The month of August is a sad one, not only for the United Kingdom but for many all over the world. It is the month that we lost Diana, Princess of Wales, or as she was affectionately called, the “People’s Princess”.
Diana and her beau, Dodi Fayed, whose father Mohammed al-Fayed is the former owner of Harrods Department Store, came to Paris, France on August 30, 1997. They had just returned from a private cruise along the Riviera, and planned to stay the night at one of the senior Fayed’s apartments near the Hotel Ritz that he owned. They had dinner at the Ritz and left with the appointed driver, Henri Paul. He was the acting Head of Security for the Ritz and had been instructed to get Diana and Dodi to the apartment with as little media attention as possible. To do this, they had a decoy car driving through the front in which a throng of photographers swirled about. The actual car that contained Diana and Dodi was leaving from the back entrance.
It was twenty minutes after midnight on August 31, 1997 that the video surveillance cameras detected Diana and Dodi leaving the hotel from the back way. Trevor Reese-Jones was in the front seat with Henri Paul, the driver. Dodi and Diana were in the back, with Diana being on the right side. As they drove through the Rue Cambon exit, it was noticed that a few of the paparazzi that they were attempting to avoid had discovered their ruse and were following them.
Henri Paul increased his speed and headed toward the Place De l’Alma tunnel. At the entrance of the tunnel, a mere three minutes after they had left the hotel, Henri lost control of the vehicle. The tunnel itself was quite narrow, with only two lanes. Pillars supported the roof of the tunnel, with no guard rail in between, making it particularly dangerous for high speeds. The Mercedes collided into the thirteenth pillar, and spun into the wall. The car was a smoldering pile of metal when it finally came to a stop. The estimated speed of the vehicle upon impact was 100 kilometres per hour or 65-70 MPH.
It is believed that Dodi and Henri Paul died on impact. Trevor Reese-Jones and Diana were critically injured, but still alive when paramedics arrived. According to some reports, the photographers that had managed to follow them were mercilessly snapping pictures of her as she lay wounded. Eight of the paparazzi were arrested at the scene.
Jones was removed from the car and placed in an ambulance where treatment began. In France, emergency protocol is to treat at the scene and then transport to the hospital. Diana was stuck in the mangled vehicle, and had to be eased out. It took until 1:00 A.M. to get her removed from the car, upon which she went into cardiac arrest. After getting her heart beating again, paramedics got her into the ambulance at 1:18 A.M., where it was said they continued to work on her. They began transport to the hospital at 1:41 A.M. and got to the hospital at 2:06 A.M. Efforts to save her were in vain, and the People’s Princess left this world at 4:00 A.M. on August 31, 1997.
Diana’s death shocked the world. At 36, she had been divorced from Charles, Prince of Wales for some time and was finally beginning a life free of the constraints of the royal family. Her funeral procession was one of a full royal, although she had given up all rights to the crown when her divorce from Charles became final. People surrounded the Abbey where her funeral was held and the cloud of grief was heavy in the air.
Although the funeral was with all honors bestowed, the reaction of the royal family, especially the Queen was considered by many to be cold and remote. Rather than come back to London from their Balmoral Castle retreat, they chose to remain, apparently to grieve in private. Although they did eventually see the wisdom in coming back to Buckingham Palace and accepting condolences from the people, one must understand that there were two young sons involved here. The death of their mother visibly shook Princes William and Harry to the core. Their mother was the light of their lives and she had just been taken from them. It can certainly be understood that the family would need to take some time to themselves. However, not everyone saw it this way, and the family were highly criticized for it.
There are many who feel that it was more than a tragic loss. Nearly from the moment the world learned of her death the conspiracy theories have abounded. Rumors of possible plots, assassination, and even the ones who believe she did not die at all that day are speculated upon even thirteen years after her death.
The official explanation for the death of Princess Diana is as follows: The driver, Henri Paul, was intoxicated as well as having antidepressants in his system and lost control of the Mercedes-Benz during a high speed chase from newspaper reporters in the Pont de l’Alma tunnel. The Princess then suffered from cardiac arrest and upon arriving at the hospital, had injuries and internal bleeding too severe to recover from.
Was it really that simple? Could someone as young and vital as Diana be taken by a careless drunk driving accident? If it were anyone other than Diana, the answer would probably be yes. However, there were indications by the Princess herself that she felt threatened, especially after the safety net of her marriage to Charles had been severed.
The senior Fayed has also been a loud voice in favor of an assassination attempt. He believes that the “paparazzi” that had been chasing Dodi and Diana’s car that night were actually hired assassins, and the story of the news hounds chasing them was merely a ruse to divert suspicion from the real agenda. He has also asserted the possibility that Diana may have been pregnant by Dodi, and believed the royal family wanted that issue to “disappear” as well. Her efforts to ban the landmines were believed to be against what the British government wanted, as it had the potential to damage the international trade industry.
