The Mercedes Benz S-280 entered the Pont de l’Alma Tunnel in France at high speed before losing control and slamming into a concrete support with sickening impact. It was 31 August 1997, and three of the car’s passengers were to die as a result of the smash. One of these was Diana Princess of Wales, and a disbelieving world went into mourning at the news.
One of the best known and adored members of the British Royal Family, Diana, Princess of Wales, was born in 1 July 1961, the daughter of British peer Edward Spencer and Frances Shand Kydd. She became officially known as Lady Diana Spencer in 1975 after her father inherited the title of the Earl Spencer.
She met and became romantically involved with Charles, the Prince of Wales in the late 1970’s with the two marrying in July 1981. The wedding, at St. Paul’s Cathedral, was one of the most famous of modern times, being televised live to a world-wide audience estimated at 750 million.
Her life had become a fairytale success story, becoming the Princess of Wales and member of the Royal Family, with her beauty and media-friendly approachability generating massive and continuous publicity wherever she went. She further enchanted the world by giving birth to two sons, Prince William in 1982 and Prince Henry (usually known as Harry) in 1984.
She used her high profile and rising fame for the advancement of various charity causes, particularly children’s issues and she also threw her support behind the international efforts to ban land mines. She did much to remove the fear and stigma of AIDS by famously shaking hands with an HIV positive man in 1987 – a highly publicised event that did much to shift community attitudes.
However behind the scenes her marriage was under acute stress, with Charles and herself divorcing in 1996 after 15 years of marriage. She subsequently became romantically linked with Dodi Fayed, the son of wealthy Egyptian businessman Mohamed Al-Fayed.
Tragically both Diana and Dodi were to lose their lives in the Pont de L’Alma tunnel car accident. The initial enquiry blamed their driver for being drunk and losing control, but Dodi’s father maintained that the crash had been deliberately organised by the British Secret Service.
Diana’s funeral took place at Westminster Abbey on 6 September 1997 and was televised directly, to a massive worldwide audience.
Image: Diana, Princess of Wales, photographed in 1995, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.