Princess Diana's Death: How It Happened, Conspiracy Theories, And The Aftermath

By | August 28, 2020

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Diana's coffin, draped in the royal standard with an ermine border, borne through the streets of London on its way to Westminster Abbey. (Paddy Briggs/Wikimedia Commons)

Her royal subjects thought her life was a fairy tale, but Princess Diana was trapped in a nightmare. Behind the glitz and glamour, she struggled to maintain her marriage to a man who didn't love her while raising two children and supporting a variety of noble causes. Following her divorce from Charles and extraction from the royal family, it looked like Diana was going to get the life she deserved, but only a year later, on August 31, 1997, she was dead. In the decades following her death in the Pont de l'Alma tunnel in Paris, questions have been raised, conspiracies have been concocted, and the world has become a much darker place.

Her Majesty's Stormy Marriage

On July 29, 1981, Diana Frances Spencer became Diana, Princess of Wales. She married Prince Charles, the heir apparent, after a brief engagement that saw the world fawn over her. How could we not? Diana was gorgeous and kind, and in interviews, she seemed to be just as gobsmacked by her own fairy tale as everyone else.

Behind the scenes, however, things weren't all they were cracked up to be. Diana was the third wheel in her own marriage, the other woman to Camilla Parker Bowles, an ex-girlfriend from Charles's youth whom he had never stopped loving. By 1989, Diana became aware of Charles and Camilla's ongoing affair, but it's likely that they had never stopped seeing each other. As her marriage fell apart at the seams, however, Diana's star was rising among people across the Western world. She performed extensive charity work, acting as a patron for dozens of organizations while working to destigmatize HIV and AIDS.

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Princess Diana in 1995. (Nick Parfjonov/Wikimedia Commons)

Diana's Final Years

In 1995, it became abundantly clear that Charles and Diana's relationship was more about keeping up appearances than anything resembling love. While speaking with Martin Bashir on the BBC's Panorama, Diana revealed to the world her struggles with bulimia, self harm, and the ongoing disaster that was her relationship with Charles and Camilla Parker Bowles. The interview was the first public acknowledgement that life in the royal family wasn't ideal and caused so much bad blood between Diana and Charles that Queen Elizabeth had to intervene and ask the pair to call it. Their divorce was finalized on August 28, 1996 and left Diana with a £17 million settlement.

With all the money she could ever need and freedom from the restrictions of the royal family, she devoted herself to her charity work, but she continued to be hounded by the paparazziShe was photographed constantly and connected to a few different eligible bachelors until she fell for Dodi Al-Fayed, an Egyptian film producer and son of billionaire Mohamed Al-Fayed. As she grew closer to Al-Fayed, she introduced him to her sons, William and Harry, and even brought the boys to stay with her at Al-Fayed's 30-bedroom villa, Castle St. Therese. When the summer came to an end, the couple traveled to Paris on August 30.