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British Monarchy > Diana, Princess of Wales, Lady Diana Frances Spencer 1961-1997
Charles and Diana at Balmoral before their
honeymoon in May 1981.
Photograph: Bryn Colton/Rex/Shutterstock
Diana tapes reveal Queen’s reply
sobbing plea over loveless marriage
Sunday 30 July 2017
Prince Charles and Lady Diana Spencer
announce their engagement,
Buckingham Palace, London, Britain – 24 Feb
Princess Diana and Prince Charles on their
St. Paul’s Cathedral, London, England,
The end of innocence?
When Princess Diana died in a car crash,
it seemed as if all of Britain had descended
into a prolonged state of public
— the recriminations are still ongoing.
Weekend pp. 52-53
Paul Butler, the princess's butler
Lady Diana Spencer / Lady Di / Princess Diana
Diana, Princess of Wales, Lady Diana Frances Spencer
UK / USA
30 August 2007
Reuters > Special Report: Princess Diana
The Guardian > In pictures > Diana ten years on
From left to right:
Prince Charles, Diana,
George and Barbara Bush.
Photographs: Diana Memorial Fund, Matt Dunham
'All anyone wants to know is:
how will Diana
worshippers accept her successor?'
Two decades ago,
the Prince of Wales and his
glamorous young bride took the US by storm.
Next week, Charles returns - this time with Camilla.
What kind of welcome can
the royal couple expect?
Kitty Kelley, whose book on the Windsors
was deemed too sensational to publish
says at least one prominent American will be glad
to see them Diana ruled the
country's celebrity-obsessed culture.
Americans were transfixed by the royal soap opera of her marriage to the prince
G2 p. 9
Thursday October 27, 2005
Jury Sees Video of Diana's Last Hours
October 4, 2007
Filed at 11:51 p.m. ET
The New York Times
By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
LONDON (AP) -- Striking images from a countdown to death: Princess Diana
salutes her driver; the driver waves to paparazzi lurking at the back of the
Ritz Hotel; officially declared drunk at the time, the driver squats to tie his
shoes without so much as a wobble.
These decade-old scenes collected from 31 security cameras at the Hotel Ritz in
Paris were shown Thursday to a jury that eventually must decide what, if
anything, they signify about how the driver, the princess and her boyfriend came
to die in a car crash.
Much of the footage presented Thursday showed the growing crowd of photographers
and bystanders hoping to see Diana with Dodi Fayed, her latest boyfriend.
The action, however, was at the back of the hotel, where Diana and Fayed are
seen standing for seven minutes waiting for their car, his left arm protectively
around her waist.
Henri Paul, the driver who died with the couple in the early hours of Aug. 31,
1997, is seen popping in and out of the service entrance, apparently looking for
the car. Minutes before the car arrives, he spots two photographers across the
street. Paul waves, and goes back inside.
In another scene, he talks to the Diana and Fayed, and the princess responds
with a left-handed salute.
Once the car arrives, the two jump in, Paul takes the wheel and they are off
within seconds, pursued by photographers Serge Benhamou, Jacques Langevin, David
Odekerken and Fabrice Chassery.
About 15 minutes later, Paul lost control in the Pont d'Alma tunnel. Bodyguard
Trevor Rees-Jones was the only survivor.
Paul, the acting head of security at the hotel, is a key figure. French and
British police both concluded that he had double the legal limit of alcohol in
his blood, and lost control of the car as it raced ahead of pursuing
Fayed's father, Mohamed al Fayed, claims Paul was a paid informer for French and
British intelligence services. He disputes that Paul was drunk, believe the
blood tests were faked and says Paul was induced to take the route that led to
Lord Justice Scott Baker, in introducing the videos, said jurors would see Paul
''coming down the stairs, bending down and balancing whilst tying his shoelaces,
and there is no indication that his movements were affected by alcohol.''
However, experts agree some ''have such a degree of tolerance to alcohol that
they may give the appearance of being sober to a casual observer, even when
their blood alcohol concentration is in excess of twice the legal limit,'' he
Paul, who also is seen bounding up stairs two steps at a time, was called back
to the Ritz at about 10 p.m. earlier that night to execute Fayed's instructions
that the couple be taken to his apartment.
Closed-circuit footage shows him conferring with the night security chief, two
bodyguards and the hotel's night manager. He is seen going out front five times,
apparently to assess the security situation as the crowd grew.
Diana and Fayed had been swarmed by paparazzi when they arrived that afternoon.
Night manager Thierry Rocher said Fayed ''asked me why there had been a mess on
his arrival,'' according to a statement read by Baker.
''He asked me to let Mr. Paul know that a third car would be ready in Rue Cambon
and that they would leave via that exit,'' Rocher's statement said. ''This
information was to remain confidential and only Mr. Paul was to be informed.''
Michael Mansfield, a lawyer representing al Fayed, asked Metropolitan Police
inspector Paul Carpenter whether he found any images of Paul speaking to
paparazzi after discussing that plan with employees.
Carpenter said no.
Security cameras show that most of the paparazzi stayed out front, attracting a
growing number of sightseers. Video taken by an Australian tourist captured a
jovial mood among bystanders.
Carpenter said other video focuses on the Repossi jeweler where Fayed bought
what his father says was an engagement ring for Diana; another partially
retraces Paul's movements.
The jury has a day off Friday and will go to Paris next week to see the hotel,
the tunnel and other locations.
