Two decades on from her death, the memory of Diana, Princess of Wales, still lingers. This Summer, thousands of people will leave tributes to her at the Pont de l’Alma in Paris, near the spot where the princess was badly injured in a car crash leading to her passing just hours later. Flowers and photos lie ’round the famous torch, which has become a memorial to the much-loved royal who died in the French capital on Aug. 31, 1997.
Diana spent her last day in Paris, flying in from Sardinia with Dodi Al Fayed on Aug. 30. The couple had been holidaying on the French and Italian Riviera aboard his father’s yacht, the Jonikal, their every move followed by photographers. They headed to the Ritz Hotel, located on the central Place Vendome and also owned by Dodi’s father, Mohammed al Fayed. By the time they settled into a late dinner, the famous hotel was surrounded by crowds and press. Just after midnight, with a decoy car diverting photographers at the front of the Ritz, they got into a black Mercedes Benz S280 waiting for them at the back to travel to another Fayed property in Paris.
The deputy head of security at the Ritz, Henri Paul, was at the wheel as the car left the Rue Cambon and crossed the Place de la Concorde. Photographers were already following as the vehicle headed along the Cours la Reine, running alongside the Seine, and continued along the embankment. The car was speeding as it entered the Pont de l’Alma tunnel where, within seconds, it had collided with the 13th pillar. Henri and Dodi were killed instantly.
The princess was still conscious, and the ambulance called to take her to hospital traveled slowly through the French capital to allow doctors to treat her. It stopped for several minutes in front of the Jardin des Plantes for medics to treat the princess. Soon afterward, they arrived at the Pitié-Salpetrière Hospital on the Ile de France, where the full extent of Diana’s injuries was discovered. Diana had suffered a large tear to the superior pulmonary vein where it entered her heart. She was pronounced dead at the hospital just after 4 a.m. on the morning of Aug. 31.
Her sister, Lady Sarah McCorquadale, traveled to Paris with Prince Charles to accompany Diana’s body home. Even as they landed at RAF Northolt, floral tributes were being left at Diana’s home at Kensington Palace. The princess’s coffin was taken to London and the Chapel Royal, St. James’s Palace, where her sons, William and Harry, said their last farewells before her funeral at Westminster Abbey on Sept. 6. Diana’s hearse was showered with flowers as thousands lined her funeral route. Her last journey ended at her family home, Althorp House, where she was buried on a small island. Her grave is private and only accessible to family, but public tributes continue to pile up in Paris at the place her story came to an end.
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