What happened the night Princess Diana died?

The sixth and final series of the Netflix prestige drama series The crownwhich chronicles the life and times of the British royal family from the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II to the present, will begin airing in two installments from November 16.

One of the events to be replayed in the series' final episodes will be Princess Diana's tragic death in a Paris car crash in the early hours of Sunday, August 31, 1997, executive producer Suzanne Mackie promised audiences at the Edinburgh Television Festival. in August he would be treated with a treat.

“The show might be big and loud, but we're not. We are thinking people and we are sensitive people,” he said. “There's been a very, very careful, long, long, long discussion about how we do it — and I hope, you know, the audience will judge it in the end, but I think it's been meticulously, carefully recreated.”

Long a figure of frenzied interest in the British tabloid media for her beauty and the acrimonious nature of her divorce from the Prince of Wales, now King Charles III, Diana was just 36 when she, her boyfriend Dodi Fayed and the chauffeur Henri Paul were killed when their Mercedes-Benz, being chased by paparazzi, crashed into the Pont de l'Alma tunnel in the French capital 26 years ago.

The accident shocked the world and led to an almost unprecedented outpouring of public grief, but has since become the subject of a series of ludicrous conspiracy theories.

The following is a brief overview of the established facts of the case.

Before the crash, Diana and Fayed – an Egyptian film producer and son of prominent businessman Mohamed al-Fayed, who died in August this year – had spent nine days touring the Mediterranean on the latter's private yacht Jonikal.

On their way back to London after their holiday, the couple had flown from Olbia Airport in Sardinia on Saturday August 30 and arrived at Le Bourget Airport in Paris, where they checked into the Hotel Ritz Paris, owned by Fayed's father. From there, they intended to visit al-Fayed at his nearby private apartment on Rue Arsene Houssaye, near the Champs-Élysées.

Before they could leave the hotel, a group of press photographers had already gathered outside on Place Vendome, prompting a decoy vehicle to be dispatched in the hope of luring them away. Many took the bait and set off to hunt the dummy, but others stayed, unconvinced by the ruse and determined to secure a lucrative image of the couple that they could sell to the papers.

(John Stillwell/PA)

Paul, the Ritz's deputy head of security, had meanwhile been tasked with ushering the couple out of the hotel's back exit and into the apartment in an armored Mercedes S 280 Sedan.

They set off, along with bodyguard Trevor Rees-Jones, at about 0.20am. along Rue Cambon, with Paul and Rees-Jones sitting at the front and Diana and Dodi at the back. None of the four were wearing seat belts.

The Mercedes crossed the Place de la Concorde and then proceeded along the Cours la Reine and Cours Albert 1er – the embankment along the right bank of the Seine – before entering the Place de l'Alma underpass.

According to eyewitnesses, the car was “overwhelmed” by paparazzi as it entered the tunnel, with Paul driving at 65mph, more than twice the 30mph speed limit in place on the road, as he attempted to avoid type pursuit.

At 0.23am, the driver lost control of the car, collided with a white Fiat Uno and drifted into the left lane of the dual carriageway before colliding with the tunnel's 13th concrete support pillar.

Of the pursuing photographers, some tried to come to the aid of the victims, while others took gruesome pictures of the wreckage. Police arrived at the scene at 0.30am, and eventually, nine people would be arrested and charged with manslaughter for their involvement in the incident. However, a French judge cleared them of any wrongdoing in 1999, as did a Scotland Yard investigation in 2006.

Both Henri Paul and Dodi Fayed were found dead at the scene. The driver's blood alcohol level would later prove to be around 3.5 times the legal limit and he would eventually accept much of the blame for what had happened.

Trevor Rees-Jones was still conscious but was found to have suffered multiple serious facial injuries and a contusion to the head. He would be the only survivor, but he was left with no memory of what had happened.

Two women look at portraits of Princess Diana and other memorabilia displayed at the gates of Kensington Palace

(AP)

As for the princess, she appeared at first glance to be unharmed and still conscious, but apparently in extreme shock, according to Frederic Mailliez, an off-duty doctor who happened to be one of the first on the scene and who would Later recall the experience in the Channel 4 documentary Diana: The Martyrs in the Tunnel (2007).

Paramedics sedated Diana and removed her from the car, treated her for cardiac arrest and took her to Pitie-Salpetriere Hospital, where she arrived at 2.06am. Here, it was discovered that her heart had been dislodged by the impact and displaced to the right side of her chest, which had torn the upper left pulmonary vein and the pericardium. He died at 3am and the news was announced to the world's media at a press conference three hours later by anesthesiologist Bruno Riou.

Charles, Diana's ex-husband, arrived at the hospital at 5pm that day in the company of her grieving sisters, Lady Sarah McCorquodall and Lady Jane Fellowes, and French President Jacques Chirac. Charles would accompany her coffin home to RAF Northolt later that day, after which it was taken to Hammersmith and Fulham Mortuary in west London for a post-mortem examination.

Princes William and Harry at their mother's funeral

(AFP/Getty)

The national mourning that followed has been well documented, but it was truly one of the most astonishing moments in recent British history. Mourners queued for hours to lay flowers for the “People's Princess” in Kensington Gardens and at the gates of Buckingham Palace and sign their names in books of condolence across the country.

Some expressed anger at the Queen's apparent failure to recognize the public mood, but it was later revealed Her Majesty preferred to stay at Balmoral Castle to protect Princes William and Harry, still boys aged 15 and 12, believing their emotional well-being Existence should be her priority as they struggled to understand the loss of their loving mother.

Diana's funeral at Westminster Abbey on Saturday 6 September drew around 3 million mourners to the streets of London, while another 31.5 million watched the service on television at home. The global television audience was 2.5 billion, almost a third of the world's population, with the official ceremony translated into 44 languages. Sir Elton John's 1973 rendition of his song “Candle in the Wind”, reimagined in honor of his late friend, whom he called “England's rose”, would be released as a charity single and sell 33 million copies.

As an adult, Prince Harry has spoken out about the tragedy, reflecting in his recent memoir Backup (2023) about his need to see the Pont de l'Alma tunnel for himself and scolding the press in May this year after he and wife Meghan Markle were caught in a “near-disastrous” car chase in New York that was about “Extremely aggressive” paparazzi, suggesting they had narrowly avoided seeing history repeat itself.