On the Net:
Mohamed al Fayed: www.alfayed.com
Jury Sees Video of
Diana's Last Hours,
Haunted by the image of fame
Diana, Princess of Wales
Monday September 1, 1997
Her life, it was often said, although not so much of late, was like a fairytale.
She was, it was often said, though not so much of late, a fairytale princess.
And although this was one of those typically lazy Fleet Street labels, you could
see the truth in it when the young Diana Spencer first emerged blushing and
blinking into this lens and that lens, and all those lights and clicks and
whirrs and shouts.
For the young prince had been seeking a bride but, as with princes, a pure
bride of noble breeding. And these were in such short supply in the kingdom that
some despaired of his ever finding one. Until, suddenly, she was there.
Our first proper view was the one of the nursery assistant, shyly pretty, caught
in the playground, innocent of the sunlight and the lenses and clicks and whirrs
and friendly shouts and guile that would make her skirt entirely diaphanous.
It was a fairytale moment but a 20th century fairy tale moment, with a
knowingness among the smiles. And, as we all ought to know by now, 20th century
fairy tales do not end happily.
No, they spin faster and faster, whirligigs powered by the pursuit of fame and
profit and every last detail, a conspiracy of interests heavy with the
inevitability of tragedy, large or small, but never underplayed or undersold,
and always with the lights and the headlines.
None other has come close to matching the life and death of Diana Spencer. And
not only in its twists, turns, heroes, speculations, confirmations, villains,
stark reliefs and immense, unrelenting profile in which every quality, every
event was endlessly exaggerated and simplified for the century's easier
digestion. Here, also, the century met the monarchy in a collision that may in
time prove as fatal as the desperate event in Paris a collision between the
light and the magic that royalists had long warned against but in the end proved
powerless to prevent, and even helped to fix.
But, despite all our cynicism and countless hindsights, it still did not seem
quite like that as Lady Diana Spencer stood in the nursery playground on that
day in 1980, posing for that photograph.
Then, in royal terms, it seemed a happy, clever, almost perfect match. A public
tiring of an endlessly energetic bachelor prince who nevertheless seemed to be
achieving little, publicly or privately, was delighted with Lady Diana , as were
the photographers and their editors.
She was fresh, unknown, beguilingly shy, already with the appealing and
trademark upward glance. And, most importantly for the photographers and their
editors, and unlike many another royal or would-be royal, she was genuinely
pretty and in possession of that most vital of 20th century qualities: she was
very, very photogenic.
Good news, then, for Fleet Street, especially at the lower end, where Rupert
Murdoch and his Sun newspaper in particular were increasingly alive to the
attractions for readers of royalty, of a young and fresh royalty.
Buckingham Palace's more traditional concerns were equally satisfied. This might
be the first English woman to marry an heir to the throne for over 300 years.
But this was no common English woman.
Lady Diana 's father, the eighth Earl Spencer, had been an equerry to both
George VI and the Queen. Her maternal grandmother, Ruth, Lady Fermoy, was a
close friend and lady in waiting to the Queen Mother.
Diana was born on July 1, 1961, at Park House, on the Sandringham estate, in the
same room in which her mother, Frances, had been born. In her childhood, she had
played regularly with Prince Andrew and Prince Edward. This was a girl who knew
the form. But also a girl unaffected by the hauteur and distance that usually go
with the form.
Journalists who spent a lot of time in the early days of her courtship with the
Prince of Wales on the doorstep of the ungrand flat she shared in Coleherne
Court in Kensington were surprised to find how approachable, how friendly she
If it is easy to see the seeds of future troubles in this now, it would have
been much easier then to see other seeds in other parts of her background.
But such was the enthusiasm, high and low, for Diana and such was the shortage
of other supposedly suitable mothers for a future monarch that little attention
was paid to a childhood that had been anything but stable or happy. She had been
only six when her mother left to take up with the lively and witty Peter Shand
Kydd, a businessman and something of a contrast to her father, whose friends and
pursuits she found dull.
By accounts, Lady Fermoy was determined that custody would remain with Diana 's
father, the then Viscount Althorp, and not with her daughter, irrevocably
deemed, even in the 'swinging sixties', a 'bolter'.
Diana 's fall from a horse while in her mother's care formed part of the custody
proceedings. She was later to recall rows and violence between her parents. When
her mother left, she would later recollect, she and her young brother, Charles,
now Lord Spencer, cried themselves to sleep together she could remember, she
said, the crunch of the gravel under her mother's shoes as she left.
Thus, classically, and beneath that appealing freshness, was to emerge the
bulimia that was, by her own frank admission, to so plague her.
She was sent to Riddlesworth Hall, a boarding school near Diss, Norfolk, at the
age of nine. She did not shine academically, either there, or when she moved on
to her mother's old school, West Heath, near Sevenoaks, although her former
teachers did speak loyally of sporting prowess, particularly at swimming.
She failed all her O levels, twice, leaving school at 16. She spent a brief time
at the Institut Alpin Videmanette, a Swiss finishing school, before moving to
the London flat, bought for her by her father.
Initially, before becoming an assistant at the Young England nursery in Pimlico,
she had had various temporary jobs cleaning, acting as waitress at cocktail
parties and nannying. Not the form thing, either.
Her elder sister, Jane, had followed a rather more conventional route by
marrying Robert Fellowes, an assistant private secretary to the Queen later to
become principal private secretary. Her eldest sister, Sarah, had been an
earlier girlfriend of the Prince of Wales.
