Tuesday, June 25, 2024

Fact-checking ‘The Crown’: Did Dodi propose to Diana the night they died?

Fact-checking ‘The Crown’: Did Dodi propose to Diana the night they died?

The new season of “The Crown” painstakingly recreates the final hours of Diana, Princess of Wales, and her paramour, Dodi al-Fayed.

The third episode, titled “Dis-moi oui” (“Tell me yes”), follows their chaotic last day, traveling from one Fayed property in Paris to another, including an apartment, the restaurant at the Ritz hotel, and a suite upstairs. There, Fayed’s total misread of his relationship with Diana culminates with him getting down on one knee and presenting her with an engagement ring, to which Diana says, “No no no no no no no no! Stop, I can’t bear it, this is madness.”

So, did that really happen? Did Fayed really try to propose to Diana in the hours before their deaths in a car crash, and did she really say no?

Who was to blame for Diana’s death? ‘The Crown’ vs. the historical record.

In short, we will never know, but it is unlikely. There is evidence Diana was not as interested in Fayed as he was in her. He really did purchase a ring, though its purpose is disputed. And “The Crown” changed one key detail about the ring that makes it almost impossible for anything like the hotel scene to have happened in real life.

In the years after their deaths on Aug. 31, 1997, Fayed’s father, Mohamed al-Fayed, made numerous claims about a conspiracy to murder the couple, prompting British authorities to conduct a three-year investigation, dubbed Operation Paget. Authorities interviewed hundreds of people, including Diana’s close friends and family, staff at the Ritz hotel, paparazzi and even the crew of the yacht they vacationed on before they came to Paris. The Operation Paget report was released publicly in 2006.

Investigators interviewed people with whom Diana had talked in the days before she died, including her sister, her butler, her spiritual adviser and seven friends. Two recalled Diana dismissing tabloid claims that she and Dodi would soon be engaged, both times saying, “I need another marriage like I need a rash on my face.” She told several of them she was having a fun summer but looked forward to getting back to London, to work and to her children.

The first installment of the final season of Netflix’s “The Crown” focuses on Princess Diana’s final months before the car crash that killed her. (Video: Allie Caren/The Washington Post)

Almost all of these confidants said Diana would have told them if she intended to get engaged. Even if she were afraid someone was listening in on their calls, Diana’s sister told investigators, “She would still have said ‘I’ve got something to tell you when I get back.’ She never said such a thing.”

Fact-checking ‘The Crown’: Was Dodi al-Fayed engaged when he romanced Diana?

Only three of the confidants remembered Diana mentioning a ring: her butler Paul Burrell, spiritual adviser Rita Rogers and friend Rosa Monckton. Burrell described a conversation in which Diana said she was nervous that Fayed had a ring and planned to propose, to which he suggested she wear it on her right hand. (Burrell was later caught on tape saying he had lied in some of his testimony.) Monckton said Diana told her about a number of jewelry pieces Fayed had given her, including a ring she planned to wear on her right hand.

Investigators also spoke with almost a dozen people involved in acquiring the ring in Paris the day before the crash, including bodyguards, employees at the Ritz and even the jeweler, Alberto Repossi, who had included the ring in his new “Dis-moi oui” line. The differing stories cannot be reconciled — some claimed Diana selected the ring with Fayed while they were in Monte Carlo; others said Fayed had told them it would be a surprise.

Investigators spoke with three Fayed employees, including Fayed’s butler Rene Delorm, who all claimed Fayed had told them of his plans to propose that evening.

Here’s the thing: Regardless of Dodi’s alleged intentions or Diana’s alleged concerns, Fayed could not have used the ring to propose to Diana in the hotel suite as depicted on “The Crown,” because on that fateful night, it was back at Fayed’s apartment. That’s where Diana and Fayed were headed when they died. French authorities never found a ring with the victims or at the crash site. Delorm, the butler, said he found it in a cupboard soon after and gave it to Fayed’s father.

Delorm published a tell-all book in 1998, but during the British investigation, he suddenly claimed he had not, in fact, told all and had a new story. He claimed to have walked in on Fayed on one knee and Diana saying “yes” earlier in the evening, at the apartment, before they went to the Ritz. She didn’t wear the ring to dinner, he presumed, because they hadn’t publicly announced their engagement.

Is that possible? Conceivably, yes, though his story comes with myriad red flags, such as Delorm’s previous dishonesty, his financial ties to the Fayed family, and the fact that he told this story almost a decade after the crash, when the timeline of the couple’s and the ring’s whereabouts was well established.

No one besides Delorm and Fayed’s father has claimed to have knowledge of a proposal.

For what it’s worth, Fayed’s father also claimed Diana had personally told him she was pregnant with Fayed’s child shortly before they died, and that paparazzi photos showing her in a leopard-print bathing suit with a slightly fuller stomach than she ordinarily had proved this. However, those photos were taken on July 14, 1997, which was before Diana and Fayed had consummated their relationship, the report determined.

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