Princess Diana and Dodi Fayed were romantically linked before they were killed in a car crash on Aug. 31, 1997
Diana, who was divorced from then-Prince Charles and had just ended a two-year relationship with surgeon Hasnat Khan, was going into the summer as a single woman when she was romantically linked to Dodi, an Egyptian filmmaker, in July 1997. The pair spent time together in the south of France on a yacht owned by Dodi’s father (the billionaire businessman and then-owner of Harrods department store Mohamed Al Fayed) — and kicked off a whirlwind romance that became the obsession of the tabloid press.
“Diana was starting a new life. She had said, ‘I’m spreading my wings,’ ” royal biographer Judy Wade previously told PEOPLE.
As Diana and Dodi continued spending time together in August 1997, from yachting in the Mediterranean to entertaining at Dodi’s residences in London, the press attention surrounding the couple intensified. The heat from the paparazzi reached its peak when Diana and Dodi traveled to Paris on Aug. 30, 1997. In the early hours of Aug. 31, after leaving a romantic dinner at the Ritz Paris, Princess Diana and Dodi were killed in a car crash as they attempted to evade photographers.
From their first encounters to their devastating deaths, here is a complete timeline of Princess Diana and Dodi Fayed’s relationship.
1986: Princess Diana and Dodi Fayed meet at a polo match
Princess Diana and Dodi reportedly first crossed paths in 1986. According to The Independent, they met at a polo match when Dodi’s team played against Diana’s then-husband King Charles at Windsor Great Park. This interaction was later recreated on season 5 of The Crown, though some details were changed: On The Crown, Dodi’s father, Mohamed, sponsors the polo match in 1990 (not 1986) in an attempt to sit next to Queen Elizabeth. However, he ends up seated next to Diana instead, who smiles at Dodi — though the two do not speak in the episode.
The same year, both Diana and Dodi experienced strife in their individual relationships. Charles and Diana each began extramarital affairs in 1986: Charles confirmed in his authorized biography, The Prince of Wales, that he began his affair with Camilla Parker Bowles, while ex-army Major James Hewitt also claimed to have started a five-year affair with Princess Diana around the same time. Dodi, meanwhile, wed model Suzanne Gregard in 1986 — but divorced eight months later.
April 7, 1992: Princess Diana attends the London premiere of Dodi Fayed’s film Hook
In April 1992, Princess Diana attended the London premiere of Hook — which was executive produced by Dodi — with her sons, Prince William and Prince Harry. Jim Hart, a screenwriter for Hook, later told Vanity Fair that Dodi had noticed Princess Diana at the movie premiere.
“He had admired and revered her from afar,” Hart said. “He talked about her, what a great lady she was.”
December 9, 1992: Princess Diana and King Charles separate
Prime Minister John Major announced in December 1992 that Charles and Diana were separating. He read an official statement to the House of Commons, which stated: “It is announced from Buckingham Palace that, with regret, the Prince and Princess of Wales have decided to separate. Their Royal Highnesses have no plans to divorce and their constitutional positions are unaffected. This decision has been reached amicably, and they will both continue to participate fully in the upbringing of their children.”
September 1995: Princess Diana begins a secret relationship with Hasnat Khan
Diana met British-Pakistani heart surgeon Hasnat Khan on Sept. 1, 1995. The people’s princess was comforting her friend Oonagh Toffolo while her husband underwent heart surgery at Royal Brompton Hospital, and Khan was the attending surgeon who provided Toffolo with an update on the triple bypass surgery, Vanity Fair reported. About two weeks later, Diana and Khan found themselves alone in a hospital elevator — and he invited her to visit his aunt and uncle in Stratford-upon-Avon with him.
“I did not think for one minute that she would say yes, but I asked her if she would like to come with me,” Khan told the police in an interview following Diana’s death, per Vanity Fair. “I was very surprised when she said she would. After this, our friendship turned into a relationship.”
August 28, 1996: Princess Diana and King Charles officially divorce
After years of rumored marital strife and living separately, Diana and Charles finalized their divorce in August 1996. The terms of the divorce allowed for Diana to remain living at Kensington Palace and for the former couple to share custody of their two sons, Prince William and Prince Harry.
July 1997: Mohamed Al Fayed invites Princess Diana to vacation in the south of France
In the summer of 1997, Dodi’s father, Mohamed, extended an invitation to Diana and her sons, Prince William (who was 15 years old at the time) and Prince Harry (who was 12), to vacation at his villa in St. Tropez and cruise on his $32 million yacht, the Jonikal.
Around the same time, Diana and Khan ended their two-year relationship — though there are differing reports over the timing and who called it off. Royal biographer Wade previously told PEOPLE that Diana had “wanted to marry” Khan, but that he ended things because “he didn't want to be a walker to a famous woman.”
However, Khan told police following Diana’s death that she ended the relationship with him after vacationing on the Jonikal with the Fayeds.
“When Diana went to St. Tropez with Mr. Al Fayed, everything was fine between us,” Khan told police investigating her death, according to Vanity Fair. “After a few days, I felt something was wrong.”