These connections, and Lady Fermoy's close interest, combined to bring Diana to
the attention of the Prince and the Palace. In the summer of 1980, one of the
early royal watchers discovered her through his binoculars, poised attractively
on the banks of the Dee at Balmoral, looking up admiringly at a fishing Prince
And so to the Coleherne Court doorstep, the nursery playground, and, in
February, 1981, the announcement of the engagement.
The couple were haltingly, stiltingly, interviewed on television, Diana doing
much upward looking, displaying her engagement ring, hiding chewed nails and
much else, if probably not as much as her fiance.
In a segment endlessly replayed throughout the tortuous doings that were to
follow, they were asked if they were in love. 'Of course,' replies Diana , in an
embarrassed rush. 'Whatever love is,' replies the Prince, in an embarrassed
Much has been made of the contrast, particularly in the light of the revelation
that the Prince of Wales was conducting at the time, and continues to conduct, a
relationship with Camilla Parker Bowles, an old girl friend who had, for the
usual complicated reasons, married someone else.
Not so much has been made of other subsequent revelations about Diana 's worries
about the match, even up to the eleventh hour, when she had to be persuaded to
go ahead by her sisters, with their only half-joking warning that the souvenir
teatowels were already on sale. Duty did not play its part only on the Prince's
Even less has been made of how significant it was that an interviewer should
have dared in the first place to ask the question of whether they were in love.
It is hard, for example, to imagine it being asked of Princess Elizabeth and
Philip Mountbatten. It was also a question that prepared the way for the even
more intrusive questioning of the couple years later by Jonathan Dimbleby and
But the nation, buoyed up by the earlier celebration of the royal jubilee,
remained in the mood for pageantry, and the wedding, on July 29, 1981, was
carried off with style amid genuine public interest and happiness. Their long
kiss on the balcony at Buckingham Palace was judged a great success, although
observant lip readers had seen the Prince asking for permission.
The differences between the couple in ages and interests did not excite much
comment. Royal marriages had never dwelt overmuch on compatability. Duty
remained the watchword.
But so absolute a concept was becoming increasingly isolated in a Court that had
taken a conscious and determined decision to modernise itself. Only by revealing
more of itself, argued the modernisers, led by the Duke of Edinburgh, could the
monarchy be made more easily understood, its use more easily recognised.
The Victorian constitutional theorist, Walter Bagehot had warned that letting
light on to the monarchy would destroy its mystique. The modernisers were more
confident. But they reckoned without a society which, influenced by an ever more
irreverent media, was rapidly discarding deference. More particularly, and, to
the point, they neglected to note how attractive newspapers and their readers
were finding royalty as soap opera. The threat was both within and without.
Diana , with her beauty, her youth, her genuinely winning manner, her seeming
unstuffiness, her artlessness, her clear and unforced compassion, was prime
fascination. Any amount of pop psychology has been devoted to the effect of this
on a young woman from an unhappy and insecure background, but, in truth, she was
facing new pressures that no amount of royal training could have prepared anyone
But, clearly, too, Diana enjoyed the attention, whether or not, as the pop
psychologists argue, this was to compensate for the lack of attention she
sufffered as a child. Clearly, too, what she saw as a lack of private attention
from her husband contrasted cruelly with the unending public attention.
Outwardly, at first, all seemed well with the royal marriage. Prince William was
born in 1982 Prince Harry in 1984. A spare and heir achieved popularity across
the world, a leader of fashion, a patron of charities, another week, another
magazine cover, another month, another triumphant foreign tour.
Later, though, the Princess was to declare that her marriage was dead in three
years, effectively ending after the birth of Prince Harry.
The Prince, unhappy in his marriage, took refuge in his old round of holidays
and country pursuits, and in his old mistress.
The Princess, as with any princess, took refuge in her children and her
charities. But, this being modern times, there was also her Walkman and an
extensive range of advisers and consultants, including a psychotherapist, an
aromatherapist, a reflexologist and an astrologer.
Rumours about the state of the marriage continued to emerge, usually in the
Sunday newspapers, and usually dismissed as 'downstairs gossip'.
They were further fuelled by a number of public incidents, endlessly speculated
on, first starting with the Prince's early return on his own from a summer
holiday in Majorca in 1986, through various foreign tours where she asked for
separate rooms, turned her head away just as he was about to kiss her, and posed
alone and forlorn in front of the Taj Mahal.
Then, in 1992, came publication of Andrew Morton's Diana : Her True Story, much
of which seemed, even given the previous years of whisper and rumour,
incredible. Morton alleged that the Princess suffered from bulimia nervosa that
she had thrown herself down the stairs at Sandringham while pregnant with Prince
William that she had slashed at her wrists with a razor blade, a penknife and a
lemon slicer, and that she had once thrown herself against a glass cabinet.
It also disclosed that the Prince kept in touch with Camilla Parker Bowles even
while on honeymoon on the royal yacht Britannia, a disclosure allied to the one
that Diana had found an inscribed gold bracelet intended as a gift from the
Prince to Parker Bowles only days before the marriage. A fairy tale romance,
Once again, Buckingham Palace threw doubt on the allegations. But Morton claimed
that the information had all come from close friends. And three days after the
first extract from the book had been published in the Sunday Times, Diana made a
public and tipped-off visit to one of them, her former flatmate and bridesmaid,
In its way, this use of the media to put her case was as startling as the more
sensational allegations. It followed earlier private briefings by the Prince and
Princess to newspapers and marked a significant step beyond any previous contact
between the press and royalty but also a determination by Diana not to be
crushed by the Court. The modernisers suddenly discovered that they were being
rather outplayed at their own game by someone for whose intellect they had not
previously shown an immense amount of respect.
