University of Chicago
Type of paper: Thesis/Dissertation Chapter
Conspiracy Theories about Princess Diana’s Death
Diana Spencer, Princess of Wales was the first wife of Charles, Prince of Wales. She was an eminent celebrity of the late 20th century well known for her fund-raising work for international charities
(http://www.royal.gov.uk/HistoryoftheMonarchy/The%20House%20of%20Windsor%20from%201952/DianaPrincessofWales.aspx [henceforth HoTM]).
Sadly, she was famous not only due to her good deeds, but mostly because of her divorce with Prince Charles and later on, controversial relationship with the son of Egyptian billionaire – Dodi Al Fayed. Princess Diana was constantly surrounded by paparazzi who accompanied her in almost every minute of her life and who tried to photograph her. Unfortunately this unhealthy interest of paparazzi in Diana’s private life ended tragically. Princess Diana and her partner Dodi Al Fayed died in a car accident on Sunday 31th August 1997 in Paris, France (HoTM). At around 12:20 am that day, Diana and Fayed left the Ritz hotel to return to the apartment in Rue Arsène Houssaye, they got into the car driven by Henri Paul, the Acting Head of Security at the Ritz Hotel also Trevor Rees-Jones, a member of the Fayed family’s personal protection team, was in the front passenger seat (HoTM). Their car was followed by paparazzi.
The driver, who wanted to run away from them, suddenly lost control over the car and collided head-on with the 13th pillar supporting the roof of a tunnel at an estimated speed of 105 km/h (King 2001: 10). Although the French investigation concluded that the accident was caused by a drunken driver, there are still conspiracy theories surrounding Princess Diana’s death. They assume that firstly, the accident was staged to get rid of the paparazzi, secondly The British Secret Service planned the accident and finally it was the Royal Family who assassinated Princess of Wales. Diana Spencer was one of the most famous woman in the world, the pre-eminent female celebrity of her generation: a fashion icon, an image of feminine beauty, admired for her involvement in AIDS issues and the international campaign against landmines (http://www.biography.com/people/princess-diana-9273782).
During her lifetime, she was often referred to as the most photographed person in the world. (http://www.biography.com/people/princess-diana-9273782). Considering her life and her popularity it should come as no surprise that people from all over the world were interested in the mystery of her death. Loss of such an iconic person always forces people, especially the most faithful fans to think about it more deeply. That is why all the speculations and conspiracy theories about the ‘real’ cause of Princess Diana’s death are born.
Conspiracy theories – definition
As Christopher Hodapp (2008: 9) explains, “[a] conspiracy theory is the idea that someone, or a group of someones, acts secretly, with a goal of achieving power, wealth, influence or other benefit”. Christopher Hitchens represents conspiracy theories as the “exhaust fumes of democracy, the unavoidable result of a large amount of information circulating among a large number of people” (Hodapp 2008: 25). Although conspiracy theories are viewed with skepticism by scholars because they are rarely supported by any conclusive evidence, they create a lot of controversy and due to that fact many people believe them. Together with wars, secret assassinations and terrorist attacks taking place in nowadays world, people’s trust in their governments and politicians constantly decreases (Burnett 2005:9).
Many people believe that they work in very secretive ways and various facts about well-known historical and current events are hidden (Burnett 2005: 9). In order to reveal the truth, amateur investigators started to create their own deductions about various events on The Internet (Burnett 2005: 9). They have also formed different conclusions about Princess Diana’s death, which later on have grown up and gained the status of conspiracy theories. As we talk about conspiracy theories, we have to answer two questions: What are the attributes of conspiracy theory? How theories about Diana’s death meet the criteria of conspiracy theory? According to Keely (1999: 117), “Central to any CT is an official story that the conspiracy theory must undermine and cast doubt upon.” This can be related to the official cause of Princess Diana’s death given by the police.
Secondly as Keely (1999: 117) claims, “[t]he true intentions behind the conspiracy are invariably nefarious”, in Diana’s case, those true intentions can be understood as a willingness to kill her. Finally, the last criterion states that the main tool of the conspiracy theorist is data which if true would tend to contradict official version (Keely 1999: 118). These data, concerning Diana’s death theories, could be all the information which put the blame on the Royal Family. Having ensured that theories about Diana’s death meet the criteria of conspiracy theories, we can examine some of them.
Staged accident theory
From among dozens of conspiracy theories about Princess Diana’s death circulating on the Internet, the one stating that Diana Spencer did not die, but she arranged her death in order to get rid of paparazzi, because she was tired of constant intrusions into her private life, is the least probable. Conspirators claim that she wanted to disappear from the public life so she staged the accident and that now she leads a normal life, somewhere in a hidden place with a different identity (http://urbanlegends.about.com/od/historical/a/princess_diana_2.html). Although this may seem ridiculous for most people, conspirators claim that they have evidence. They support their theory saying that the bodyguard Trevor Rees-Jones, who was also taking part in this car accident still lives, but Mercedes auto experts after deep examination of a smashed car revealed that it would have been almost impossible for anyone to have survived such a dramatic accident (http://theunexplainedmysteries.com/diana.html).
