Manchester Historian

Student newspaper for the University of Manchester's History Department

Wednesday 23rd August 2017 | Manchester, UK

The Death of Princess Diana

On August 31 1997, Diana, thePrincess of Wales, Dodi Fayed and the driver Henri Paul, were killed in a tragic car crash that shocked the world.

It is said that Diana is one of the most photographed women in history. It is through these glimpses of her life that the world came to know her. Her image, captured forever in millions of photographs, conveyed astylishwoman whose commitment to charity inspired many.

However, her life in the limelight was not easy. 15 years of marriage to Charles Prince of Wales endedin scandal and divorce. From her marriage, to her divorce and eventually, even her death, the paparazzi captured every moment.

While the public mourned, Diana’s death engendered frenzy of conspiracies. Suspicions were spouted out by various parties: was this more than the fault of a drunken driver? Had the paparazzi been too aggressive? What really happened? The public was encapsulatedby conspiracy.

Was this an assassination, not an accident? Was Dodi in fact Diana’s lover? Rumours that the Royal Family and secret serviceshad orchestrated the death of the two ‘lovers’ in order to prevent the marriage of an English Princess to an Egyptian Muslim spread.

Some of the most prominent and strong allegations came from Mohamed Al-Fayad, the father of Dodi. However, he was not alone. The Daily Expressalso disputedthe official version of events and in 2004, the Daily Mirror published a letter from Diana, in which she disclosed ‘my husband [Charles] is planning an accident in my car’.

However, Al-Fayad dropped his 10 year campaign after a decisive verdict from the 2007 British inquestfound that Henri Paul had committed an ‘unlawful killing’ and that no one else was responsible.

Although charges were dropped against the paparazzi, controversy spiralled when, in 2006, the Italian magazine Chi published photographs showing Diana amid the debris of the crash. At the time, her two sons, Prince William and Prince Harry, commented that they were ‘deeply saddened’by ‘such a low’ action. While Chi’s editor, Umberto Brindan argued these were ‘tender’ images of a ‘sleeping Princess’ and not ‘offensive to the memory of Princess Diana’.

Diana’s death has thrown up is a myriad of questions about the press and the right to privacy. Only this year, an open letter from the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, William and Kate, appealed to the paparazzi to give them and their two-year-old son privacy.

But the dead cannot speak out. Diana’s life and death will now be documented throughout time, public to all, with or without her consent.Is this an unfair intrusion, or will this preserve our memory of her as a sleeping princess?

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