But the gift for public relations displayed by the incident, and particularly
its timing, is one of the more compelling aspects of a much misunderstood and
complex personality. Certainly, the Prince and the Palace were perpetually on
the back foot thereafter, which is where, after yesterday, they will perpetually
In December of that year, the Prince and Princess announced their formal
separation. This brought no respite from the line of allegation and disclosure,
growing ever more public and ever more tawdry as the opposing sides, authorised
or not, attempted to create two hard, clear, and opposing images. The Prince was
portrayed as a weak, heartless, hidebound figure, bullied by his father,
overwhelmed by his responsibility, dominated by his selfishness.
For her part, the Princess was to be seen as neurotic, unbalanced, frivolous,
flighty, in sway to fame and frocks.
There was something in both characterisations. But there was rather more to the
Princess. A surprisingly steely resolve, a gift for friendship, certainly but
also something more elusive. That early artlessness, openness, and friendliness,
that which in more formal days had been usually described as the 'common touch'
had become translated into a quality of compassion, a gift of ease, and had been
put to apt work, with children, with Aids victims, and in areas where, like with
her recent land mines campaign, a high-profile example or a large amount of
publicity could be more use than any amount of earnest cajoling and lecturing.
Thus, despite the sneers, Saint Diana . But, also, uncomfortably for times where
the simplicity of the message is the most prized, it went hand-in-hand, and fed
off all those sessions with consultants, all those meetings with celebrities,
all those frocks and smiles.
It was also, sadly, inextricable from the accompanying and tawdriness of the
commonplaces of a broken marriage made extraordinary by the married.
In 1994, the Prince told Jonathan Dimbleby in a television interview that he had
been unfaithful. In DimbL leby's biography, published the same year, the Prince
conceded he had been bullied into the marriage by his father he had, he said,
never loved his wife.
The Princess responded by arriving for a dinner in Hyde Park on the night of the
Prince's adultery confession in an outfit so black and daring as to capture a
good proportion of the front pages and raise more doubts in the public mind
about the tastes and good sense of its future monarch.
In the same year, Diana was linked with the England rugby captain, Will Carling.
They had met at one of the public gyms used by Diana , whither and whence she
was to be seen most days when she was in London, and whither and whence she was,
most days, photographed.
It was a curious relationship, that between Diana and her photographers. She
could be at turns friendly or distant. That distance was frequently misjudged,
vividly this year in the case of a long-time freelance pursuer of her who found
himself being attacked by a member of the public at her behest.
The sneerers claimed it was all part of a need for publicity which had become
unbalancing, and claimed to see much piquant irony in the affair in 1993 when
the Daily Mirror published photographs of her exercising taken clandestinely by
a gym owner.
Similar doubts were raised in 1993, when the Princess announced that she
intended to reduce her official engagements and become more of a private figure.
Four months later, she was back. But, once again uncomfortably for the
stereotype of a fame junkie, it was to a role, as Red Cross roving ambassador,
where she would be able to point out real achievement in the face of a sceptical
and lukewarm government.
Her supporters claimed that the very public gym trips and the lunches were vital
to maintaining some sort of normal life, and that the relationship she
cultivated with the press and the paparazzi was also vital to maintaining that
normality, even if it did have its explosions and inconsistencies. Whatever the
faults on whichever side, it was a relationship that was eventually to kill her.
Her part, in the public eye, as the innocent party in the marriage break-up was
felt to be a crucial part of the Princess's popularity. When, before the
separation, the 'Squidgygate' tape recording had surfaced, allegedly detailing a
telephone conversation between Diana and a lover, the story was widely
disbelieved as a malicious invention, much more so than the so-called
'Camillagate' tape, in which the Prince of Wales, inter alia, appeared to be
favouring re-incarnation as a tampon. The most clear response to Squidgygate was
that the Princess of Wales's Royal Regiment began proudly, if unofficially, to
refer to itself as 'Squidgy's Own'.
In 1994, too, the publication of Anna Pasternak's book, Princess in Love,
supposedly detailing her five-year affair with a former army officer, James
Hewitt, was similarly derided.
But, in another extremely shrewd piece of PR timed for its influence on the
couple's possible divorce and its custody implications, Diana gave an interview
the next year, 1995, to the BBC Panorama programme that held the nation gripped
with its combination of intensity and artlessness assisted by an artifice that
by now seemed second nature.
It had a candour clearly influenced by the pyschotherapeutic treatment the
Princess had been receiving.
Asked by Martin Bashir 'were you unfaithful' with Hewitt, the Princess replied
'Yes'. She agreed that the Squidgygate tape was genuine, and that she had made a
series of phone calls to a married friend, Oliver Hoare.
The interview, which attracted 15 million viewers, was as clear an example as
exists of the contrasts in the Princess's personality. For as well as these
concessions, there were references to her husband's staff as 'the enemy', the
questioning of his suitability to become king, and the clear declaration that
she had no intention of seeking a divorce.
There was the winning, telling soundbite: 'We had three of us in this marriage,
it was a bit crowded. And there was the typically overblown soundbite, that she
would never be Queen of the country, but she would like 'to be a Queen of
people's hearts, in people's hearts'.
She continued, tellingly: 'I don't think many people will want me to be Queen.
