THE DEATH OF DIANA, PRINCESS OF WALES
(August 31, 1997 — Paris, France)
Ritz CCTV Footage
(Hours before her death)
The Official Story
(1st Arrondissement, Paris, France)
The Ritz Paris is a hotel in central Paris, overlooking the Place Vendôme in the city’s 1st arrondissement. A member of the Leading Hotels of the World marketing group, the Ritz Paris is ranked among the most luxurious hotels in the world.
The hotel was founded in 1898 by the Swiss hotelier César Ritz in collaboration with the French chef Auguste Escoffier. The hotel was constructed behind the façade of an eighteenth-century townhouse. It was among the first hotels in Europe to provide an en suite bathroom, electricity, and a telephone for each room. It quickly established a reputation for luxury and attracted a clientele that included royalty, politicians, writers, film stars, and singers. Several of its suites are named in honour of famous guests of the hotel including Coco Chanel, and the cocktail lounge Bar Hemingway pays tribute to writer Ernest Hemingway.
Beginning in 2012, the 159-room hotel underwent a four-year, multimillion-euro renovation, reopening on 6 June 2016. While the hotel has not applied for the ‘Palace’ distinction from the French ministry of economy, industry and employment, its Suite Impériale has been listed by the French government as a national monument.
Because of its status as a symbol of high society and luxury, the hotel is featured in many notable works of fiction including novels (F. Scott Fitzgerald’s Tender Is The Night and Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises), a play (Noël Coward’s play Semi-Monde), and films (Billy Wilder’s 1957 comedy Love in the Afternoon and William Wyler’s 1966 comedy How to Steal a Million).
Noteworthy historical occurrences
On 31 August 1997, Diana, Princess of Wales and Al-Fayed’s son Dodi Al-Fayed, and their chauffeur Henri Paul, dined in the Imperial Suite of the hotel before leaving the hotel with bodyguard Trevor Rees-Jones, only to have a fatal car accident in the Pont de l’Alma underpass.
Events preceding the crash
On Saturday, 30 August 1997, Diana left at Olbia Airport, Sardinia on a private jet and arrived at Le Bourget Airport in Paris with Egyptian film producer Dodi Fayed, the son of businessman Mohamed Al-Fayed. They had stopped there en route to London, having spent the preceding nine days together on board Mohamed’s yacht Jonikal on the French and Italian Riviera. They had intended to stay there for the night. Mohamed was and remains the owner of the Hôtel Ritz Paris and resided in an apartment on Rue Arsène Houssaye, a short distance from the hotel, just off the Avenue des Champs Elysées.
Henri Paul, the deputy head of security at the Ritz, had been instructed to drive the hired black 1994 armoured Mercedes-Benz S280 sedan (W140 S-Class) in order to elude the paparazzi; a decoy vehicle left the Ritz first from the main entrance on Place Vendôme, attracting a throng of photographers. Diana and Fayed then departed from the hotel’s rear entrance, Rue Cambon, at around 00:20 on 31 August CEST (22:20 on 30 August UTC), heading for the apartment in Rue Arsène Houssaye. They did this to avoid the nearly thirty photographers waiting in front of the hotel. Diana and Fayed were the rear passengers; Trevor Rees-Jones, a member of the Fayed family’s personal protection team, was in the (right) front passenger seat. The occupants were not wearing seat belts. After leaving the Rue Cambon and crossing the Place de la Concorde, they drove along Cours la Reine and Cours Albert 1er – the embankment road along the right bank of the River Seine – into the Place de l’Alma underpass.