The Day Diana Died

The Day Diana Died

by Christopher Andersen, Polly Lee (Read by)

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"When I was born, I was unwanted. When I married Charles, I was unwanted. When I joined the Royal Family, I was unwanted. I want to be wanted." (Diana, Princess of Wales)

Where were you the day Diana died? Like the assassination of John F. Kennedy, the tragic death of the Princess of Wales on August 31, 1997, is one of the defining benchmarks in history - an event that touched each of us so profoundly we will never forget the moment we heard the news.  

Twenty years after the Paris car crash that ended Diana's life at age 36, the story of her remarkable life and tragic death still have the power to mesmerize. Following her storybook wedding to Prince Charles, she had evolved from "Shy Di" into the planet's most photographed, written-about, and talked-about woman - indeed, the most famous person in the world.   

For all Diana's global fame, much of the human drama that swirled around her death remained veiled in mystery and intrigue. Here, in the manner of his other 17 New York Times best sellers, Christopher Andersen draws upon important sources - many of whom are agreeing to speak for the first time - to re-create in vivid and often startling detail the events leading up to that fateful night in Paris. Among the many revelations:   

  • Important information about Diana's final moments alive, the accident itself - and her last words
  • Prince Charles's surprising reaction to the news of Diana's death - including his shock the first time he saw her body - the Queen's bizarre request, and a riveting account of how Prince William and Prince Harry coped with their shock and grief.
  • The broken romance that pushed Diana into the arms of Dodi Fayed, their curious relationship, and whether or not she truly planned to marry him.  
  • A behind-the-scenes account of the battle royal that raged between the Queen and Prince Charles in the days leading up to the funeral.  
  • Diana's spiritual quest, and the warnings that might have saved her.
  • Final answers to persistent rumors that Diana was pregnant at the time of the accident - and that she was the victim of a murder plot.
  • At the end, what Diana wanted for her sons, her vision of a future King William - and the American icon she most wanted him to emulate.

Diana was, in every sense of the word, larger than life - a force of nature that, as the Royal Family learned, could be neither dismissed nor ignored. A bittersweet saga of triumph, love, and loss, The Day Diana Died captures those last days when Diana's star never shone brighter - and evokes the beauty, grace, heartache, and compassion that made Diana one of the most compelling figures of our time.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781721378630
Publisher: Brilliance Audio
Publication date: 01/08/2019
Product dimensions: 5.25(w) x 6.75(h) x 0.50(d)

About the Author

Christopher Andersen is the critically acclaimed author of nineteen books that have been translated into more than twenty languages worldwide. A former contributing editor of Time and senior editor of People, Andersen has also written hundreds of articles for a wide range of publications, including Life magazine and The New York Times.

Read an Excerpt

The question you ask yourself afterwards is, did she know she was so loved?

Beatrice Humbert, chief nurse at Pitie-Salpetriere Hospital, Paris

We walked silently among the ocean of floral tributes. I could almost hear her voice in my ear: "Rosa, no, not all this! For me?" She never knew how much she was loved.

Rosa Monckton, Diana's closest friend

If anything ever happens to me, do you think they'll think of me as another Jackie Kennedy?

Diana, to royal milliner Philip Somerville

Sunday, August 31, 1997 9:25 A.M.

She looked down at the most famous face in the world. "It's not her," Beatrice Humbert thought to herself. "It isn't possible. I'm dreaming." For a moment Humbert, chief nurse at Paris's Pitie-Salpetriere Hospital, felt her knees begin to buckle and the room begin to swim as she desperately fought the overpowering urge to faint. Clad in her white hospital coat, the trim, businesslike Humbert looked every inch the seasoned professional that she was. And in a career that spanned three decades, Humbert had seen the mangled corpses of hundreds of accident victims. Yet nothing had prepared her for this. The nurse was gazing, she had to keep telling herself, at the lifeless body of the Princess of Wales.

From the moment she saw Diana lying there, beneath a white cotton sheet that had been pulled up to her bare shoulders, it struck Humbert how sad it was that the Princess looked "so all alone." Three hours earlier her body had been brought up from the basement operating room to the blue-walled second-floor room just above the main entrance to Pitie-Salpetriere's eight-story teal-green glass and cement Gaston Cordier Pavilion. Although this was the most modern section of the hospital, parts of which date back to the seventeenth century, Gaston Cordier had just undergone several months of extensive renovations. The blue-walled room above the entrance, chosen because hospital officials were told blue was Diana's favorite color, had been painted only three days before; the bracing smell still lingered in the air. There had been no need to inconvenience any other patients to make room for Diana; the wing had not been scheduled to reopen to patients until the following day, September1.

Humbert was soon joined by Jeanne Lecorcher, Pitie-Salpetriere's chief emergency nurse, and an ashen-faced Sir Michael Jay, Britain's ambassador to France.  Moments later Sylvia Jay walked in and stood at the foot of the bed, choking back tears. Humbert was somewhat surprised to notice that the ambassador's wife, who blew her nose into an Irish lace handkerchief, was already dressed from head to toe in black.