Actually, when I say many people I mean the Establishment that I married into
because they have decided that I'm a non-starter . . . because I do things
differently, because I don't go by a rule book, because I lead from the heart,
not the head. That's got me into trouble in my work, I understand that. But
someone's got to go out there and love people and show it.' Any member of the
Prince's party listening to it all would have concluded, as did Nicholas Soames,
that Diana was in the 'advance stages of paranoia'.
This, though, was a complete misjudgement of the public's mood. For it was
perhaps the greatest mark of the Princess's many and curious gifts that she
continued to remain personally immune from the republican mood in the country
that she had done almost as much as anyone to foster. This again, in contrast,
to all the other troublesome young members of the royal family, in particular
the exuberant and ultimately very silly Sarah Ferguson.
After the Panorama appearance, the divorce could not be long delayed and was,
indeed, urged by the Queen, at last, but far too late, disturbed by all this
In February, 1996, three years after the separation, the princess, after a a
private meeting with her husband at St James's Palace, once again wrongfooted
the Court by releasing a statement to PA News (the Press Association) that she
had agreed to a divorce shortly after breaking the news to the Queen by
Negotiations began between respective solicitors, with the Princess's lawyer,
Anthony Julius, of Mishcon de Reya, himself being touched by media celebrity as
discussions continued until July on the size of the settlement, access and
custody, the Princess's role and future title, much royal magic being considered
invested in the dignity of Her Royal Highness, the title withheld from the
Duchess of Windsor at the behest of the Queen Mother.
On July 12, 1996, the terms were announced: a settlement believed to be around
pounds 15m ( the Princess had been reported to be asking for nearer pounds 50m),
equal responsibility for the upbringing of their children, and the demotion in
title to Diana , Princess of Wales.
It is almost impossible to resist the temptation to see the period since then as
one of acceleration towards the horror of yesterday.
The Princess's behaviour, in the way it was highlighted, at least, seemed to be
at once a little more erratic, and its reception a little less respectful.
The narrowness of the public role she had agreed and chosen was another danger.
The number of the charities she actively supported was drastically cut at the
time of her divorce settlement. The controversy that had first greeted her entry
into the land mine debate earlier in the year had only last week been
resurrected in an interview with a French journalist in Le Monde where she was
alleged to have described the Tory Government's policy on landmines as
'hopeless'. There had also been more sideswipes at the press. A feeling that
Diana 's PR, formerly so successful, if famously erratic, needed more control
was fuelled by the row that followed when her office denied that she had so
described the Tories, thus extending and exaggerating a row which would have
quietly deflated on its own.
But there could be no doubt about the sincerity and the worth of her work for
charity in areas normally carefully skirted by royalty and the establishment.
Turning Point, the national drink, drugs, mental health and learning
disabilities agency, an unfashionable charity with which she was involved for
ten years, is a good example of this.
But her habit of doing good by stealth, the clandestine hospital visits, the
charity auction of her wardrobe: such things were treated increasingly as
eccentric rather than saintly, while such events as the charity auction of her
old outfits was seen, unfairly, as having more to do with her fascination with
the world of Hello! magazine celebrity, a feeling strongly reinforced by one of
the year's strongest images, her red-eyed appearance earlier in the summer at
the funeral of Gianni Versace, con soling a weeping Elton John. And strongly
reinforced, too, by the long summer of Dodi Fayed, the posing and the
confrontations, the promises of a 'big surprise', retracted but soon fulfilled
in the shape of the Egyptian.
We will know never know whether this decline in the immunity of her public
popularity was temporarary, and, indeed, whether it would have survived a
lengthy liaison with Dodi Fayed, and more particularly, his controversial
father, certain to become only more controversial. As Jackie Kennedy discovered,
immense private wealth and privilege has a way of corroding the affection and
admiration gained in the attractive exercise of public wealth and privilege. But
the consolation of such a horrible, twentieth century, twisted metal, senseless
kind of death, if there is any consolation, is that the reputation of Diana ,
Princess of Wales, as a beautiful, winning, intriguing woman unfairly treated by
fate but touched with a rare compassion and influence for good will remain
forever frozen in time, inviolate.
Diana , Princess of Wales, Lady Diana Frances Spencer,
born July 1, 1961
died August 31, 1997
Haunted by the image of
The death of Diana
How a game of cat and mouse
ended with carnage
They had cut short their holiday by a day
to try and shake off the relentless
attentions of the pack.
But as they made yet another hurried getaway, disaster
Monday September 1, 1997
Luke Harding, Owen Bowcott, John Hooper,
Paul Webster, Alex Bellos, Stephen Bates,
Chris Mihill in London, Paris and Rome
Even before Princess Diana and Dodi Fayed had strolled through the baroque
central corridor of the Ritz Hotel in Paris, for what would prove to be their
last dinner together, the paparazzi were lurking in wait.
At 5.30pm on Saturday the first photographer pulled up outside the Ritz,
casually dismounted from his BMW motorbike, and reached for his mobile phone.
Diana and her companion, meanwhile, were stretching their legs after a short
flight to Paris from Sardinia on Saturday afternoon.
The couple's one-week holiday was at an end and Diana , after spending most of
August on the French Riviera, was heading back to Britain. There at least,
safely ensconced back in Kensington Palace, she could enjoy a bit of privacy
away from the media feeding frenzy which had enveloped her all summer.
But Diana and Dodi 's departure from Sardinia had not gone unnoticed. By the
time the couple touched down at Paris's Le Bourget airport in the Fayed private
jet, their presence was common knowledge among the small, ruthless, multilingual
band of photographers who pursue her, very lucratively, for a living.
