The Death of Princess Diana - August 31, 1997

The Death of Princess Diana - August 31, 1997

From a very young age, little girls are told stories of princesses living a life of drag, only to be discovered by a prince. All their problems melt away and they are whisked off by a handsome man to go live in a luxurious castle. So in 1981 when the beautiful and young Diana Spencer married Charles, the Prince of Wales, we all strapped ourselves in for another fairy tale.

As her story unraveled we started to discover that her story must have been cursed when compared to the fairy tales. From the day she got engaged, her story became more and more tragic until her death on August 31st, 1997.

The Life of Princess Diana

Lady Diana was born into the Spencer family, descendants of British nobility. This made her and her older sister an excellent candidate to be Princess. As it turns out, this is how Lady Diana did meet Prince Charles. He was dating her older sister, Lady Sarah. Prince Charles eventually ended the relationship with Lady Sarah and started dating Lady Diana when she was just 19 years old. Shortly later they were due to be engaged and married.

Princess Diana was beautiful and knew how to flirt with the camera. She appeared to be a confident and intelligent woman, with a beautiful smile. Yet, behind closed doors and early on is when her tragic story began. It was reported, that shortly after her engagement Prince Charles pinched some fat around her waist and said, "O, getting a bit chubby I see." This was only the beginning of a serious eating disorder for Lady Diana.

The engagement continued and on her wedding day, nearly 750 million people watched from their homes worldwide. Lady Diana became Princess Diana and she wore a beautifully 80's wedding gown. Complete with large puffy sleeves and a train that just wouldn't quit.

Everything appeared perfect from the outside. However, shortly after the wedding, Princess Diana started to suspect Prince Charles still had feelings for his ex, Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall. Her suspicions grew over the years and after two children and 15 years of marriage, she divorced from Prince Charles in 1996.


Life Just Before The Accident

The life of a Princess in the royal family was a lonely one. She constantly felt controlled by the members of the royal family and the harassment of the paparazzi. After her divorce, Diana sought out a new relationship. At first, she appeared to find new love with a man named Hasnat Khan. The couple dated for nearly two years before Princess Diana supposedly broke it off in July 1997. Shortly after she started seeing Dodi Fayed.

Dodi Fayed was the son of Mohamed Al-Fayed. A wealthy man who had ownership over the famous department store Harrods in London. During the summer of 1997, Dodi and his family planned on vacationing in the South of France and Sardina, an island off the coast of Italy. Dodi invited Diana to join them. This is where she spent her last few days.

The Accident

On her return trip from Sardina, Princess Diana and Dodi had a layover in Paris where they decided to spend the night. In 1997, on the night of August 30th, Henri Paul, the head of security at the Paris Ritz Hotel, was asked to drive Princess Diana and Dodi.

What Henri Paul did not disclose was that he was taking anti-depressants and had been drinking earlier that night. Supposedly enhancing the effects of the alcohol. Princess Diana and Dodi were ushered out the back door of the hotel and got into a black Mercedes S280 at 00:20 CEST. The couple got in but did not put on their seatbelts. The couple exited out the back of the hotel intentionally to avoid the paparazzi. However, this did not work.

The paparazzi found the couple and chased them throughout the streets of Paris, desperate to get a shot. Henri Paul drove the car down to the Pont de l'Alma underpass, where he lost control at 00:23 CEST. The car swerved into a pillar and collided going 105 km/hr. The car spun out of control, finally stopping after hitting the side of the tunnel.

There was nothing but chaos after the crash. There where no police or paramedics around to protect the victims. The paparazzi were shortly behind the vehicle and there were plenty of other innocent witnesses on the scene. Witness accounts range from people seeing smoke emerge from the car and paparazzi trying to help the victims. To paparazzi trying to take photos and being beaten by witnesses for it. It took 10 minutes for police to arrive and another 5 for paramedics.

Both Henri Paul and Dodi Fayed died at the scene. Princess Diana was rushed to the hospital where she too shortly passed. It was reported that the crash had pushed her heart into a vital vein causing it to tear. Attempts to resuscitate her had failed. She reportedly died at 4:00 AM CEST on August 31st, 1997.

Why Did The Death of Princess Diana Leave Such an Impact?

So why was Princess Diana being so intensely followed and why did her death leave such an impact on people? Was it just that she was royalty?

Princess Diana's impact went beyond fabulous parties and ball gowns. Her role of Princess included many public roles that required her to travel, visit hospitals, charities, and areas of need all around the globe. While this is not out of the ordinary for those in high positions, Princess Diana did go the extra mile with these duties. Just one of the reasons she was so beloved.

Princess Diana's work with charities was extensive and vast. Not only was she strongly dedicated to helping others but it appeared that there was no charity out of bounds she was not willing to help. Some of the most notable causes she assisted with include AIDS, animal rights, music, the arts, children and young adults, landmine survivors, the elderly, athletics, deaf and blind, various types of cancer, illnesses, and much much more.

