Dodi and Diana - Their Story
It was a love affair. Two people who had known each other for years but then came together during a summer that was all too brief.
On the day before they would have announced their engagement to marry, they were brutally killed in a tunnel beside the River Seine.
Dodi Fayed and Diana, Princess of Wales, were on their way from L’Hotel Ritz to his apartment, just off the Champs d’Elysses, near the Arc de Triomphe. Dodi’s butler had put a bottle of vintage champagne on ice.
On their bedside table was the engagement ring they had selected. Dodi had collected it from the jeweller during the afternoon, whilst Diana had her hair done at the Ritz salon. The ring was called “Dit moi oui”, “Tell me yes”.
The appalling tragedy that ended two young lives stunned the world. For two families, the Fayeds and the Spencers, the burden of grief continues. In his eulogy to his sister, at the funeral service in Westminster Abbey, Earl Spencer listed the ways in which Diana had illuminated the world in which she lived and gave thanks that, at the end of her life, she had at last found true personal happiness.
Diana and Dodi met long before the summer of 1997 and during their romance had more time together than people knew. When her sons were very young, the Princess went to Turnbull & Asser, the celebrated gentleman’s shirt maker in Jermyn Street, St James’s. She wished to order pyjamas and a selection of shirts for the Princes William and Harry.
There was a board meeting in progress when she entered Turnbull & Asser, but the Managing Director, Ken Williams, left the meeting to serve the Princess. “What are you doing upstairs, Ken?” she asked. “Come and see”, he replied. Diana joined the meeting. “Ah”, she said, “so this is how you waste your time”. The Princess was introduced to the directors, including Dodi.
They got on well and saw each other from time to time at film premieres and fashion shows. Dodi played polo at Smith’s Lawn, Windsor, and the Princess attended the tournament for the magnificent silver gilt Harrods Trophy.
Ever since her mother walked out when she was six years old, the Princess had been looking for a happy family life. She did not find this during 15 years within the House of Windsor. She had been reduced to misery and had come close to despair.
Spending time with the Fayed family in St. Tropez in July, 1997, she experienced the joy of waking up in a world where everyone loved each other. When Dodi went to the trouble of hiring a famous disco so that everyone could have a night out without media intrusion, the Princess was impressed not just by his thoughtfulness, but by his infinite kindness towards his four brothers and sisters and her own two sons.
After that first family holiday, the Princess told a friend that she and her sons were sitting in Kensington Palace, “suffering the most awful withdraw symptoms” because they had had “the best holiday of their lives”. Both Princes wrote gracious letters of thanks to Mr Al Fayed for the great time they had enjoyed.
The Princess and Dodi began their love affair soon after. It was weeks before the media found out and during that time they enjoyed a week end away in Paris, went to the screening of a new film at a private cinema in Soho, and enjoyed intimate dinners at his apartment in Park Lane, eating take-aways, sitting on the floor while watching videos.
The telephone line across Hyde Park from his apartment to hers at Kensington Palace was almost constantly busy. It was only when they embarked on a holiday together on board the yacht Jonikal, that their secret became public knowledge.
A media whirlwind raged around them after a picture taken at long range, purporting to show them embracing on the deck, was published under the headline, “The Kiss”. Undercover paparazzi had hired a boat and stalked the Jonikal for days before invading their private world in such a devastating way.
Despite the intense Press attention, and stories published with a reckless contempt for the truth, their relationship stood strong. The Princess disregarded the hurtful allegations about Dodi and blamed herself for putting him at the centre of the storm.
Dodi was undismayed. There was nothing more important to him from that moment on than his love for the Princess. He told friends that she was the love of his life and, despite the relentless media pressure, he had never been happier. The Princess confided in a woman, who knew her better than almost anyone, that in Dodi she had found the man she had always been seeking but never found: a strong, kind and loving man who fulfilled her completely.
The couple even flew to consult a fortune-teller in whom the Princess put her faith. What she told them must have been encouraging, because they then embarked on their third holiday together, and sadly their last.
The Pirncess’s affair with Dodi was the first she had had as a free woman. Other relationships that have come to light were when she was married or separated from Prince Charles, at a time when she was often miserable because of her husband’s flagrant affair with Camilla Parker Bowles.
It is inconceivable that the Princess would have continued with her love affair with Dodi had she not intended their relationship to become a permanent one. With two young sons at school, a mother as sensitive as Diana would not have exposed them to teasing were she not serious about Dodi as their future step-father. It was not as if there was anyone else on board Jonikal, just the crew, their staff and the two of them. There was no group of friends to disguise the nature of their relationship, a ruse used by the Duke of Windsor when he cruised with Mrs Simpson on the yacht Nahlin.
Dodi had bought the Julie Andrews house in Malibu, California, as their first home. The house is right on the beach. The Princess was thrilled that it had a dance studio where she could work out. She had told her butler Paul Burrell to get ready to move to Malibu and asked him if his wife Maria would come too. She was immediately working out which of the bedrooms her sons would occupy on their visits.
There would also be a home in Paris. They had visited the Windsor Villa in the Bois de Boulogne, restored by Dodi’s father to the splendour it had enjoyed when it was the final residence of the Duke and Duchess of Windsor.
The Princess wanted to be near England, so that her sons were close. But she did notwant to live in the UK permanently any more, because of media harassment. Ironically, she considered that in Paris she would be safer from prying lenses. She was enthusiastic about life in America because she had always had a good time there and felt the openhearted natives would give her and Dodi a chance to live their lives in happily and privately.
Like many other couples after an idyllic holiday in the Mediterranean, Dodi and Diana decided to say goodbye to their summer with a last night in Paris. From the moment they left the aircraft in Paris, their every step was dogged by the massed ranks of the paparazzi. There were confrontations. There was a high-speed chase.
For dinner, Dodi had booked Chez Benoit, a fashionable but cosy restaurant. They had to abandon their attempt to go there because of the harassment by pursuing photographers. So, they returned to L’Hotel Ritz. Even in the Espadon restaurant, there were prying eyes. And, so, they retired to a suite for dinner a deux.
Had they returned to London on the Sunday morning, as was planned, Diana would have told her sons about her engagement to Dodi before they returned to school for the autumn term. The Princess had hinted to reporters that the next thing she would do would surprise them. Now, she had a plan for her life ahead.
She and Dodi were to visit Hong Kong and then fly across the Pacific, stopping in the Hawaii Islands for a holiday on one of the outer islands. Then, they would go on to Los Angeles and the house at Malibu.
To the endless regret of those who knew and loved Dodi Fayed and Diana, Princess of Wales, it all ended in the Alma tunnel, in the early hours of a day that should have been such a propitious and happy one for them both.