Thierry Meresse had been there when they first wheeled Diana, still clinging to life, into the operating room at 2:05 a.m. "At first I didn't dare look," said the hospital's thirty-six-year-old communications director. "I had a certain vision of what she should look like that I wanted to preserve in my mind. And I thought, this beautiful face is going to be horribly disfigured by such an awful accident." Hours later, when he finally did summon the courage to look at Diana, he was astounded to discover that "she looked entirely peaceful. Her face hadn't been marked at all, really. Just a little bruising, that's all."

At Pitie-Salpetriere, disbelief gradually began to yield to an overwhelming, soul-crushing sadness. "The way you see her on television," Humbert said, "with those big blue eyes and that marvelous smile, and then the big blue eyes were no longer there, nor was the marvelous smile. There was the closed, pallid face of a cadaver, that's all. It wasn't an expression of peace, or the absence of peace. It was as though, stupidly, I was waiting for a smile. And then I thought, we'll never see this smile again . . ."

Father Yves Clochard-Bossuet, who had worked for Air France until he joined the priesthood just five years earlier, had been trying to come to terms with that realization for hours. Short and balding at age forty-six, Pitie-Salpetriere's resident priest had been fast asleep in his apartment when he was jolted awake by a phone call at 3 a.m. "The emergency unit of the hospital told me someone very important needed the Last Rites," he later recalled. "When they said it was Princess Diana, I thought someone was playing a joke. I thought they were drunk." He slammed down the receiver and tried to get back to sleep. But, he said, "Something kept me awake."

When Father Clochard-Bossuet called back, hospital officials confirmed that Diana had been in a car crash with her Egyptian-born boyfriend, Dodi Fayed, Dodi's bodyguard Trevor Rees-Jones, and the car's driver, acting Ritz Hotel security chief Henri Paul. Dodi Fayed and Henri Paul, Clochard-Bossuet was told, had died on the scene. Rees-Jones had suffered multiple fractures and half of his face had been literally ripped away, but he was likely to survive. Diana was not.

The priest leapt out of bed and quickly dressed. Even as he fumbled with his clerical collar, Mohamed Al Fayed's helicopter was touching down at Paris's Le Bourget Airport. Dodi's controversial father, owner of Harrods department store in London as well as Paris's Ritz Hotel, had been at his baronial estate in Oxted, Surrey, when Ritz president Frank Klein called over two hours earlier with news of "a terrible accident." Dodi, Klein said, trying to find some way to soften the blow, had "passed away."

"An accident? Do you really think it was an accident?" Mohamed Al Fayed asked Klein. Within minutes, Dodi's father was aboard his Sikorsky S-76 heading for Paris. At Le Bourget, he was met by Alexander "Kes" Wingfield, one of his son's bodyguards, and by Dodi's regular chauffeur, Philippe Dourneau. Unaware that Dodi and Henri Paul had been taken directly from the site of the accident to the Paris morgue, Mohamed Al Fayed ordered Dourneau to take him to Pitie-Salpetriere, where Diana was still in surgery.

It seemed oddly fitting that the life of the Princess of Wales, whose compassionate nature led her to reach out to the disinherited, should have ended there. Founded in 1656 by Louis XIV to care for the poor and the insane, Pitie-Salpetriere (literally "Pity-Saltpeter") took its name from its charitable mission and from the saltpeter once used in arms production on the site. Much of the original seventeenth-century structure still stands--including the hospital's landmark Chapel of St. Louis with its distinctive octagon-shaped dome--in stark contrast to the modern Gaston Cordier wing where Diana was taken.

Mohamed Al Fayed reached the hospital at 3:50, and was met by Ambassador Jay and French Interior Minister Jean-Pierre Chevenement. "Mr. Al Fayed got there so quickly," Thierry Meresse said, "that we naturally assumed that he must have been in Paris when the accident occurred." Ten minutes later, at 4 a.m. Paris time, Diana was pronounced dead. "I could not believe it," Dodi's father said. "The situation was too desperate to take in."

Yet Al Fayed wasted no time waiting to pay his respects to Diana. Already all but convinced that Dodi and Diana had been assassinated, presumably by enemies of the Al Fayed family within the British Establishment, Mohamed moved swiftly to protect his interests. Employees of Al Fayed's far-flung empire, many of whom already suspected that their phone calls were bugged and their actions monitored, were now instructed under pain of immediate dismissal not to speak to anyone regarding Dodi and the Princess. In a move that angered hospital officials, Al Fayed also ordered that everything belonging to the Princess and Dodi be packed up immediately and shipped back to London along with their luggage. It was only then that he asked to be driven to the morgue to see the body of his son. Diana's body was still on the operating table when Al Fayed left the hospital.