Khan told police that, at the end of July 1997, Diana met him at Kensington Palace and told him “that it was all over between us.”
July 14, 1997: Mohamed Al Fayed invites Dodi Fayed to join Princess Diana on the Jonikal
Days after Princess Diana arrived in St. Tropez, Mohamed called for Dodi to join Diana and her sons on the Jonikal, according to Vanity Fair. At the time, Dodi was reportedly in Paris with his alleged fiancée Kelly Fisher.
Fisher claimed that she was flown to St. Tropez days after Dodi and boarded another yacht owned by Mohamed. Dodi allegedly yacht-hopped between the two, spending time with both Fisher and Princess Diana.
July 31, 1997: Princess Diana and Dodi Fayed return to the Jonikal
After spending time together on the Jonikal earlier in the month, Princess Diana and Dodi reportedly began a discreet romance, according to Wade. He started to send lavish gifts to Kensington Palace, including “a huge box of tropical fruit, a roomful of pink roses, a Cartier panther watch,” the royal biographer told PEOPLE.
“Dodi became Diana’s distraction,” she added.
So when Prince William and Prince Harry went to spend the month of August at Balmoral, Queen Elizabeth’s Scottish estate, with their father and grandparents, Princess Diana returned to the Jonikal with Dodi.
Diana and Dodi spent the next six days sailing in Sardinia aboard the Jonikal. During their cruise, the new couple were photographed embracing and kissing.
“Diana is besotted,” a source told PEOPLE at the time.
August 7, 1997: Princess Diana visits Dodi Fayed’s Park Lane apartment
After returning from Sardinia, Princess Diana spent time with Dodi at his lavish Park Lane apartment in London. Diana was spotted stepping out of a limo, wearing a figure-hugging blue dress, and entering the Fayed residence, where dinner was served on silver trays. She stayed at Dodi’s apartment until about 1 a.m. before flying to Bosnia the next day to campaign against landmines.
August 10, 1997: The Sunday Mirror publishes the first photos of Princess Diana and Dodi Fayed kissing
On Aug. 10, 1997, The Sunday Mirror ran one of Mario Brenna’s paparazzi photos of Princess Diana and Dodi embracing aboard the Jonikal — underneath the headline “The Kiss.” It marked the first tabloid photos of the two together and served as the unofficial confirmation of their romance.
“You only have to look at the sensual body language to know that they have found physical and spiritual fulfillment in each other,” The Sunday Mirror wrote about Princess Diana’s new relationship with Dodi.
August 15, 1997: Kelly Fisher sues Dodi Fayed for breach of contract
Days after The Sunday Mirror published photos of Dodi and Diana, Fisher hired attorney Gloria Allred and sued Dodi for breach of contract. In the lawsuit, she alleged she was supposed to marry Dodi on Aug. 9, 1997 — the day before The Sunday Mirror publication — and that he had violated their marriage agreement by leaving her for Princess Diana.
In the lawsuit, Fisher claimed that Dodi offered her $500,000 to ditch her modeling career to spend more time with him — but only paid her $60,000 and a $200,000 check that bounced. The lawsuit sought to recoup the remaining $440,000 she was promised, plus damages.
“Mr. Fayed needs to take responsibility for the woman that he ‘left at the altar’ and treated with such total disrespect,” Allred said during an August press conference while a tearful Fisher sat beside her. “He threw her love away in a callous way with no regard for her whatsoever.”
A representative for the Fayed family, however, claimed that Dodi and Fisher were never engaged, according to The Irish Times.
“We are content to leave it to the good sense of the British and American people to judge this development for what it is,” the Fayed family said in a statement.
August 23, 1997: Princess Diana and Dodi Fayed vacation again on the Jonikal
Princess Diana and Dodi returned to the south of France on Aug. 23, 1997, and the couple spent the next week aboard the Jonikal as it cruised throughout the Mediterranean. Their relationship, at this point, was constantly in the press — and paparazzi swirled around the yacht while Diana and Dodi vacationed.
Dodi’s father Mohamed would claim years later that, during this trip, Diana and Dodi visited the jeweler Alberto Repossi at his Monte Carlo store, according to an inquest into Diana’s death, per The Guardian. Mohamed alleged that the couple selected an engagement ring for Diana at Repossi’s Monte Carlo shop, which was then sent off to Italy to be resized. However, the validity of these claims has been disputed.
August 30, 1997: Princess Diana and Dodi Fayed fly to Paris
After their Mediterranean jaunt, Princess Diana and Dodi flew to Paris aboard the Fayed family’s private jet. From there, the couple made their way to the Ritz Paris, which, at the time, was owned by Dodi’s father. Dodi and Diana then traveled to Dodi’s Paris flat — but photographers were camped out at both the hotel and his residence.
Dodi and Diana originally had dinner reservations at the Paris restaurant Chez Benoit, but after learning that photographers and press were waiting outside the restaurant, they decided to cancel and return to the Ritz for dinner instead. The couple dined at the Ritz’s L’Espadon restaurant around 10:30 p.m. that evening.
“They looked like two love-struck teenagers,” an employee of the hotel later told PEOPLE about what would be their final dinner.
