It’s been 25 years since Diana, Princess of Wales, died of injuries sustained in a car crash in Paris on August 31, 1997, at age 36. Princess Diana had just left a Paris hotel with her boyfriend Dodi Fayed when a swarm of paparazzi photographers pursued her speeding car. The driver, Henri Paul, lost control and crashed into a wall at the entrance to the Pont de l’Alma tunnel. Diana, Fayed, and Paul were all killed, while Diana’s bodyguard, Trevor Rees-Jones, was the only survivor. News of Princess Diana’s death sent shock waves around the world. Many still recall the moment they first heard the news.
One of the most popular members of the royal family, Princess Diana was admired by millions. She also had a tumultuous relationship with the media. News coverage helped her wage a war of public opinion against the palace as her marriage to Charles, Prince of Wales, deteriorated, but photographers pursued her relentlessly. Her image sold newspapers and magazines and brought viewers to television screens. Some 750 million people worldwide watched her 1981 wedding, and an estimated 2.5 billion people worldwide watched her televised funeral making it one of the most-watched broadcasts of all time.
We’ve combed our archives to bring back some of the shocking headlines and news coverage from around the world from the week Princess Diana died a quarter of a century ago.
August 31, 1997: The crash that claimed Princess Diana’s life occurred at 12:23 a.m. Her death was announced at 4:42 a.m. While many in Europe slept, the British media scrambled through the night to bring news of the tragedy.
September 1, 1997: Amid a worldwide outpouring of grief, Princess Diana’s body was returned to Britain in a Royal Air Force plane. Prince Charles and her two sisters accompanied the body. Her coffin was draped with a Royal standard and met by Prime Minister Tony Blair and other dignitaries.
September 2, 1997: Reports began to surface that the man who drove Princess Diana’s car was legally drunk and may have been going as fast as 120 mph when they crashed. When investigators pried open the totaled Mercedes after the crash, the speedometer frozen in the crumpled dashboard read 196 kilometers per hour – or 121 mph. The driver also allegedly taunted photographers, saying, “you won’t catch us.”
September 3, 1997: The Sydney Morning Herald reported on a growing tribute outside Kensington Palace. Collective mourning shifted to anger towards the royal family. Some blamed the Queen for her failure to pay tribute to Princess Diana. The public demanded to know why Buckingham Palace had not lowered its flag to half-staff.
September 4, 1997: Newspapers worldwide reported on the heartbreak of two young sons losing their mother.
September 5, 1997: Tributes to Princess Diana continued to pour in as officials made plans for a public funeral. Charities supported by Princess Diana sent representatives to march in her funeral procession. The Queen also ordered the Union Jack to be flown at half-staff over the Palace.
September 6, 1997: In a rare instance of protocol cast aside, Princess Diana’s sons William, 15, and Harry, 12, accompanied by their father, Prince Charles, emerged from Kensington Palace to greet mourners. The notes and sea of flowers visibly moved them.
Queen Elizabeth addressed her people with a tribute to Princess Diana. The three-minute speech televised live from Buckingham Palace aimed to assure Britons that the royal family, accused of being aloof and remote, were mourning too and concerned first and foremost with Princess Diana’s sons. The Queen went outside to greet mourners.
September 7, 1997: On September 6, 1997, Princess Diana was eulogized at a funeral in Westminster Abbey. Thousands lined the streets to catch a glimpse of the funeral cortège as it made its way through the streets of London. Some 2,000 attended her funeral, including family members, celebrities, and dignitaries. Following the funeral, Diana was interred in a private ceremony at her family’s estate in Northamptonshire, England.