Around 7pm on Saturday Diana left the Ritz in a chauffeur-driven car to do some
shopping in the Champs Elysee. The press pack were, reportedly, in close
pursuit. Returning to the hotel for dinner, the most photographed woman in the
world and her millionaire boyfriend tried to dodge the waiting cameramen.
The Ritz, bought by Mohamed Al Fayed in 1979 and refurbished in rich belle
epoque style, has a reputation for discretion. At the very beginning of their
romance Diana and Dodi stayed in the Imperial Suite. Le Patron, as the mercurial
Mohamed Al Fayed is known affectionately by staff, picked up the bill.
Downstairs, silver blue carpeting silences the footsteps of guests arriving and
departing. The atmosphere is one of ordered calm. Gilt candelabras light the way
into the lobby. An ornate staircase leads up past a classical mural depicting
The cashier's desk, attended by uniformed staff in tail coats, bustles with
subdued efficiency. At the revolving front door, another diligent employee, in a
green uniform with a matching bellboy cap, nods discreetly to those leaving and
points out directions.
But for Diana and Dodi , there was little prospect of anonymity as they made
their way to the hotel's Michelin two-starred restaurant, the Espadon, for
dinner. They ate scrambled eggs, a rather British choice, followed by filets of
sole tempura, it is understood. Diana 's mood at the end of a holiday in which
her every gesture had been captured on camera can only be guessed at. But there
is evidence to suggest the princess had already been angered by a violent
dispute involving Italian paparazzi earlier in the day.
The princess had spent the week holidaying aboard the Jonikal, the Fayeds'
luxury yacht. (Three weeks earlier the paparazzo Mario Brenna had made a cool
pounds 3 million by capturing the first pictures of Diana kissing Dodi on board
the yacht. These were sold on to three British tabloids: the Sunday Mirror,
followed by the Daily Mail and the Sun).
On Friday lunchtime a tender from the boat tied up by the five-star Hotel Cala
di Volpe near Arzachena, along the Costa Smeralda. Two photographers approached
the vessel and shouted abuse at the crew. The skipper came ashore to tell them
to control themselves and another paparazzo joined in the argument on the side
of the crew. He was pushed by one of the other cameramen, and responded by
punching his fellow-photographer twice.
The row had blown up after the crew stopped the 'paps' from snapping Diana as
she swam with Dodi in a nearby inlet. There was nothing remarkable about this,
just another ugly incident yet another photo of Diana in a swimsuit. But after a
month of relentless intrusion, perhaps Diana felt she could take no more and
decided to cut her holiday short.
On Saturday night the perennial problem presented itself for Diana and her
friend: how to leave the Ritz without being tailed by photographers? The couple
had arrived separately - Dodi swirling into the hotel 10 minutes later after
being dropped off by his personal chaffeur. How should they depart? On the other
side of the Ritz's revolving door, the small crowd of hard-bitten paparazzi
lolling round in their leathers were asking themselves a different question -
how to ensure Diana did not cheat them of their picture by slipping out of the
Ritz's tradesman's entrance? She had done so in the past. The game plan was that
Diana and Dodi would spend the night in the Duke of Windsor's former mansion in
the Bois de Boulogne. The journey back would usually take no longer than 25
minutes, a scenic glide through the illuminated late-night centre of Paris.
Outside the Ritz, a queue of black Mercedes S600s waited at the pavement in the
Place Vendome. But there was a last minute change of plan which was to go
disastrously wrong. Towards the end of the meal Dodi told his regular chauffeur
to drive the car back to his mansion in the hope of luring away the
photographers. He then asked the security chief at the Ritz to find a driver to
take him and Diana back to the 16th arrondissement, in a bullet-proof hotel car
used to ferry VIPs.
According to hotel sources, the driver usually worked as a security guard. He
was not a professional driver. He may also have been overly nervous at his
celebrity passengers. 'He was a very quiet man, called Paul. He did not
socialise very much with us, smoked small cigars,' said a fellow chaffeur called
Jacques. 'You need practice in driving like that. You need to be a professional
driver for the job.'
Several other decoy cars are understood to have been driven away to lure the
photographers off. But the ruse failed. The 'paps' were smarter than that. After
half an hour, the couple left the rear entrance of the Ritz around midnight.
They were snapped as they got into their car, an armour-proofed Mercedes. The
French Ritz driver had had little practice with the car, which handled in a
peculiarly heavy way.
The broad square of the Place Vendome is normally deserted by that time of
night, the jewellery boutiques and antique shop for the super-rich long since
closed for the evening. But as Diana and Dodi sped away, the photographers leapt
onto their motorcycles and the buildings echoed to the screech of tyres.
Their route would have taken them along the perimeter walls of the Jardin des
Tuilleries before they entered the expanse of the Place de la Concorde, where
the traffic flows four or five cars abreast over the cobblestones. Here, the
French chaffeur made his first attempt to dodge the pursuing paparazzi riding
BMWs. But his attempts to outmanouevre the photographers failed. They, after
all, were old hands at the deadly game of car chasing, and he was not.
The Mercedes then sped on towards the Seine and Dodi 's home. The dual
carriageway exit to the west, along the Cours de la Reine, funnels the vehicles
into a narrower raceway with a low, central dividing wall. The natural
temptation here is to accelerate. Because of this the speed limit is set between
35 and 50 mph. The Ritz driver did accelerate - according to some reports, as
fast as 95mph.
Across the river, the bulking profile of the Eiffel Tower shot into vision as
the Mercedes raced along. Through, first one shallow underpass, illuminated by
yellow strip lighting from frosted glass panels one one side.
