Princess Diana was, arguably, the world’s favorite British royal. Already a lady before she married into the family, she became Diana, Princess of Wales after her marriage to Prince Charles in 1981. Even after their divorce, she was still regarded as a member of the royal family. However, her fame didn’t just come from her royal status.
She was known for her philanthropic and humanitarian endeavors, which captivated the hearts of people all over the world. Famously, she walked through an active minefield in Angola during her campaign to ban the manufacture and use of landmines, and helped de-stigmatize HIV-AIDS, showing that the disease couldn’t be spread from touch alone. Her life and work, however, were devastatingly cut short.
An accident in Paris
Diana was in Paris with her boyfriend Dodi Al-Fayed at the end of August 1997. Their relationship began after Diana’s divorce from Prince Charles was finalized, and they were harassed by the paparazzi regularly. On the 31st, the two of them had plans for a private, romantic dinner in the Imperial Suite at the Ritz Hotel. Their dinner only lasted 10 minutes because they were being harassed by other diners and the press.
They decided to head back to the apartment that Al-Fayed kept in Paris. In an effort to ditch the press, they used a decoy vehicle and extensive security, while the two of them escaped in a private car from the back entrance of the hotel. Only two minutes away from the hotel, the car crashed into a pillar in the Pont d’Alma tunnel. Al-Fayed and the driver were killed on impact.
Her last words
It wasn’t until 20 years after her death that Diana’s last words became known to the public. Sergeant Xavier Gourmelon led the team of firefighters that responded to the accident. While others on his team were responsible for tending to Al-Fayed, Gourmelon was left to look after Diana. He said that she spoke English, but he was, fortunately, able to understand what she said.
She asked, ‘”My God, what happened?” to which he responded by holding her hand and trying to calm her down. From the site of the accident to the hospital, she didn’t say anything else. Gourmelon had every reason to believe that she would survive the accident. He was able to get Diana to breathe again after chest compressions, saying, “It was a relief, of course, because as a first responder you want to save lives—and that’s what I thought I had done.”
Succumbed to her injuries
Despite Gourmelon’s hope for her outcome, Diana succumbed to internal injuries that she sustained in the crash, and was pronounced dead at the hospital a few hours after the accident. The official cause was listed as a severed pulmonary vein. Her death startled the world, and as news of the accident traveled, so did the global outpouring of grief.
Her funeral was held on September 6, 1997, at Westminster Abbey. Hundreds of thousands of people lined the streets for the funeral procession. An astounding 2.5 billion people watched the service from around the world. She was buried at her family estate, Althorp, in Northamptonshire.
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When he got up to speak, Lord Spencer, Diana’s brother, blamed the paparazzi for her death, saying she was the “most hunted person of the modern age.”