Tragic Details About Princess Diana's Death

The last night of Princess Diana's life hasn't been described as an especially relaxed one. As the Washington Post described it in September 1997, only days after she, Dodi Fayed, and Henri Paul passed away, Diana and Fayed had been "hounded and pursued" by Parisian photographers from the moment their plane touched down in the country until the moment their car crashed in a tunnel near the Pont de l'Alma. 

But there were reportedly moments of joy. Fayed's father later insisted that his son had given Diana a $200,000 solitaire diamond ring that he described as an engagement ring, though it will always be unclear if there was a marriage proposal and if Diana accepted it (via Express). Diana's former Paul Burrell has since claimed that she was looking forward to a new life in Malibu, California, with her sons, who were expected to spend part of the year there if she made the move (via Good Morning America).

Diana's death left a staggering hole in the hearts of Britain and the world over, and there will always be questions about Princess Diana's death and the deaths of Dodi Fayed and Henri Paul. Here are some of the tragic details from the night Princess Diana died.

Dodi Al Fayed was going to propose to Princess Diana the night she died

Several accounts from the night that Princess Diana and Dodi Fayed died have insisted on one thing: Fayed was set to propose to Diana and had given her a $200,000 solitaire diamond ring that very day. While there was no confirmation that Fayed had given Diana the ring with the intent of marriage, there has been intense speculation that he did. Michael Cole, at the time a spokesperson for the Fayed family, later lamented to the Washington Post, "What that ring meant, we shall probably never know. If the planet lasts for another thousand years, people will still wonder about its significance."

Express also supported this theory and noted in February 2021 that a receipt for an engagement ring was found in Fayed's flat; the ring was reportedly inscribed with the words "Dis-moi Oui" or "tell me yes." Author Martyn Gregory also told the outlet that Fayed was set the propose, though it's unknown if Diana would have accepted as the pair had only been dating for a handful of months when they died.

Lady Annabel Goldsmith, a friend of Diana's, told investigators into the death that she didn't believe Diana would have said yes. Annabel once asked Diana, "You're not going to do anything silly like rushing off and eloping or getting married?" and reportedly received the reply, "I would need marriage like a rash on my face."

Princess Diana never learned the truth about her interview with Martin Bashir

Princess Diana was interviewed by the BBC's Martin Bashir two years before she died. The interview was truly a unique one for a member of the royal family, as Diana bared all. She spoke about affairs she engaged in while married to King Charles and about the affairs he had as well. Diana detailed how these relationships made her feel, as well as her role in the royal family, and admitted to self-harm and bulimia during the interview. Ultimately, the interview and the subsequent fall-out led to Queen Elizabeth telling Diana and Charles they had to divorce (per the BBC).

Years later, an inquiry into the interview revealed that Bashir went to extraordinary and unsavory lengths to secure the interview in the first place. The BBC's Tom Mangold told journalist Mark Williams-Thomas that Bashir worked with the state media's graphic designer to forge bank statements that convinced an employee that Diana's brother had sold royal stories to the media. These bank statements were used in part to get the interview with Diana in the first place (via the CBC).

Diana never found out the truth about the interview that caused such turmoil in her life. Her son Prince William vocalized his support for the inquiry into the interview in November 2020, expressing his hope that what really happened would be revealed (via Good Morning America).

Princess Diana was planning a new life in California

In his 2003 book, "A Royal Duty," Princess Diana's former butler Paul Burrell revealed a number of secrets and behind-the-scenes details about Diana's final weeks and months. Burrell believed strongly that Diana planned to leave Europe and live in the United States, specifically in Malibu, California, and that she even planned to move into the former home of Julie Andrews with her sons Prince William and Prince Harry.

In an interview on Good Morning America about his book, Burrell claimed, "A lovely house ... saw all the plans for it. It was going to be in Malibu. I saw the plans. We sat on the floor, spread out all the maps and the layout of the house." Burrell added that Diana believed William and Harry would thrive in California and that the royal family would have let the young boys spend part of their lives in the United States. He said, "She's [Princess Diana] not going to be king. Neither are her kids going to be queens. Why couldn't they come and spend a portion of their time in America?"  

