The stylish and compassionate Princess Diana passed away on August 31, 1997 and the world has mourned her loss ever since.
The world went into shock when, on August 31, 1997, news broke that the beloved Princess Diana had been in a major car accident and passed away. That day was 23 years ago but people still remember her for her empathy, style, and humanitarian work. She became famous because of her marriage to Prince Charles, but being married to the future king of the United Kingdom was not what made her beloved amongst the masses.
She is still remembered because she was closer to the people than any other royal. Terrible curiosity followed her after her marriage to Prince Charles, and more so after her divorce. It was that intrigue about her life that pulled photographers to her like a moth to a flame. On that fateful night too, it was the paparazzi that egged the driver, Henri Paul, to speed. Unfortunately, Henri had been "drinking all day" when he drove Princess Diana and her paramour, Dodi Al Fayed, son of Harrod’s department store owner Mohamed Al-Fayed, in a limo, according to Daily Mail.
Their day began with them sipping coffee off the Emerald Coast in Sardinia. “They were in a good mood,” Dodi's butler remembers, according to WashingtonPost. “They were always laughing, holding hands.”
She had called her friend Richard Kay that day to tell him that she was going to radically change her life, according to Daily Mail. She wanted to withdraw from her formal public life that November after fulfilling her obligations. Kay said in 2014 that he believed Diana knew that Fayed was in love with her and she was in love with him. They were "blissfully happy", he added. However, two years later, Kay wrote in Daily Mail that Princess Diana's private secretary thought she was going to dump Fayed after that summer.
Fayed wanted to propose to the most famous woman in the world that night. He had bought a six-figure diamond ring for her, which was waiting in Paris. Even though they had been dating less than a month, they had picked it out together, according to people close to Fayed, says WashingtonPost. He was scheduled to pick up the ring at 6.30 pm near The Ritz in Paris, a hotel owned by his father. So, the couple took a plane around 11:30 a.m. with the butler and a masseuse.
He saw the photographers when they landed and was grizzled. He "did not want this special occasion ruined by a bunch of a shutter-happy cowboys trying to corral them on motorcycles and shoving lenses in their faces," WashingtonPost quoted ex-Time reporters as saying. They reached The Ritz late afternoon and she headed to the salon for a hair appointment. He went to pick up the ring. Then they rested in the hotel’s Imperial Suite before heading out to his apartment to get dressed for dinner. She called her children, who were in Scotland with Prince Charles and the Queen, before heading out.
When they stepped out to go to his apartment around 7:00 p.m., the number of photographers had increased. Fayed told his butler that he intended to propose that night. “The ring was on the nightstand in his bedroom,” author Christopher Anderson wrote in The Day Diana Died. “Dodi had checked to make sure they had several bottles of Dom Pérignon on ice for the big moment.”
The first restaurant they went to was overrun by photographers so they went to the dining room at The Ritz. However, that moment was not private either. So, they headed to the Imperial Suite. Fayed made another plan. The driver and bodyguards left in another car to throw the paparazzi off scent while they slipped out the back door in a car borrowed driven by a hotel security officer.
The couple did get away but photographers were on their tail still. The driver was drunk and things got out of control. Their car crashed at Pont de l’Alma tunnel near the Eiffel Tower. Fayed and the driver died in the car while Diana died at the hospital a couple of hours later. Her funeral was held on September 6, 1997. There was an outpouring of grief and condolences from the people for their beloved princess who would no longer be around to share love and joy in the world.
Cover Image Source: Getty Images | Photos by (L) Patrick Riviere (R) Pascal Rondeau