The glamorous life and legacy of Diana, Princess of Wales, has fascinated the public for decades. As the first wife of Prince Charles and mother to William and Harry, she captured everyone's hearts and minds with her charming persona and keen fashion sense.
Diana was also one of the first royals to speak candidly about her own mental health struggles and eating disorder on an international stage, and quickly became known as the "People's Princess." Her tragic early death, however, has sparked continued interest for more than two decades, from countless documentaries, to books, media coverage, and even a new opera.
This year, on the 25th anniversary of her death, an HBO documentary, The Princess, explored Diana's life in the public eye using archival audio and video recordings to paint a picture of the toxic nature of her constant media exposure and the events leading up to her death. And soon, The Crown's sixth, much-anticipated season will touch on Diana's death, too, but the show will notably not show the crash itself. A Netflix spokesperson confirmed to The Sun that “the exact moment of the crash impact will not be shown,” Marie Claire said. Season 5, which just dropped on Netflix, ends just weeks before her death in 1997.
When news broke that the beloved princess and young mother was dead, it completely rocked the world. And while you have probably heard some things about her death, it's been 25 years now, and you may be fuzzy on the details. Here’s what you need to know.
When did Princess Diana die?
Princess Diana died on August 31, 1997.
How did she die?
Diana died in a high-speed car accident.
Shortly after midnight, a Mercedes-Benz left the Ritz hotel in Paris carrying the princess and her boyfriend, Dodi Al Fayed, an Egyptian film producer. (Diana and Charles had divorced in 1996 after four years of separation). The car, which was driving at least 60 miles per hour, crashed into a pillar in an underpass by the Seine River, per BBC and the Associated Press.
Diana, Dodi, and their driver, Henri Paul, all died as a result of the crash. Toxicology reports later showed that Henri had a severely elevated blood alcohol level, per CNN.
Before the crash, paparazzi had also been aggressively following the car, and the accident raised a lot of questions about the price of celebrity and the extreme media exposure Diana endured while she was alive.
The paparazzi were blamed for the accident at first, but in 1999, a French judge said the fault lay with Paul due to his elevated blood alcohol level and the prescription drugs in his system, per Britannica.
Where did she die?
Princess Diana died in Paris, according to CNN. The princess was still alive after the crash and she was taken to Pitié Salpêtrière hospital, where she succumbed to her injuries at 4:53 a.m. on August 31, according to The Independent.
Who else died in the car?
Diana’s boyfriend, Dodi Al Fayed, and their driver, Henri Paul, also died in the crash, per CNN. The only survivor of the crash was Trevor Rees-Jones, who was Dodi’s bodyguard. He was left in a coma for 10 days but is now the global head of security for AstraZeneca, according to the Daily Mail.
While Dodi and Henri were killed instantly, Diana was alive when emergency services arrived on scene, BBC reported. She died the next morning at the hospital.
How old was Diana when she died?
Diana was just 36 when she died. She left behind her two sons, Prince William, 15, and Prince Harry, 12.
What was Diana’s official cause of death and what injuries did she have?
Diana suffered several injuries in the crash. She had a concussion, broken arm and a cut to her thigh, according to United Press International.
But her most lethal injuries were severe chest wounds. She had a tear to her left pulmonary vein that caused internal bleeding, The Independent reported. Her heart had stopped beating, and despite surgery, it could not be restarted.
What were Diana’s last words?
French firefighter Xavier Gourmelon told The Sun that he and his colleagues were the first to arrive on the scene—and they didn’t realize who it was in the car at first.
Before Diana was removed from the car, Xavier claims that she said, “My God, what’s happened?” She then went into cardiac arrest on a stretcher.
Xavier gave her CPR and said she seemed stable when she left in the ambulance.
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