Princess Diana of Wales died early on August 31, 1997, following injuries sustained earlier that day in a vehicle accident in Paris’ Bridge de l’Alma tunnel. France. Dodi Fayed, Diana’s companion, and driver Henri Paul had perished in the collision. Trevor Rees-Jones, her bodyguard, was the only person to survive the car crash despite being critically hurt.
Some media outlets suggested that the incident may have been caused by the errant behaviour of the paparazzi chasing the car, as reported by the BBC, or perhaps by Queen Elizabeth II. According to a 1999 French investigation, Paul was the only person at fault for the collision since he lost control of the car at a high rate of speed while under the influence of alcohol and prescription medicines.
He had provoked paparazzi who were waiting for Diana and Fayed outside the Hôtel Ritz Paris. He was the assistant security chief there. Paul’s intoxication may have worsened due to anti-depressants and possibly anti-psychotic traces in his blood.
Princess Diana died when she was 36 years old. Her passing triggered an outpouring of popular sorrow in the UK and around the world, and an estimated 2.5 billion people attended her televised burial. The royal family received negative attention for how they handled Diana’s passing. In the decades since Princess Diana died, the unexplained death of Princess Diana has continued to garner significant public interest and consistent press coverage.
1) What Happened Before the Crash
Princess Diana and Egyptian film director Dodi Fayed, the son of tycoon Mohamed Al-Fayed, flew in a private plane on Saturday, August 30, 1997, from Olbia Airport in Sardinia to Le Bourget Airport in Paris. They stopped there on their way to London after spending the previous nine days together on Mohamed’s boat Jonikal around the French and Italian Riviera. They intended to stay there overnight.
Mohamed owned the Hôtel Ritz Paris and still does. He lived in an apartment on Rue Arsène Houssaye, which is next to the inn and just off Avenue des Champs Elysées.
The Ritz’s deputy head of security, Henri Paul, had been given the order to operate the hired black 1994 To avoid the paparazzi, the Ritz used an armoured Mercedes-Benz S280 sedan (W140 S-Class); a dummy car departed the Ritz first from the main entrance on Place Vendôme, drawing a crowd of photographers. Then, at approximately 00:20 on August 31 CEST (22:20 on August 30 UTC), Diana and Fayed left the hotel through the back entrance on Rue Cambon to reach the apartment on Rue Arsène Houssaye.
They did this to get away from the over thirty cameras waiting outside the motel. Trevor Rees-Jones, a member of the Fayed family’s protection squad, was in the (right) front passenger seat, while Diana and Fayed were seated in the back.
2) The Crash: Death of Princess Diana
At 00:23, Paul lost control of the car close to the entrance to the Pont de l’Alma underpass. According to reports, the vehicle struck a white Fiat that was passing, veered to the left of the two-lane road, and struck the roof’s thirteenth pillar directly. Its estimated speed was 105 km/h (65 mph), which is more than twice the tunnel’s 50 km/h (31 mph) speed limit. It eventually came to a stop after spinning and colliding rearward into the tunnel’s stone wall. Since there was no guard rail to prevent it, the collision seriously damaged the vehicle, especially the front section.
3) The Repercussions
The photographers had been following the Mercedes at a distance since they had been moving more slowly. Several hurried to the scene as soon as they arrived, trying to open the doors and assist the wounded, while others started taking pictures. According to witnesses, an ambulance arrived on the scene five minutes after police arrived about ten minutes after the collision at 00:30.
According to France Info Radio, shocked by the image, witnesses beat up a photographer. Five of the photographers were formally taken into custody. Eventually, two more people were arrested, and the photographers’ 20 or so rolls of film were stolen. Afterwards, police seized their automobiles as well. To assist in removing the victims, firefighters also came to the scene.
Rees-Jones had many fractures in his face and a skull concussion, but he was still awake. The front airbags had performed as expected. Although Diana was seriously hurt, she was still aware as she sat in the right rear passenger seat. She was sitting sideways in her seat at the moment of contact, as most of the damage to her body was to the right side of her body.
She sustained swelling and bruises to the head as well as fractures to her ribs, arm, and right collar bone. It was stated that she kept muttering, “Oh my God,” and that when the cops shooed the photographers and other volunteers away, she said, “Let me alone.”
According to the June 2007 Channel 4 documentary Diana: The Witnesses in the Tunnel, off-duty doctor Frederic Mailliez who happened across the scene was the first person to touch Diana. Diana was in shock but had no obvious injuries, according to Mailliez. She reportedly withdrew an intravenous drip while ranting incoherently and was very agitated.