She was fiercely active among these communities. She spent time with many people facing difficulties and really tried to connect with them. While she was active in all of these charities she was most notable for her work during the AIDS epidemic and landmines. In fact, you may have seen some of her most charitable acts towards those facing AIDS.

The AIDS epidemic of the 1980s was quickly growing and people globally were just discovering how it was contracted. Little was known exactly how contagious the disease was, which just encouraged fear among those who had become infected. People treated those with AIDS as if they were leapers. The public was worried that if touched, they too would be infected. This stigma was broken down when without gloves and on camera, Princess Diana shook hands with an AIDS victim. This was an intentional and strong statement to society. Princess Diana came out explaining "HIV does not make people dangerous to know. You can shake their hands and give them a hug. Heaven knows they need it. What's more, you can share their homes, their workplaces, and their playgrounds and toys."

Princess Diana continued her work when she went on to hug an AIDS victim during another visit. Again, this event was photographed which helped destigmatize the disease.

Aside from her charity work Princess Diana was a style icon. She routinely made appearances in well-polished outfits that made the paparazzi, fashion lovers, and designers everywhere gawk. She would routinely wear a certain piece of clothing, only to have store sell out the next day. Every bride looked to Princess Diana as inspiration for their wedding dress. Fashion magazines that were lucky enough to book Princess Diana for a cover were sure to make a significant selling that month. This contributed to her overall image of the most well put together woman.

Princess Diana was beautiful, intelligent, and kind. It was not hidden. She graced the cover of magazines, spoke eloquently during interviews and her charitable acts were like nothing the world had ever seen from such a privileged woman. This is why she made such an impact. She stepped apart from the royal family and acted on her own conscious. Which is exactly why her death rocked the world.

The Aftermath of Her Death

The fairy tale was over and everyone felt betrayed. The Princess did not live happily ever after. Even after her divorce, the public hoped for her happiness. It was again rejected with a terrible fatal accident. Many celebrities and public figures expressed their sorrow. However, the royal family did not immediately address the public. It has been days before the queen came forward and it left the people of nation wondering, where is their queen when they needed her most? This would later contribute to conspiracy rumors surrounding the royal family.

The funeral was held at Westminister Abbey 6 days after her death. There were an estimated 3 million people that came out to show their respects. While globally the funeral was aired to over 2.5 billion people. She was laid to rest at the Althorp estate by a lake.

Controversy Surrounding The Accident

As much as it would have been preferred that she had a beautiful funeral, with plenty of people in attendance, people paid their respects, grieved and moved on. Understandably, that was not the case. It was well known that she and her family would be routinely hunted by the paparazzi. So when it was revealed they exited through the back of the hotel to hide and the paparazzi were shortly behind them when the Mercedes crashed, it was inferred that the media was the cause of the crash.

That was not the only drama surrounding her death. In the years prior, Princess Diana had started to find her own voice which, in turn, made the royal family look terrible. Shortly before her divorce to Prince Charles, Princess Diana was quoted in an interview that her marriage was "a bit crowded." Obviously referring to Prince Charles inability to cut off relations with Duchess Camilla. The drama continued when Princess Diana showed up uninvited to the 40th birthday party of Camilla's sister. Princess Diana confronted Camilla and had the following conversation, "I know what's going on between you and Charles and I just want you to know that...I'm sorry I'm in the way...and it must be hell for both of you. But I do know what's going on. Don't treat me like an idiot." It was reported that Camila's response consisted of, "You've got everything you ever wanted. You've got all the men in the world fall in love with you and you've got two beautiful children, what more do you want."

Diana's response, "I want my husband."

As all this information began to come out, it did not appear to slow down. Unbeknownst to the queen or any members of the royal family, Princess Diana came out in an interview revealing many secrets of the royal family, mostly her mistreatment during her marriage to Prince Charles. Reportedly, the Queen was furious.

While this may just appear to be relationship drama, Mohamed Al-Fayed, Dodi Fayed's father, claimed the royal family had a major role in her death. Going so far as to say that they orchestrated with the military to get rid of Princess Diana.

These issues were promptly brought up and investigated by both British and French authorities. After many cases and trials looking into the role the paparazzi and royal family may have played a part in, it was ultimately decided that the crash was due to the intoxication of the driver, Henri Paul.

Few would describe the life of Princess Diana as a fairy tale. Her life had been tragic since her engagement and she routinely faced difficult trials. Despite her eating disorder, unfaithful husband, and being hounded by the media, Princess Diana was fiercely dedicated to her children and charities. Her genuinely kind spirit was conveyed through every photo and gentle nature made her the loving gentle touch so many needed at the time. Which is why her untimely death, August 31st, 1997, was so tragic.

Find out more: what happened on August 31, 1997