'You should never drive along there too fast,' a woman taxi driver said
yesterday. 'Take care when you approach the second tunnel. It swings to the left
just as you go down. There have been accidents there before.'
With the paparazzi still in close pursuit, the Mercedes, carrying Diana , Dodi
and their bodyguard, Trevor Rees-Jones, made another attempt to accelerate away.
Diana and Dodi were sitting in the back seat, without seatbelts. At least seven
paparazzi on motorcycles were in hot pursuit.
As the car swung left and raced into the second underpass, below the Pont de
l'Alma, the driver appears to have lost control of the vehicle. Skid marks,
streaked with black paint were visible yesterday on the central dividing wall
marking the point where the vehicle veered to one side.
The huge Mercedes ricocheted off an opposite wall before slamming into the 13th
pillar supporting the tunnel roof, and rolling over two or three times.
The pursuing motorcycles appear to have braked before they reached the wreckage.
But even in the awful aftermath of the crash, there was money to be made and, it
seems, the prospect of a final ghoulish exclusive.
According to French radio, several of the photographers took pictures before
help arrived. One of them was beaten at the scene by a horrified witness. An
eyewitness, speaking on BBC Radio yesterday, said: 'Initially when I approached
one (photographer) was even taking pictures. Even before I could run the 50
yards into the tunnel, he was there. His camera equipment was far more
sophisticated than that normally used by tourists.' The fire brigade received
their first call at 12.27am from some American tourists who had heard an
enormous bang. The Mercedes had partially fallen on its roof, crushing it and
forcing the engine back into the driver's and passenger's compartment. The car's
heavy radiator had been thrown into the front.
It was a catastrophic accident. Dodi , aged 42, died instantly in the crash. The
French Ritz chaffeur was also killed on impact. Diana was still alive - just.
But she was gravely injured and trapped in the tangle of crumpled metal and
Two American tourists were the first on the scene. Tom Richardson, from San
Diego, said he saw smoke, adding: 'I think the car hit a wall. A man started
running towards us telling us to go.' His friend Joanna Luz added: 'The horn was
sounding for about two minutes. I think it was the driver against the steering
'There was a photographer on the scene within five seconds of the crash. As we
were running out of the tunnel police and others were running in but it took
around five or seven minutes for them to get there.
'People were running towards the crash site and steering traffic away not
knowing who was in the car. We were 20 yards from the accident but we did not
see anyone in the car. The car was in the right lane facing on-coming traffic.
The air bag was on the passenger's side. We did not see one on the driver's
Other witnesses suggest the Mercedes had not been under close pursuit from press
photographers, though several arrived very soon afterwards.
One taxi driver, Michel Lemonnier, said: 'It must have been the chauffeur's
fault. He was mad to be driving like that in that tunnel.'
French emergency services took between five and seven minutes to arrive. Early
reports suggested the princess was suffering from concussion, a broken arm and
cuts to her thigh. In fact, those reports were wildly optimistic. The grim
reality was that she had suffered massive chest injuries and internal bleeding.
As rescue crew started to attack the mangled Mercedes with cutting gear,
paramedics revived the princess, still encased in the crush of wreckage.
Intravenous drips would almost certainly have been used to replace blood loss,
and she would have been given pain relief, probably morphine and nitrous oxide.
Of her desperate plight, she knew nothing. At no time did she recover
The race to cut her free was proving difficult. The problem was the car's dense
armour plating. 'The car is extremely heavy and needs experience to drive it,' a
police officer said. 'The specially reinforced steel made it extremely difficult
to cut through and reach Princess Diana and the injured bodyguard in the front
seat after the crash.
'The firemen needed a full hour. As far as we can tell, the bodyguard survived
because he was the only person in the vehicle who was wearing his safety belt.'
The cutting continued, as police rounded up five photographers at the scene and
impounded their motocycles. After more than an hour of cutting, at 2am Diana was
finally lifted clear of the carnage of the Mercedes.
She was taken, still unconscious, to Paris's biggest hospital, the Pitie
Diana was rushed straight into surgery. But shortly after her arrival she
suffered a catastrophic cardiac arrest. On the operating table the French
surgeons did their best. They opened the injured chest of the princess and
repaired a ruptured vein. But the internal bleeding simply would not stop,
however hard they tried.
Back in Britain, the Royal Family, on holiday at Balmoral, including the Prince
of Wales, were woken and informed of the crash.
The British ambassador in Paris, Sir Michael Jay, rushed to the hospital
immediately on being notified of the accident by the French authorities.
Mohamed Al Fayed flew by helicopter to Paris from his home in Surrey. He was
told that his son was dead, and that Diana was gravely injured. The Prime
Minister, Tony Blair, at home in his Sedgefield constituency, was woken and
informed of the accident. He was deeply anxious about the princess. He got up,
paced about, and waited for news.
In the United States, President Bill Clinton and his wife Hillary were told by a
military aide about the crash while they are attending a party at a private
residence on Martha's Vineyard where they were on holiday. They slipped away.
The crash came just in time for the late editions of the Sunday newspapers, but
the tragedy was hedged with confusion. Buckingham Palace confirmed the princess
was undergoing treatment for injuries and said the crash was 'an accident
waiting to happen'. But the impression in the immediate aftermath was that Diana
was going to pull through. For two hours the surgeons continued to massage Diana
At the scene, bodyguard Trevor Rees Jones, the only survivor of the crash, was
eventually cut free from the wreckage and taken to hospital.
