10 Conspiracy Theories That Still Surround Princess Diana’s Death
Was the tragic car accident really an accident?
Why all the theories?
Here’s what we know: On August 31, 1997, a car crashed in the Alma tunnel in Paris. The driver was speeding and had high levels of alcohol in his system. Princess Diana was proclaimed dead less than four hours later. Her partner and the driver didn’t survive either. It sounds like a cut and dry drunk driving accident, but some people—notably the father of Diana’s boyfriend, who also died in the crash—have questioned whether it really was an "accident." Enough conspiracy theories started circulating that London’s Metropolitan Police did a full investigation into the claims and published their findings in Operation Paget. This is the truth behind the rumors.
Charles couldn’t remarry if Diana was still alive
Diana seemed to have an eerie premonition about her own demise. After separating from Prince Charles, she sent a note to her butler with a disconcertingly accurate prediction. “I am sitting here at my desk today in October, longing for someone to hug me and encourage me to keep strong and hold my head high. This particular phase in my life is the most dangerous—[someone] is planning ‘an accident’ in my car, brake failure and serious head injury in order to make the path clear for him to marry,” she wrote. That’s where some media end her frightened words, but she goes on to say he wants to marry a woman named Tiggy and that Camilla is “nothing but a decoy”—which doesn’t match up with the fact that Charles did end up marrying Camilla Parker Bowles. The butler also later said the media had taken too much stock on the note, which had seemed to be a passing thought for Princess Di when she was feeling anxiety. Learn more about how Princess Diana predicted her own tragic end.
The royal family didn’t approve of her then-boyfriend
Dodi Fayed, Diana’s boyfriend and the son of an Egyptian billionaire, was also a victim of the car crash. Rumors—mostly from Fayed’s father, Mohamed Al Fayed—were circulating that Diana was pregnant with Fayed’s baby and that the couple planned to get engaged soon. Some claimed the royal family didn’t want the mother of an heir to the throne, Prince William, to be married to a Muslim. Operation Paget found that Dodi Fayed hadn’t bought an engagement ring as some had claimed or that Diana was expecting a proposal. What's more, blood tests indicated that Diana wasn’t pregnant at the time of her death. Find out what Prince William and Prince Harry inherited after Princess Diana died.
French doctors hid Diana’s pregnancy
Some people just weren’t convinced by the negative pregnancy tests. Doctors had started the embalming process surprisingly quickly, which would have made a urine pregnancy test out of the question or created an excuse to claim it was a false positive. The thing is, the timing of the embalming was nothing out of the ordinary. Diana's injuries were consistent with the cause of death, so doctors didn’t see any reason to delay. Plus, it isn't standard to give deceased women pregnancy tests, so the fact that they hadn’t taken a urine sample was nothing unusual. This is how Princess Diana spent the final weeks of her life.
Diana’s driver was an informant for the secret service
Former MI6 officer Richard Tomlinson spread a rumor that he’d seen intelligence files for an assassination of a foreign politician in Paris that had an “eerie similarity” to Diana’s deadly crash, leading to rumors that the driver, Henri Paul, was in on the scheme and was feeding information to MI6. But Tomlinson also happened to have been let go from MI6 for leaking secrets and was famous for trying to ruin the organization’s reputation. He also never used Paul’s name in connection to the accident. Don't miss these 20 rarely seen photos of Princess Diana.
The secret service led Diana’s car to the tunnel, then blinded the driver
Diana’s driver followed the usual route most of the way from the Ritz hotel to her boyfriend’s apartment, but took a strange diversion past one expected turn. Some people suspect the entrance to the slip-road most drivers would have taken was purposely blocked by MI6, forcing Paul to head to a tunnel instead. When the car arrived, a bright light supposedly flashed, blinding the driver so he would swerve and crash, and another vehicle fled the scene. But later investigations found that Diana’s car would have been driving too fast to go down that first slip-road regardless, so it’s unlikely that the driver suddenly had to choose another path. The rest of the eye-witness accounts didn’t conclude which other vehicles were at the scene. Some people claimed they saw one motorcycle, others saw six; some people saw a black car race away, others remembered a white one. In any case, a car driving by an accident without stopping isn't enough to warrant claims of foul play.
The U.S. government was watching Diana
As if rumors about MI6’s involvement in the tragedy weren’t enough, conspiracy theorists also like to add that the American government had a hand in her death. The story is that the CIA and National Security Agency were tracking Diana’s calls and had 39 documents related to the princess. In fact, the CIA admitted it did have 1,054 pages worth of information about her—but it also said none of those documents were related to the crash. The NSA had intercepted one of Diana’s calls—but that call happened to be to the Brazilian Ambassador’s wife, who was the more likely target. Other references to her name seemed to have been in normal conversation. You won't want to miss the secret changes to Princess Diana's will that were made against her wishes.
The driver wasn’t actually drunk
Official reports say that Paul crashed because he was drunk behind the wheel—but some claim that was just a decoy. The samples used in forensic tests, theorists claim, actually belonged to a suicide victim and were used to frame Paul. But toxicologists tested four different samples, and all suggested that Paul’s blood-alcohol levels were three times the legal limit in France—and there was nothing to suggest that the samples didn’t come from Paul’s body.
Diana wasn’t given the medical treatment that could have saved her
The ambulance carrying Princess Diana, who was still alive at the time, passed one hospital without stopping on its way to another hospital farther away from the scene of the crash. Critics claimed that seemed fishy, especially because she’d been kept at the scene for so long. While treating her on-location before getting to the hospital is admittedly different than Brits or Americans might expect, it was common practice in Paris. French paramedics would treat victims as much as they could before moving them, rather than getting to the hospital ASAP. As for the first hospital the ambulance passed? It wasn’t equipped to deal with Diana’s injuries. Even taking the shoulda-woulda-coulda’s into account, nothing could have been done to save Diana, the Operation Paget report concluded. Find out what Princess Diana's last words were.
The bodyguard knew there was a plan to kill Diana
Diana, her partner, and the driver might all have died in the crash, but there was one survivor: Trevor Rees-Jones, bodyguard to Dodi Fayed. Fayed’s father claimed that Rees-Jones knew the crash was premeditated and did nothing to stop it. He supposedly even agreed to cover up details after the fact because the secret service threatened to kill him if he revealed their plot. Rees-Jones did receive some threatening calls and letters after the tragedy, but he reported them to the police and didn’t seem particularly concerned. He still stands by his account in his book, The Bodyguard’s Story.