It’s fairly safe to say that there will never be a character who will be more beloved and who will be the cause of more fascination and intrigue than Diana, Princess of Wales. Though she did not begin life as a key member of the British royal family (her father inherited the title of Earl when she was 14), she ended up becoming the most recognizable face of Great Britain and one of the most famous women in the world at her peak. Tragically, her fame may have lead to her downfall, as on this day in 1997, Diana was killed in a car accident in Paris.
Her marriage to Prince Charles in 1981 was a massive public affair (estimates set the television audience at nearly one billion people in 74 countries) and her early life with Charles was considered happy. Because of her beauty, her natural shyness and her passion for humanitarian causes, Diana became a key public figure and also one of the most photographed people in the world. She was constantly hounded by paparazzi, a menace that increased exponentially when she split from Prince Charles in 1992 (their divorce was finalized in 1996).
It was her subsequent romance with Egyptian millionaire Dodi Al Fayed that brought her to Paris in August of 1997. After being hounded by photographers during dinner at the Ritz Hotel in Paris, Al Fayed told his driver to take his car back to his home to try to throw the paparazzi off the scent. The couple ended up drafting Henri Paul, one of the security chiefs at the hotel, to drive them home, even though he had been drinking and was under the influence of anti-depressants. In an effort to get away from the photographers who were following them, Paul drove recklessly and lost control of the car, killing himself, Diana and Al Fayed.
Diana’s funeral was an even bigger event than her wedding — over two billion people watched and hundreds of thousands of people donated to her memorial fund (which raised $133 million). Much of that money came from sales of Elton John’s rewrite of “Candle in the Wind,” a tune originally written for Marilyn Monroe. Diana was friends with both John and George Michael (both of whom attended the funeral), so in her memory, check out the pair performing a duet on John’s “Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me.”