But the valiant efforts of the French surgeons to save Diana were in vain. The
internal injuries which had caused huge blood loss and brought on the heart
attack were too serious.
At around 3am - 4am local French time - Diana , Princess of Wales, was
Bruno Riou, head of the Salpetriere Hospital's intensive care unit, said
surgeons gave up their bid to restart her heart after massive internal bleeding
in the chest. There was nothing more they could do.
Her death prompted a flurry of telephone calls to the Royal Family, senior
politicians, and diplomats. The French ambassador telephoned Balmoral and
informed the Queen's private secretary that Diana had died.
The Prince of Wales was then informed and broke the tragic news to his sons,
princes William and Harry.
Over at the Observer, on the fifth-floor of Farringdon Road, London, the
headline 'Di reported dead with Dodi in Paris car crash' was being laid on the
final edition of the paper.
At 4.21 the Press Association put out a newsflash which said Foreign Secretary
Robin Cook's plane has been delayed from taking off from Manila military airport
in the Philippines as he prepares to make a statement. The grimmer subtext was
Twenty minutes later, at 4.21am, there was another newsflash which swept away
all further doubts. ' Diana , Princess of Wales, has died, according to British
sources, the Press Association learned this morning.'
The death of Diana, G,
Di reported dead with Dodi
in Paris car crash
Tragedy happens during chase
Sunday August 31, 1997
Peter Hooley and Daniel John
Diana, Princess of Wales, was reported to have died in a road crash in France
early this morning in which her close companion, Dodi Fayed, was also killed.
The accident happened as their limousine was allegedly chased through the
west of Paris by papparazi - freelance photographers - on motorbikes.
Last night, the Princess was taken to the Pitie-Salpetriere Hospital in the
south-east of the city. The British ambassador, Sir Michael Jay, was summoned to
Within an hour of the accident, a French police spokesman confirmed: ' Dodi
Fayed is dead.'
Police believe the tragedy occurred as the Princess's blue Merecedes drove at
speed through a tunnel at Pont de l'Alma bridge near the mouth of the river
Seine just after midnight. It appeared to have overturned and hit the wall of
The Harrods heir and the driver of the limousine were believed to have died
instantly, according to police sources.
Prince Charles, staying with William, Harry and the Queen at Balmoral, was told
of the accident, a Buckingham Palace spokesman said early today.
In London the Prime Minister, Tony Blair, was woken to be told of the accident.
'He was shocked and saddened by what he sees as a devasting appalling tragedy,'
said a Downing Street spokesman.
After the accident there was a news blackout regarding the princess's condition,
but the situation worsened as the night wore on leading to reports of her death
at 5am this morning.
British Foreign Secretary Robin Cook, who is on an Asian tour, told reporters in
Manila: 'I think it will be doubly tragic if it does emerge that this accident
was in part caused by the persistent hounding of the princess and her privacy by
US President Bill Clinton and his wife, Hillary, were also informed about Diana
's accident. White House spokesman Joe Lockhart said the Clintons were told by a
military aide while they were attending a party on the island of Martha's
Vineyard, where they are on holiday. 'Both the president and the first lady are
very concerned and asked to be kept up to date on the situation,' Lockhart said.
American tourists Tom Richardson and Joanna Luz were among the first on the
scene of the accident.
They told CNN that they were walking nearby when they heard the crash and ran
into the tunnel.
Mr Richardson, from San Diego, said: 'There was smoke. I think the car hit a
wall. A man started running towards us telling us to go.'
Miss Luz said: 'The horn was sounding for about two minutes. I think it was the
driver against the steering wheel.
'There was a photographer on the scene within five seconds of the crash
'As we were running out of the tunnel police and others were running in, but it
took around five or seven minutes for them to get there.
'People were running towards the crash site and steering traffic away not
knowing who was in the car.
'We were 20 yards from the accident but we did not see anyone in the car. The
car was in the right lane facing on-coming traffic. The air bag was on the
passenger's side. We did not see one on the driver's side.'
The fourth person, believed to be one of Princess Diana 's personal bodyguards,
was only slightly injured.
Early reports said several injured people were trapped in the wreckage. Police
cars and vans with flashing lights filled the site outside the tunnel and
officers blocked off the area.
The Princess was due back in Britain later today and had been expected to see
her two sons, William and Harry, at her London home at Kensington Palace.
Arrangements were being made this morning to fly them to Paris.
Reacting to the news, a Foreign Office spokesman said: 'If the reports are true
we are deeply shocked and all our sympathies go to the relatives of the
Last night, senior media executives feared a widespread public outcry over the
incident, which may lead to demands for a privacy law and a clampdown on the
uncontrolled behaviour of freelance photographers who earn hundreds of thousands
of pounds a year from hounding royals.
Dodi 's untimely death has brought to a tragic end the whirlwind summer romance
of the divorced princess and the Muslim playboy.
Many of Diana 's closest friends have been telling their media contacts how
happy she appeared to be since her relationship with Dodi , 41, became public
Diana , 36, and the Harrods heir arrived in Paris on Saturday afternoon to round
off their latest holiday together. The couple were spotted in the French capital
yesterday looking relaxed and tanned after their latest Mediterranean holiday.
Earlier, they had been enjoying a cruise aboard a yacht belonging to Dodi 's
father, Mohamed al-Fayed. They spent a week-long break together on the French
Riviera and Sardinian coast.
Their close relationship had prompted speculation that they may even become
engaged - if not marry - later this year.
Di reported dead with
Dodi in Paris car crash,
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