ticked down towards a new decade, Diana and Gilbey chatted away, ruminating on everything from their day to the young Princes to Gucci loafers. It is by turns moving and inane. But as they idly gossiped, something else, unbeknown to them, was going on. Someone, somewhere was listening and recording everything.
It was a fairly depressing New Year's Eve for the most famous woman in the world. On December 31, Diana was at Sandringham, the red brick Georgian pile beloved by the Windsors', where the royal family religiously spends the holidays. No popping champagne corks and fireworks for her.
On the tape, she can be heard telling a staff member that she would like dinner on a tray in her room. "Just some salad with yoghurt. Like when I was ill in bed. That would be wonderful — about eight o'clock," she says. It is a dismal image: A princess stuck in icy Norfolk country manor forking up salad.
Gilbey, we know, was on his mobile phone, hundreds of kilometres away and headed out to a quite jolly-sounding dinner party for 30.
Throughout the course of their conversation, they chat about friends, such as Mara Berni, the famed owner of San Lorenzo restaurant, horoscopes and even Gilbey's decade-old Gucci shoes. Essentially, it's the sort of idle chatter one imagines two upper class chums might indulge in.
Then things get a bit lustier. They repeatedly make kissing noises at one another and plan for Gilbey to keep his mobile close at hand so they can stay in touch.
"Kiss me, please (sound of kisses). Do you know what I'm going to be imagining I'm doing tonight, at about 12 'o clock? Just holding you close to me. It'll have to be delayed action, for 48 hours!" Gilbey says.
During the call, Glibey calls Diana "darling" 53 times and "Squidgy" 14 times.
Later he tells her: "No, I haven't played with myself, actually. Not for a full 48 hours."
Meanwhile, in Oxfordshire, Cyril Reenan, a 70-year-old retired bank manager was out for the night. The ham radio enthusiast claimed on January 4, four days after Gilbey and Diana's scandalous chat, to have heard and recorded the conversation via his home set-up. Then, on January 8, he contacted The Sun, selling the tape for about $10,000.
"We put the cassette in and listened to it almost mesmerised for 20 minutes," Stuart Higgins, the paper's then royal correspondent, has said. "The content was so explosive we knew we had a major, major story."
Higgins then approached Gilbey who "went completely white, got in his car, and drove off". "Clearly we had the right man," Higgins said.
Gilbey reportedly then told Diana and both knew that it was explosive stuff. The only question was when the story would break.
THE SECOND RECORDING
Reenan wasn't the only person who had heard the future Queen and the car salesman's intimate chitchat. Jane Norgrove, a 25-year-old typist, had also allegedly recorded the conversation from her home, which was only about 12km away from that of Cyril Reenan.
Supposedly, both Reenan and Norgrove had been able to inadvertently pick up the frequency of the phone call, though they made their recordings days apart.
Norgrove has said that she didn't listen to the tape for a year after she recorded it however by early 1991, copies had found their way to Richard Kay at the Daily Mail and the National Enquirer's London bureau.
(Despite having the bombshell tapes, The Sun had decided not to publish the information).
In August, 1992, the Enquirer broke the story in the US with British publications soon following suit.
The entire transcript of Diana and Gilbey's chatter was published and readers could even call up a special premium phone line to pay to listen to the audio.
Of all the places to be when the news broke, Diana was at Balmoral, the royal family's beloved Scottish pile and was "shattered," according to Brown. Others have suggested she was more embarrassed than anything, and her then-bodyguard Ken Wharfe later claimed that Diana herself had called the paid line to listen to her own conversation.
Squidgygate, as the scandal came to be known, was blown out of the water only a few months later in November 1992 with the publication of an accidentally intercepted (and taped) conversation between Prince Charles and Camilla Parker Bowles.
The Camillagate tapes hit the front page, with the truly gobsmacking revelation the future king had idly mused about being his beloved Camilla's tampon.
Both of these incidents could have been written off as nothing more than scurrilous chapters in the royal family's history if not for what happened 16 years later.
In 2008, during the inquest into Diana's death, her former protection officer Ken Wharfe claimed that Diana and Gilbey's tete-a-tete had actually been recorded by the British secret service and that it had then been broadcast on a loop with the hope a radio enthusiast might pick them up.
"Diana did say to me on a number of occasions she felt she and other members of the family were being monitored," Wharfe told the hearing. (He also alleged that the Queen had asked MI5 to look into the matter at the time.)
The Princess was not the only one who was worried about who might be listening into her calls. Diana reportedly told her friend, Harper's Bazaar editor Liz Tilberis that strange clicks and noises during phone calls were the secret service and another longtime friend had bought the Princess a scrambler for her phone.
There is also the unexplained question of how two amateur enthusiasts managed to capture the same conversation, several days apart, using unsophisticated technology.
John Nelson, a communications expert who had studied the Squidgygate tapes for the Sunday Times, has said that he believes that "the truth is, Diana's phone was bugged. That call had to have been recorded off a landline."
Which, in turn, means that someone had bugged Diana's phone line inside Sandringham, a royal residence, the implications of which are startling.
There is also evidence that the Squidgygate recording had been altered.
(However, it is believed that the Camillagate call was genuinely intercepted by hobbyists.)
The following year, Diana covertly hired electronic surveillance experts (as did Sarah Ferguson) to sweep her Kensington Palace apartment, getting them into the royal residence by having them pose as carpet fitters, the Telegraph has reported. Quite what they might have found, we will never know, when the four men tried to access the telephone exchange they were detained.