She experienced cardiac arrest at 01:00 after being put under sedation and taken out of the vehicle, but after receiving external cardiopulmonary resuscitation, her heart began to beat once again. At 01:18, Diana was transferred to the ambulance. She departed the site at 01:41 and arrived at Pitié-Salpêtrière Hospital at 02:06.
Shortly after being pronounced dead at the scene, Fayed was in the left rear passenger seat. After being extricated from the rubble, Paul was likewise declared dead at the scene. They were both driven straight to the Paris crematorium, the Institut Médico-Légal (IML). Paul’s blood alcohol level was eventually discovered to be 1.75 grammes per litre or around 3.5 times the French legal limit.
The extent of Diana’s injuries prevented even internal cardiac massage from saving her life. Because of her heart’s displacement to the right side of her chest, the upper left pulmonary vein and pericardium were torn. Around 03:30, Diana passed away in the hospital. At a press conference conducted at the hospital at 6:00, anesthetist Bruno Riou confirmed her passing.
Later that morning, both French Prime Minister Lionel Jospin and Interior Minister Jean-Pierre Chevènement paid a visit to the hospital. Diana’s two older sisters, Lady Sarah McCorquodale and Lady Jane Fellowes, as well as Diana’s ex-husband Charles, arrived in Paris at 17:00.
The group paid a visit to the hospital and congratulated the medical staff for attempting to save her life, together with French President Jacques Chirac. Charles left for the UK later that day with Diana’s body in tow. When they arrived at RAF Northolt after taking off from Vélizy-Villacoublay Air Base, a bearer party from the Queen’s Colour Squadron moved her coffin to the hearse. The royal standard was used to cover the coffin, and it had an ermine border.
Later that day, her body was transported to the London mortuary serving Hammersmith and Fulham for a post-mortem examination.
According to the initial media reports, Diana’s automobile hit the pillar at a speed of 190 km/h (120 mph), and the speedometer’s needle became stuck at that point.
The speed of the vehicle at the time of the collision was later determined to be between 95 and 110 km/h (59 and 68 mph), or roughly twice the 50 km/h speed limit (31 mph). A French investigation in 1999 concluded that the Mercedes had collided with a white Fiat Uno in the tunnel. Despite widespread speculation that Le Van Thanh was the driver of the Fiat, the driver was never definitively identified. No precise details about the car were given.
If being pursued by paparazzi contributed to the catastrophe, according to British Foreign Minister Robin Cook, it would be “doubly terrible.” Earl Spencer, Diana’s younger brother, also attributed her passing to the tabloid press. In 1999, a French court investigation that lasted 18 months concluded that Paul, who had been drinking, had lost control while driving at a high rate of speed.
The photographers who had been trailing the princess’ automobile were not charged.
At St. James’s Palace, people were encouraged to sign a book of condolences. The British embassy in the US also set up a book of condolences. Mohamed Al-department Fayed’s store Harrods had 11,000 lights, all of which were shut out before the funeral and weren’t turned back on until afterwards. Women’s Royal Voluntary Service and Salvation Army volunteers helped those in a line down the Mall all night long.
At her London residence, Kensington Palace, more than a million bouquets were left, while at her family’s estate of Althorp, the public was asked to stop bringing flowers because of the number of visitors and flowers in the surrounding roads, which was allegedly posing a threat to the environment.
The flower pile outside Kensington Gardens was 5 feet (1.5 m) deep in some areas by September 10 and the bottom layer had already begun to degrade. People quietly waited in a calm line to sign the book and leave gifts. Later, fresh flowers, teddy bears, and champagne bottles were donated and given to the ill, the old, and the kids. Poems, cards, and other gifts were gathered and given to Diana’s family.
As Diana had lost the title of Her Royal Highness due to her divorce from Prince Charles in 1996, it wasn’t clear at first if she would be given a formal funeral.
After Diana passed away, there were tremendous public outpourings of grief; on September 6, an estimated 3 million Londoners attended her funeral at Westminster Abbey.
As guests arrived, including representatives of the numerous charities Diana was the patron of, big outside screens and speakers were set up outside the Abbey and in Hyde Park, where throngs gathered to watch and listen to events. First ladies Hilary Clinton of the United States and Bernadette Chirac of France, as well as famous people like Italian tenor Luciano Pavarotti and Diana’s pals George Michael and Elton John, attended.
“Goodbye, England’s Rose” or “Candle in the Wind 1997,” a reworked version of John’s song “Candle in the Wind” that was dedicated to her, was played. With sales of more than 33 million units, the single became the best-selling single since the UK and US singles charts’ inception in the 1950s.