Decades after her death, her son Prince Harry and his bride, Meghan Markle, would go on to settle in California as a home base of sorts while traveling to and from Britain (via Vogue).

Princess Diana and her brother weren't getting along when she died

Another tragic element about Princess Diana's too-short life is that she and her brother Charles Spencer reportedly weren't getting along well at the time of her death. In fact, Paul Burrell also wrote in his book that the two hadn't been close for about a decade. Yet, when Diana died, Charles ironically was the one who ended up with access to her estate and who made several decisions that even Diana's sons reportedly disagreed with.

One such decision was the transfer of Diana's wedding dress to the Spencer family home Althorp Museum, which Burrell said Prince William was opposed to. He told Good Morning America, "They have not inherited their mother's estate yet, so in the meantime, guess who's in charge? The Spencers." Burrell also told the media outlet that Diana had asked to live at her family's estate but that her brother had told her no.

As Burrell put it, "It was his flesh and blood, for goodness' sakes. He found a place for her when she died, but he couldn't find a place for her when she was alive." In 2022, Charles Spencer shared a poignant tribute to his late sister on Instagram to honor her life on All Soul's Day.

Some believed Princess Diana's death was intentional

Not everyone was convinced that Princess Diana's was an accident. In his 2007 book, royal author Christopher Andersen wrote that these reportedly included Camilla Parker-Bowles, who is said to have asked her then-boyfriend King Charles, "Are they certain it was just an accident, Charles? Could it have been intentional?" Charles reportedly fired back, "Whatever are you talking about? Those bloody reporters are responsible" (via ABC News).

ABC News has noted that while Camilla never asked that question, Dodi Fayed's father, Mohamed Al Fayed, did. Upon hearing the news, the elder Fayed reportedly asked, "Accident? Do you really think it was an accident?" From there, the theory took hold, particularly after Muammar Gadhafi accused the French and the British of "arranging" the fatal accident. Anis Mansour contributed to this idea and insisted that the royal family would never have allowed Dodi and Diana to get married. Mansour wrote, "They could not have let the mother of the future king marry a Muslim Arab." 

While we may never know the true circumstances of Diana's tragic death, reports that it could have been orchestrated are nothing short of chilling.

Princess Diana worried King Charles was planning her death

Perhaps Princess Diana's own worries about her ex-husband contributed to the questions that some asked about the nature of her death. An infamous story from 1995 detailed an experience Diana had with brake failure in her car. She was reportedly driving in London when she attempted to brake at a traffic light and nothing happened. Frantic, Diana jumped out of her car and took a taxi home (via ABC News).

When she returned home, Diana wrote a letter to friends Elsa Bowker, Lucia Flecha de Lima, Simone Simmons, and Lady Annabel Goldsmith. The letter indicated just how worried she was. Diana wrote in part, "The brakes of my car have been tampered with. If something does happen to me it will be MI5 or MI6." She again returned to the topic months later in a letter that she was worried about her own safety. As she wrote, "This particular phase in my life is the most dangerous. My husband is planning an accident in my car, brake failure and serious head injury in order to make the path clear for Charles to marry."

Princess Diana was changing the world for good

Princess Diana is known for changing the face of the royal family and is credited with being a force for good for the institution of the monarchy itself. Emma Hart, who directs the McNeil Center for Early American Studies, told Penn Today that Diana pushed the royal family to "move into the 21st century, so to speak, to not be such a distant and pompous institution" and that she had an impact on her sons beyond the handful of years she got to spend with them. Hart added, "Both her sons married women who have played a similar role. Neither Kate nor Meghan has aristocratic 'blue' blood, something that would have been unthinkable for the heir to the throne's spouse even 40 years ago."

In addition to her impact on the social structure of the monarchy, Diana had extended her reach well beyond the confines of Buckingham Palace. She is remembered for working with patients with AIDS to this day. As Hart explained to Penn Today, perhaps one of Diana's most important contributions was to show that the royal family could effect real change in the world.

