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June 1997: Diana glows with happiness
On June 3, 1997, Princess Diana attended a performance of Swan Lake by the English National Ballet, which was the only non-humanitarian charity to which Diana devoted her time, according to Good Housekeeping. Diana had always been a great lover of the ballet, and as a child had wished to take that very stage. Later in June, Diana walked hand-in-hand with Mother Teresa through the streets of the Bronx in New York, and on June 30, the July 1997 edition of Vanity Fair came out with Diana looking relaxed and gorgeous on the cover. (Find out other surprising facts you may not know about Princess Diana.)
July 1997: A month of ups and downs
July began delightfully for Princess Diana, starting with her 36th birthday, which she celebrated by attending a party at the Tate Gallery, where she was serenaded by Prince Harry and a group of his classmates singing “Happy Birthday.” But later that month saw the end of Diana’s relationship with Pakistani surgeon and cardiologist, Hasnat Khan, who Diana had wanted to marry, according to People. That same month, Diana’s former husband, Prince Charles, threw a lavish party for Camilla Parker Bowles, with whom he was now openly engaged in a romantic relationship. (Find out what really happened between Prince Charles and Princess Diana.)
In an effort to cheer herself up, Diana accepted the invitation of billionaire department store-owner, Mohamed Al-Fayed, to join his family for a beach vacation in Saint Tropez. It was there that Diana became romantically involved with Al-Fayed’s son, Dodi, whom she had met for the first time a decade earlier.
August 1997: A new romance and continued devotion to charity
“Leaving behind speculation about a new romance, Princess Diana…took her crusade against land mines to Bosnia,” CNN reported on Aug. 8, 1997. Later in the month, Diana returned to the South of France in August to spend more time with Dodi, this time without her sons. It was during this holiday that she was captured kissing Dodi in a photograph that made headlines worldwide. Some believe the photograph had been staged to make Khan jealous.
Aug. 30, 1997: The wheels are unwittingly set in motion
On Aug. 30, Diana and Dodi flew to Paris where they spent time at the Ritz (owned by Dodi’s father) and tried to eat dinner at two different restaurants before the incessant hounding of paparazzi sent the pair in search of refuge.
Aug. 31, 1997: The final hours
At 12:20 a.m. (Paris time), Diana and Dodi leave the Ritz via its rear entrance and enter a black Mercedes S280 driven by Ritz security employee Henri Paul. The car speeds away from the hotel, but within minutes, at 12:23 a.m., collides with a concrete pillar in the Pont de l’Alma tunnel.
Dodi is killed instantly, as is Paul. Diana is extracted from the car using an electric chainsaw and rushed to Pitié-Salpétrière Hospital. During the drive to the hospital, her heart stops, but she’s revived using CPR and a defibrillator. At the hospital, Diana undergoes surgery but is pronounced dead at 4:00 a.m. (These were Princess Diana’s last words before she died.)
The only survivor of the car crash is Trevor Rees-Jones, the man appointed as Diana and Dodi’s bodyguard for the drive; he was the only one wearing a seat belt. It was later determined that Paul’s blood alcohol level was more than three times France’s legal limit.
Princess Diana left behind not only a pair of heartbroken princes but also a heartbroken world.
Originally published as How Princess Diana Really Spent the Final Weeks of Her Life on ReadersDigest.com.