Etiquette was broken when the guests applauded Earl Spencer’s speech, in which he harshly criticized the press and subtly criticized the Royal Family for how they treated her. According to estimates, 31.5 million people in Britain watched the burial. It is impossible to calculate the global audience precisely, although it was thought to be around 2.5 billion. In 44 languages and 200 countries, the ceremony was aired.
Following the service, a Daimler hearse was used to transport Diana’s casket to Althorp. Nearly the whole length of the funeral procession, mourners threw flowers at it, and as it passed, automobiles on the opposite side of the M1 highway even came to a stop.
Diana was laid to rest in a private ceremony on The Oval, an island in the centre of a lake that is a part of the Pleasure Garden at Althorp.
The coffin was lined with lead, as is customary for the British aristocracy, and it weighed a quarter of a tonne (250 kg / approximately 550 lb). She is buried with a rosary in her hands, dressed in a black Catherine Walker dress and black stockings.
Mother Teresa of Calcutta, a close friend of Diana’s who passed on the day before her burial, had given the rosary to her as a gift. During the summer, a visitors’ centre is available, offering a stroll around the lake and an exhibition about Diana. The entire sum was donated to the Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial Fund.
6.1) Royal Family’s Reaction to The Unexplained Death of Princess Diana
The Queen acknowledged her shock at Diana’s passing. In the morning, the then-Prince Charles told his boys the news. Upon the news of Diana’s passing, the Royal Family’s website briefly withdrew all of its information and replaced it with a black backdrop that featured a photo of Diana along with her name, birth date, and death date.
On the website, a book of condolence was also made available for people to add their memorials. The Queen, Prince Charles, William, and Prince Harry all wore black to church services at Crathie Kirk near Balmoral Castle on the first Sunday following Princess Diana’s passing.
Charles, Prince William, and Harry, the royal family, were subsequently quoted in a statement as stating they were “drawing strength from,” “truly touched,” and “enormously thankful” for the support of the public. Princes Edward and Andrew visited the mourners outside Kensington Palace to gauge the emotions of the community and Edward went to St. James’s Palace to sign the book of condolences.
The Queen, Prince Philip, Charles, William, and Harry saw the flower tributes and notes left by the public as they travelled from Crathie Kirk to Balmoral.
On Friday, September 5, Charles and his boys arrived back in London. They paid the flower tributes placed outside Kensington Palace a surprise visit. The Queen consented to a national television broadcast when she and Prince Philip, the Queen Mother, and Princess Margaret made their way back to London from Balmoral.
She greeted throngs waiting in line to sign the condolence books as she visited the Chapel Royal at St James’s Palace, where Diana’s body was still being kept, and the floral tributes in front of Buckingham Palace. Sarah, Duchess of York, Diana’s former sister-in-law, and Diana’s brother Earl Spencer also paid a visit to St. James’s Palace.
6.2) Politician’s Reaction to The Unexplained Death of Princess Diana
Tony Blair, the prime minister of Great Britain, expressed his “total devastation” at the Princess’s passing. Bill Clinton, the president of the United States, declared that he and his wife, Hillary Clinton, were “profoundly heartbroken” upon learning of her passing. According to Kofi Annan, the Secretary-General of the United Nations, her passing “robbed the world of a consistent and determined voice for the betterment of the lives of suffering children worldwide.“
German Chancellor Helmut Kohl stated in a sympathy telegram that he believed Diana had also fallen victim to an “increasingly violent and dishonest rivalry on the part of certain of the press“. The paparazzi were criticized by Tim Fischer, Australia’s deputy prime minister, for their excessive coverage of Diana.
“Everyone knows of Princess Diana’s great contribution to philanthropic activity, and not just in Great Britain,” said Russian President Boris Yeltsin in a statement praising Diana’s humanitarian efforts. Australian Prime Minister John Howard, South African President Nelson Mandela, Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chrétien, New Zealand Prime Minister Jim Bolger, and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu were among the other officials to send sympathy notes.
Parliamentary motions of sympathy were also approved by the Houses of Representatives in Australia and New Zealand. Memorial ceremonies were conducted around the nation, and the Canadian government and individual provinces set up online and physical books of condolences in their parliamentary buildings.
6.3) Public’s Reaction to The Unexplained Death of Princess Diana
Upon the news of her passing, tens of thousands of people gathered outside Buckingham Palace in London carrying flowers. After an hour of the word being spread, people began sending flowers.
The BBC lowered the flags to half-staff. As is customary after the passing of a member of the Royal Family, “God Save the Queen” was played on radio and television in response to Diana’s passing.
To commemorate her passing, Ted Hughes composed an elegy. The Scottish Football Association’s top executive was called on to quit after the organization took too long to respond to requests to postpone Scotland’s World Cup qualifying match.