In the last weeks of her life, Princess Diana fell in love with businessman Dodi Al-Fayed – so the legend goes. The princess’s former butler, her ex-private secretary and a model paint a different picture.
It is July 1997. Princess Diana, 36, and her sons Prince William, 15, and Prince Harry, 12, are vacationing in a villa on the Côte d’Azur. This was made possible by the owner of the London luxury department store “Harrods”, Mohammed Al-Fayed, 68. For years he has been wooing Diana with gifts and attention, and has invited her several times – without success. But this summer is different. Thanks to amenities such as strict security measures, own staff and a yacht named Jonikal, the vacation option was irresistible for the princess, writes ex-butler Paul Burrell (now 62) in his book “In the service of my queen”. And Al-Fayed Senior had something else in store for Diana: he ordered his son to go to the south of France without her knowledge. And so, on July 15, 1997, the paths of Dodi Al-Fayed, 42, and the Princess of Wales crossed for the first time.
Is Princess Diana just a means to an end?
Royal experts agree that Mohammed Al-Fayed wants to gain an entrance to British high society and the royal family through Diana. That Dodi intends to marry US model Kelly Fisher, 30, in Los Angeles on August 9, does not concern the senior with his plan. On the contrary: In the course of a court hearing in 2007/2008 about Diana’s and Dodi’s deaths, he will testify that Fisher was a “gold digger”
Burrell notes in his book that Diana called him up to eight times a day from vacation. He keeps details about Dodi to himself, should they come up. However, he reveals that the princess was happy to be home on her return to London. When asked what it was like on the Côte d’Azur, she replied: “Wonderful. It was a great, completely normal vacation.”
But to the public it was more than that. Far more.
Love rumors about Princess Diana and Dodi Al-Fayed
“That summer reading the tabloids crept into a certain disbelief, because two names dominated all the headlines – Diana and Dodi. I was equally skeptical of journalists’ claims that this was’ the princess’s first serious relationship since her divorce ‘. Such one thought was just absurd, “clarifies Paul Burrell in his book. Diana had only just met Dodi and was never in a hurry to commit to a man. Confidants of the princess, like himself, would also have known that it was not Dodi but another man that the princess’s first love after Prince Charles had been. Burrell does not mention the name, but he is known: Dr. Hasnat Khan. Diana was in a relationship with the cardiac surgeon from 1995 to 1997.
The fronts are being clarified
In the last week of July 1997, Diana is said to have decided out of reason, according to Burrell, “to draw a line under their previous connection [zu Hasnat Khan] “As the press later reported, the doctor does not want to expose himself to the media hype as a man on the side of Diana. Dodi also ensures clear relationships with his girlfriend Kelly Fisher.
A second time, from July 31st to August 4th, the princess and the businessman are on vacation. Alone this time. Again on the yacht Jonikal, this time she sails from Corsica to Sardinia. Again Diana speaks regularly on the phone with Burrell. In one of the phone calls she tells him that Dodi made her a declaration of love. The butler wants to know what Diana replied: “I said: ‘Thanks for the compliment'”. In his book, Burrell claims that it was still too early for her to express her feelings in depth. Regarding a possible wedding, she is said to have said: “I want a new marriage like a rash.”
What Diana doesn’t know: Kelly Fisher, Dodi’s still-fiancée, is not far away. She is housed on a second yacht owned by the A-Fayed family. Fisher will later claim that Dodi secretly comes by for sex at night. In a recording of the last phone call with Dodi, which was included in writing in the trial of the fatal accident in Paris in 2008, Fisher even claims that Dodi did not like Diana.
More appearance than reality? “Dodi wasn’t ‘the one’ for Diana”
On August 7, 1997, the first kiss photo of Diana and Dodi appeared on the front page of the British newspaper “Sunday Mirror”. The media spectacle knows no more borders. The two are in love, one agrees. Burrell acknowledges that Diana found Dodi’s being “captivating and was enchanted by his charm and infected by his romantic enthusiasm.” Dodi is said to have spared no expense or effort to impress the 36-year-old: he gets a helicopter to fly around her, spontaneously invites her to dinner in Paris and gives her a gold watch set with diamonds. Nevertheless, Paul Burrell emphasizes: “
It is wrong and therefore does not do justice to the memory of the princess to lead the world to believe that the princess decided that Dodi was ‘the one’.
Michael Gibbins, Diana’s ex-private secretary, is of the same opinion. In an interview with “The Sun” in 2017, he said: “I think that she just had a nice summer at someone else’s expense, to be completely honest. If the summer had been over, everything would have dissolved.” Regarding Mohammed Al-Fayed’s claim that his wedding was planned, he said: “Absolutely not. I don’t believe it for a second either.”
The end comes in the “Pont de l’Alma” tunnel in Paris
Because a friend cancels a joint vacation in Italy because of a death, Princess Diana reschedules and flies to Nice on August 21. There she will be picked up by Dodi. The goal, once again: the love yacht Jonikal, which lies off Sardinia. The princess wants to be back home in London on August 30th. The day after, she awaits the return of Prince William and Prince Harry from vacation with Prince Charles. She is happy to finally see her sons again. But it turns out differently. Dodi has to go to Paris on business and wants Diana to accompany him. “Apparently she didn’t want to go with us, but Dodi was able to persuade her this time too,” writes Paul Burrell in his book “In the service of my queen”. On August 31, 1997, the couple’s car crashed while trying to escape paparazzi.
Source used: In the service of my queen “by Paul Burrell, full paperback edition published in 2004 by Knaur Taschenbuch Verlag