On Wednesday, August 26th, on AOL welcomed Christopher Andersen, author of THE DAY DIANA DIED.

JainBN: Christopher Andersen is a former contributing editor of Time magazine and senior editor of People and is the author of 19 books, including JACK AND JACKIE and JACKIE AFTER JACK. His new book is THE DAY DIANA DIED. Mr. Andersen, so glad you could join us tonight in remembering Diana.

Christopher Andersen: My pleasure!

JainBN: Do you have any opening comments on this remarkable woman who is greatly missed?

Christopher Andersen: The word "unique" is overused, but in this place it applies. Diana was one-of-a-kind, and I don't think we'll see someone like her again.

Question: Do you place the blame for Diana's tragic death on the paparazzi?

Christopher Andersen: No. I interviewed more than 300 other sources, including Frederick Malliez, the first doctor on the scene and the man who treated Diana in the tunnel. He insisted that the paparazzi never interfered in Diana's treatment and kept their distance. As for the crash itself, as mundane as it sounds, it was a case of drunk driving. The car itself was also a major contributing factor, in my opinion.

Question: Toward the end of her life, Diana seemed to be moving from philanthropy to activism, endorsing causes even on issues that invited controversy, like the international ban on land mines. Were her politics undergoing radicalization?

Christopher Andersen: I really don't think so. But Diana did have a keen sense of right and wrong and how to use her unparalleled global name to correct, or at least alleviate, society's ills. She was emerging as a force to be reckoned with. British Prime Minister Tony Blair had discussed plans with her to make her Great Britain's unofficial ambassador for good.

Question: Were you distressed by the opportunistic commercial exploitation of Diana's death?

Christopher Andersen: Well, yes. Particularly when in Great Britain they used her image to sell [everything from] ceramic figurines to margarine.

Question: What was Prince Charles's reaction to the death of his ex-wife?

Christopher Andersen: This is one of the truly amazing revelations in my book. The nurses at the Paris hospital where Diana died told me that when they led him into the room where Diana's body was lying naked under a sheet, he froze by the side of the bed. Then his head snapped back as if, as one nurse put it, he had been "struck by an unseen force." Then he almost passed out. He was devastated -- truly destroyed -- by Diana's death.

Question: How did Diana change the popular conception in England of the monarchy and the royal family while she was alive?

Christopher Andersen: Diana's life constituted nothing less than a revolution within the royal family. She said that "nothing, nothing, could be done naturally by the royal family." But she had a way of "going straight to the heart," as another friend said. Her death changed Charles, her life shaped the destinies of William and Harry. But, unfortunately, I believe the rest of the royals remain unchanged. And that applies especially to the queen.

Question: Do you think that ultimately, Charles would not have wanted anyone other than Diana to be the mother of his children, based on who they are today?

Christopher Andersen: Absolutely. No one else would have exposed those boys to the real world the way Diana did. Or shown them the degree of affection that she did. Diana was the first person inside the royal family to stand up to the powers that be. If Diana didn't change Charles during her lifetime, she certainly has in death.

Question: If Diana's death was the result of celebrity worship -- far from unknown in America -- then could the same thing have happened here?

Christopher Andersen: Sure. But I don't think her death was the result of celebrity worship. Everything that could have gone wrong that night did go wrong. The car itself was a disaster waiting to happen; it had been stolen only a few months earlier, stripped for parts, and abandoned. The brake warning lights were flashing that very day. The driver had three times the legal limit of alcohol in his blood, was under the influence of two strong drugs, and was not even licensed to drive that car. His boss, Dodi Fayed, was ordering him to run red lights and to speed. And I discovered that even the sole survivor, Trevor Rees-Jones, had a hidden hit-and-run drunk-driving record. Ironically, this tragedy might not have happened if Diana had been behind the wheel.

Question: Do we know how the boys reacted to hearing about their mother's death? When seeing them on TV, forced to parade, one could only think that these boys wanted nothing more than to be in their beds, weeping. How did they cope? Where did they get the strength?

Christopher Andersen: Charles heard about Diana's death shortly after 3am on Sunday morning. He waited until 7am to wake William up. "I knew something was wrong," William said, "I kept waking up all night." The queen forced the boys to attend church, as usual, four hours later. She made sure their mother's name was never mentioned. Since then, William has held up remarkably well. But Harry is far more fragile, and he leans heavily on his big brother for support.

JainBN: Christopher, this has been very moving tonight. Before we say goodnight, do you have any closing remarks?

Christopher Andersen: The fact that THE DAY DIANA DIED is already the number one book in America is a reflection of the public's enduring facsination and love for Diana. I see no signs of her fame diminishing -- and it shouldn't.

JainBN: Christopher, a heartfelt thank you for joining us tonight. Goodnight.

Christopher Andersen: I enjoyed it! Goodnight.

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