Princess Diana died from a major heart injury

Journalist Mark Williams-Thomas made a documentary titled "Diana: The Ultimate Truth" in 2022. In the film, Williams-Thomas explored Diana's death and detailed how she passed away. At one point, Williams-Thomas spoke with cardiac surgeon Tom Treasure, who examined the details of the car accident that claimed Diana's life.

Treasure explained that Diana, who wasn't wearing a seatbelt when she died, had suffered a heart injury in the crash. It appeared that Diana was sitting sideways in the car when it crashed and that the injury itself wasn't necessarily fatal if the circumstances of Diana's death had been different. He said, "[Diana] was taken from the car, and she was conscious when they took her out. Her circulation was in trouble, fast pulse, and low blood pressure, indicating internal bleeding" (via the CBC).

Medical professionals took Diana to Pitie-Salpetriere Hospital with additional injuries, including a concussion, broken arm, and cut thigh. Doctors at the hospital spent two hours working to repair Diana's heart, hoping to stimulate it to beat the way it should. Ultimately, she died at 4:53 a.m. on August 31, 1997 (via Oprah Daily).

Dodi Fayed might have left behind a daughter

Princess Diana wasn't the only one who died on August 30 and 31. Her boyfriend, Dodi Fayed, and the car's driver, Henri Paul, were killed instantly when the vehicle crashed. They also left behind family members who continue to mourn their loss — and some believe that Fayed might have even left an infant daughter. 

In February 1998, the Daily Record out of Scotland spoke to Diane Holliday, who claimed that her daughter Marni was conceived during a nearly year-long affair that she and Fayed had. According to the paper, Marni was born in the United States and placed for adoption, which Holliday claimed made Fayed angry. She went on to state that Fayed gave her £75,000 after she told him she was pregnant (via The Free Library).

Holliday also claimed that she and Fayed both understood their relationship was not rooted in love for one another. Despite that, Fayed paid for her older children to attend school and told her she didn't need to worry about getting pregnant because of "low sperm count." Fayed was initially pleased with her pregnancy. He reportedly didn't argue when she said she'd get an abortion. Holliday changed her mind, and Marni was born in November 1996. She only told Fayed about the baby two weeks before his passing.

The Fayeds never recovered from the events of Princess Diana's death

Dodi Fayed's family was plunged into intense grief following his tragic passing alongside Princess Diana. In December 2020, Dodi's younger sister Camilla Fayed spoke to The Sun about her family's experience following her older brother's death. Camilla, who was 12 years old when Dodi died, told the outlet, "For my dad, like any parent losing a child, it was horrific and, as it is for any family that experiences loss, it was heartbreaking."

She went on to add that the family had to contend with the ultra-public nature of Dodi and Diana's deaths, which impacted their ability to cope behind closed doors as a family. While mulling the fifth season of "The Crown," which will reportedly end at the time of Diana's death, Camilla added that it's not possible for the death to feel like something that can be moved on from. She said, "It's never going to be distant because it's obviously affected my family in such a profound way."

Princess Diana's death was due to drunk driving and the paparazzi

There are two significant factors that led to the deaths of Princess Diana, Dodi Fayed, and Henri Paul on that late August night in 1997: Paul, the driver of the car, was well over the legal limit for alcohol. On top of that, the trio's car was heavily pursued by photographers on motorbikes, who were driving recklessly and contributed to Paul's loss of control.

As The Guardian noted in the days following Diana's death, the paparazzi had been waiting for Diana and Fayed for hours before they headed out for their final trip. As the outlet noted, the first photographer had stationed themselves outside the Ritz around 5:30 p.m. that night, and more showed up after Diana went shopping down the Champs Elysées that evening. The pair had already ended their vacation early due to paparazzi intrusion; they made plans to travel approximately 30 minutes away for their last night in the city.

Fayed asked his regular driver to take a separate in an attempt to foil the waiting photographers. Paul was added to the journey at the last minute, and he ultimately lost control of the car in the tunnel at the Pont de l'Alma. Ultimately, blood analysis found that Paul was well over the legal limit the night of the fateful crash (via The Sun).