Few events of modern history produced the incredible worldwide reaction following the death of Diana, Princess of Wales on 31 August 1997, when she was only 36 years of age. Although she was divorced from Prince Charles the year before, and had become associated with another man, Dodi Al-Fayed, her popularity with the general public was largely undiminished.
Inevitably many conspiracy theories followed on from the car accident that resulted in her death, but the known series of events on that fatal night were well recorded.
30th August 1997
1pm: Princess Diana and Dodi Al-Fayed leave Sardinia on a private jet bound for Paris, where they intend to stay for only one night.
3.15 pm: They are picked up by Henri Paul, the deputy head of security at the Ritz Hotel where they intend to stay. They arrive there at around 4.35 pm.
7 pm: The couple travel to Dodi’s apartment located near the Champs Elysees, pursued by a band of paparazzi who have become aware of their presence in the city.
9.30 pm: After several changes of plan, involving attempts to avoid the paparazzi, Dodi and Dianna return to the Ritz where they dine at the Imperial Suite. Henri Paul arrives back at the hotel to supervise operations and it is later decided that the couple will return to Dodi’s apartment, rather than stay at the Ritz where the paparazzi are waiting.
31st August 1997
12.20 am: Dodi and Diana leave the Ritz in the back seat of a Mercedes S280 driven by Paul and accompanied by bodyguard Trevor Rees-Jones who sits in the passenger front seat.
12.25 am: The Mercedes, in an attempt to outrun the pursuing paparazzi, accelerates to a speed estimated to have been over 100 km/hr before striking a concrete pillar of the nearby Pont de l’Alma road tunnel. The car is destroyed, Henri Paul and Dodi Fayed killed, and Trevor Rees Jones and Diana are seriously injured.
4 am: Lady Diana dies of internal injuries at Paris’s Pitié-Salpétrière Hospital.
A French judicial investigation later found that the first cause of the accident was the fact that Henri Paul had been driving at high speed while under the influence of alcohol and prescription drugs. It was also believed that the car occupants were not wearing seatbelts at the time of the crash.
Image: Photograph of Diana, Princess of Wales with Hillary Clinton taken in 1997 – only a few months before the accident, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.