August 31, 1997: Princess Diana and Dodi Fayed are killed in a car crash
Around 12:15 a.m. on Aug. 31, 1997, Princess Diana and Dodi left the Ritz for Dodi’s Paris apartment. The couple sat in the backseat of a black Mercedes driven by Henri Paul, the Ritz’s assistant director of security. Trevor Rees-Jones, Dodi’s bodyguard, was in the front passenger seat.
The car was driven at high speeds in an attempt to evade the paparazzi that were tailing them. Then, tragedy struck: In the tunnel beside the Place de l’Alma, the car carrying Dodi and Diana crashed head-on into a concrete support column.
“There was this huge, violent, terrifying crash followed by the lone sound of a car horn,” Jerome Laumonier, who was near the crash site, later told PEOPLE.
Dodi, who was 42 at the time, and Paul were killed instantly. Princess Diana — who had sustained extensive injuries in the crash — was transported to Pitié-Salpêtrière Hospital, where she went into cardiac arrest and was pronounced dead at approximately 3 a.m. She was 36 years old.
September 5, 1997: Mohamed Al Fayed’s spokesman claims Princess Diana and Dodi Fayed exchanged gifts before they died
In a press conference held outside Harrods, Michael Cole, a spokesman for the Fayed family, revealed that Diana and Dodi had exchanged gifts just hours before they died on Aug. 31, 1997, per CNN.
According to Cole, Diana had gifted Dodi a pair of cufflinks that had belonged to her father, the late Earl Spencer, and a gold cigar cutter inscribed “With love from Diana." Dodi presented Diana with a small silver plaque inscribed with a poem he had written and a $205,000 diamond-encrusted ring that he had picked up that day from Repossi Jewelers in Paris.
“What that ring meant, we shall probably never know,” Cole said at the press conference, per BBC. “And if the planet lasts for another thousand years, I’m quite sure that people will continue to speculate about its significance.”
September 6, 1997: Princess Diana’s funeral is held
Princess Diana’s funeral was held at Westminster Abbey on Sept. 6, 1997. Millions of onlookers lined the streets and watched as her ex-husband King Charles and her two sons, Prince William and Prince Harry, marched solemnly behind her coffin.
Princess Diana’s brother, Charles Spencer, delivered a heart-wrenching eulogy at her funeral. In it, he condemned the paparazzi and the tabloid press for their treatment of his late sister — infamously calling her “the most hunted person of the modern age.”
Dodi, meanwhile, was laid to rest the same day he died, Aug. 31, 1997 (in keeping with Muslim traditions). A prayer service was held at the London Central Mosque and attended by 650 people before he was buried in Brookwood Cemetery.
“God took their souls to live together in Paradise,” Dodi’s father Mohamed said at the time.
February 12, 1998: Mohamed Al Fayed claims Princess Diana and Dodi Fayed's were not accidental
In February 1998, Mohamed gave an interview to The Mirror and made several explosive claims about his late son Dodi and Princess Diana — including that their deaths were not an accident.
“I believe in my heart 99.9% that it was not an accident,” he told The Mirror. “That car didn’t accidentally crash. There was a conspiracy. I will not rest until I have established exactly what happened."
April 12, 1998: A memorial to Princess Diana and Dodi Fayed is unveiled at Harrods
A memorial to Princess Diana and Dodi was unveiled at Harrods department store in 1998. It featured photos of the late couple, a lipstick-smudged wine glass from their last dinner at the Ritz in Paris and a ring said to have been purchased by Dodi the day before they died.
In 2005, Mohamed commissioned a second memorial to honor Diana and Dodi. The bronze statue, titled “Innocent Victims," depicted Dodi and Diana dancing in the waves of the Mediterranean beneath the wings of an albatross, which symbolized freedom and eternity.
April 2008: The official inquests into Princess Diana and Dodi Fayed’s deaths concludes
In April 2008 — more than 10 years after the tragic deaths of Princess Diana and Dodi — an official coroner’s inquest conducted over six months ruled that their deaths were the result of “grossly negligent driving,” The Guardian reported.
The jury cited the speed and erratic driving of both the Mercedes and the following vehicles, the driver Henri Paul’s intoxication and the fact that the deceased were not wearing seat belts as contributing factors. The inquest, however, did not find any proof to Mohamed’s claims that their killings were orchestrated by Britain’s M16 and ordered by Prince Philip — and Mohamed accepted that outcome.
“I am leaving the rest for God to get my revenge. But I am not doing anything any more,” Mohamed said, per BBC, following the inquest’s conclusions.
November 2023: Princess Diana and Dodi Fayed's romance is depicted in The Crown season 6
The final season of the Netflix series The Crown, which premieres on Nov. 16, focuses on the final weeks leading up to Princess Diana’s death, including her romance with Dodi. The trailer for the first part of season 6 was unveiled on Oct. 26, 2023, and featured clips of Elizabeth Debicki (who plays Princess Diana) and Khalid Abdalla (Dodi Fayed) dodging photographers.
For more People news, make sure to sign up for our newsletter!
Read the original article on People.