Without a doubt, there are discrepencies in the reported events following the accident. The first reports that came in said that the car had been going almost 200 kilometres per mile (120 mph) upon impact. This was later revised to say that the speed was closer to 100 kilometres per hour (70 mph). Henri Paul was said to have alcohol and antidepressants in his system, however the video surveillance at the hotel shows an upright Paul who appears to be in full control of his faculties. Investigation reports also mention another vehicle that collided with the Mercedes, but no driver or other car was ever found.
An inquest carried out by French officials took 18 months and concluded that the accident was the sole responsibility of Henri Paul for being under the influence. Eight of the paparazzi on the scene were arrested and investigated for failing to assist at an accident scene and for manslaughter. They were cleared of any wrongdoing during this inquest. Many thought that this would be the end of the speculation of what happened to Diana. However, the suspicions were not over, and one person even came forward to say that the Princess herself had feared a plot against her.
According her former butler, Paul Burrell, Diana had confided in him about a possiblities of the royal family conspiring against her. In a letter that was allegedly from Diana, Mr. Burrell tells the story of a frightened woman who had been warned by insiders that she must be “discreet” even when at home. This insider also told her that her home had been bugged and she was being carefully watched by members of an elite (and often denied) agency of the Secret Service called M16.
It is believed that all intelligence agencies have inner operations whose identities remain private in the interests of “national security”. It is thought by some, including Mohammed Fayed, the father of Dodi Fayed, that her relationship and the possible outcome of marriage to an Egyptian Muslim presented a problem for Diana’s role as mother to the heir apparent of the Crown. The insider, according to Burrell was a former agent of the British Secret Service. In the letter written to Burrell, she mentions that she is terrified that her life is in danger and that she suspected an automobile accident was being planned. She had been told by her informant that all eyes and ears were on her, and Diana believed one of the motivations was so that Charles could marry again without having to acknowledge her role as William and Harry’s mother. Less than a year later, she was dead.
Interestingly enough, in 2002 when Burrell was arrested for stealing from the estate of Diana, the crime was brushed under the rug rather quickly. Burrell asserted that the Queen herself had interfered and stopped the investigation from going any further. This led to more speculation, especially when Burrell made the letter public the following year. People wondered, had the Queen smoothed over Burrell’s charges in an attempt to silence him on anything he might know? If that was the intent, it didn’t work. It was largely due to Burrell’s information and Fayed’s insistance that an inquest into the accident was conducted by the British authorities.
For many years, the official explanation of Diana’s death stood without question, outside of the conspiracy theories. However, the noises being made by those who insisted that M16 was involved somehow came to a head in January of 2004. It was then that the subject of investigating M16’s involvement was first broached by Michael Burgess, the Coroner of the Queen’s house. Lord Stevens, the Police Commissioner headed up the investigation into these allegations. This became known as Operation Paget. This operation took more than three years to complete in gathering evidence before it went before the Coroner on October 2, 2007. The official inquest took just over seven months to review the findings. On April 7, 2008, it was once again ruled that the accident had been caused by Henri Paul with the acknowledgment that the paparazzi had been responsible for beginning the high speed chase.
It has often been criticized that the time and money spent on the investigation, the letter that showed what distress Diana was in, and the general secrecy that surround dynasties and governments all led to nothing conclusive. To be fair, the investigation was thorough in its attempts to find out what really happened. They examined hundreds of pictures that had not been released to the public that showed the extent of Diana’s injuries. They ruled out the possibility that she was pregnant at the time of her death. The rumors of her possible engagement to Dodi were unfounded, and many of her friends and family actually testified that she was not over her previous romance with a doctor. Dodi was someone whose company Diana enjoyed, but the truth is, there is no real evidence to show that their relationship was heading toward matrimony. The only one who continued to insist there was an imminent engagement was Mohammed Fayed.
Even so, one might just be willing to say that it was a sad random act that makes no sense. However, there are still discrepancies that have never been properly addressed. One important note is that the United Kingdom requires an inquest immediately when a person has a sudden or unexplained death. This was not done for Diana until 2007, ten years after her death and nine years after the French investigation was done. The timelines on many things didn’t match, although this can be attributed to faulty eyewitness testimony. The fact that Henri Paul appears completely sober and in good form just minutes before entering the car. There were British intelligence agents in Paris at the time of her death, supposedly on “classified” business. All of these points were seemingly “insignificant” and ruled out. The official explanation stood.
Other conspiracy theories have come and gone with Diana, one of which is that she faked her death and had plastic surgery so she could live her life in obscurity. It was even suggested that she had taken a role in the royal household in disguise, to remain with her sons. However, everything about Diana’s character speaks against this scenario. Her sons were the world to her, and the Diana that the people knew and loved would not have put them through that pain.
It has been thirteen years this month that Diana left this world behind. As in life, she continues to fascinate us, and each year England remembers their “rose”, playing Elton John’s rewritten version of “Candle In The Wind” and wondering how something so horrible could go unpunished.
The questions about her death and the involvement of the family that she never trusted will remain, because so many questions will never be answered.
Goodbye England’s Rose…may you rest in peace.
By Angela Sangster 2010 BestOfAllTopics.com