Another piece of evidence that conspirators believe supports their theory is that just six hours before the accident Princess Diana talked to Daily Mail reporter Richard Kay and told him that she was about to withdraw completely from public life (http://www.public-interest.co.uk/diana/dipress.html). Although those presented pieces of evidence are believed to be facts by the conspirators, they can be easily discredited. One simple, although significant piece of evidence that confirms the death of Princess Diana is the fact that Dr Robert Chapman carried out Diana’s post-mortem examination the day after her death. This proves that at that time she could not have been alive (http://dianaremembered.wordpress.com/). The truth is that the conspiracy theory mentioned above is present only on the Internet, one cannot read about it in a book, that is the reason why it appears to be the least probable scenario. However, there are some theories which make people think about them as they seem to be more probable.
The second conspiracy theory about Princess Diana’s death stirs up the greatest controversy as it states that The British Secret Service -the M16- planned the accident. They believed that Diana was a threat to the British throne and therefore the stability of the state. Another motive was to protect the new world order from the princess with inconvenient ideas, such as banning land mines as conspirators claim (Burnett 2005: 273). John King in his book Princess Diana: the hidden evidence (2001: 45) states that M16 mission was to “[e]liminate one of the most prominent figures on the world stage”. King (2001: 10) points out that Diana was seated directly behind the passenger side-front seat, which according to Professor Murray of Birmingham University, whom the author interviewed, should have been the safest seat in the car, “the most survivable.”
According to King (2001: 11) seconds after the accident M16 agents showed up at the place of the accident and after making sure that Princess Diana’s condition is fatal, injected the driver – Henri Paul with cocktail of alcohol and drugs and then they disappeared as quickly as they showed up. There can be a lot of different reasons why such important British agency planned to kill Princess Diana. Noel Botham (2004: 94) comments that “some rogue autonomical cells in British Secret Service claimed that Princess Diana is a threat to the state and they are also suspected of eavesdropping her throughout her years in the Royal limelight.” Another important fact is that the only survivor – bodyguard Trevor Rees-Jones – was a former member of the crack Parachute Regiment, one of the toughest in the British Army.
Therefore he could also have been an M16 contact (King 2001: 124). It appears that this conspiracy theory is more probable than the previous one, considering the fact that gathered evidence, even though not confirmed, bases on some logical and factual information. The following theory is closely connected with the aforementioned in a sense that some conspiracy theorists claim that the Royal Family planned the accident and used M16 as a tool.
The Royal Family theory
As we examining various theories about Princess Diana’s death, it is impossible not to mention the Royal Family with whom she related for fifteen years through her marriage to Charles, Prince of Wales. In this theory conspirators claim that it was the Royal Family who planned Princess Diana’s death. The conspiracy theorists support their hypothesis with the explanation that the House of Windsor was furious about the fact that Princess Diana might marry Dodi Al Fayed, a Muslim, who would became a stepfather to Princess William and Harry, the heirs to the British throne (King 2001: 190). Andrew Golden, the author of the Sunday Mirror’s article entitled Queen To Strip Harrods Of Its Royal Crest wrote that “[t]he Royal Family may withdraw their seal of approval from Harrods(…) as a result of Diana’s affair with owner’s son Dodi Fayed” (King 2001: 189).
According to King (2001: 190) after some time a prestigious royal warrant actually was withdrawn from Harrods. Thus, it appears that the Royal Family tried to express their disapproval of Diana’s relationship with Dodi Al Fayed whose father was the owner of Harrods. Later, as King (2001: 191) points out, it was revealed that Prince Phillip in particular was extremely unhappy about the relationship despite the fact that Diana was no longer Prince Charles’ wife. One of the most prominent supporter of the theory that Diana and Dodi were murdered by the Royal Family was Dodi’s father- Mohamed Al Fayed. He claimed that the English Crown wanted to hide the fact that the couple was about to be engaged and that Diana was pregnant with her Egyptian boyfriend’s child – a scandal that the British Royal Family would not be able to put up with (Hodapp 2008: 323).
However, later it was revealed that according to tests ran on samples of her blood collected at the scene, information about the pregnancy was untrue (Hoddap 2008: 324). Bearing in mind the two aforementioned conspiracy theories this one appears to be the most reliable as it provides quite strong motive, namely the fact that the Royal Family treated Diana’s relationship with Dodi as a threat to the throne.
Controversy over Princess Diana’s death has bothered people from around the world for almost twenty six years. As a result, dozens of different conspiracy theories about this tragic event were created. Some of them, for example the one stating that Princess Diana staged her own death are almost improbable while others, like the theory assuming that the Royal Family planned Diana’s accident may seem more reliable. The three theories examined in this paper are still being refreshed and reinvestigated by different authors who try to find new evidence and confirm the theory that the death