Diana’s sliding doors moment: How princess’ life was ruled by chance decisions
PRINCESS Diana’s decision to go Paris was a last minute one.
But 21 years on from her death the fact that Diana’s life ended so suddenly is still as tragic as ever even though it was just one of several ‘sliding doors’ moments that came to define her.
From her marriage to Prince Charles, relationship with Dodi Fayed and decision to go to holiday with her new lover, here’s how Diana’s fate was sealed in a handful of split-second decisions.
Diana’s last holiday
The princess’ fateful trip with Dodi Fayed was a last minute decision made by a lonely Diana who had found herself stranded in London without friends or family.
The princess turned humanitarian had returned to Kensington Palace after a trip to Bosnia with her landmine charity just as Prince Charles took their sons Prince William and Prince Harry to Balmoral.
“I’m sure she was missing the boys. She was at a loss in London,” royal biographer and author of Diana: the Intimate Portrait Judy Wade told People.
“Diana had alienated most of the friends she used to go on holiday with at that time of the year.”
On a whim and feeling isolated, the princess decided to accept an invitation to holiday in the Mediterranean from Dodi Fayed, a notorious playboy and the 42-year-old son of Egyptian business tycoon Mohamed Al Fayed.
Diana had met Dodi only a month ago while staying at Mohamed’s St Tropez villa with William and Harry.
Their relationship was a rebound for Diana, with the princess reportedly still heartbroken over her two year relationship with Pakistani surgeon Hasnat Khan ending abruptly earlier that year.
Flying to the Mediterranean to relax on Dodi’s yacht, Diana and her new lover enjoyed nine days of relative anonymity before the paparazzi caught up with them in Sardinia.
Hounded by photographers, it was there that Dodi and Diana made a fateful decision; the couple would leave the island early for one night in Paris before heading back to London.
But when they arrived in the city of love the paparazzi was just as relentless, causing them to flee the Ritz hotel where they were staying in the middle of the night.
Just three minutes later, the Mercedes they were driving in collided with a concrete pillar in the Pont de l’Alma tunnel, killing Dodi instantly while Diana died in hospital four hours later.
Tests would later reveal the car’s driver, Ritz Hotel security employee Henri Paul, had a blood-alcohol level three times the legal limit.
How Diana almost didn’t marry Charles — twice
While Diana Spencer’s engagement to the Prince of Wales was an affair carefully orchestrated by the palace, their wedding was only possible thanks to two decisions made almost a decade apart by different people.
Years before Diana was ever in the picture, a 24-year-old Prince Charles was quietly dating socialite Camilla Shand — better known as Camilla Parker Bowles and his future second wife the Duchess of Cornwall.
According to Sally Bedell Smith’s biography Prince Charles, the heir to the throne hesitated to propose to his girlfriend, concerned by their young age and the fact that Camilla didn’t “appear virginal”.
Dithering about their relationship, Charles headed to the Caribbean with the navy in January 1973 and Camilla reconnected with an old boyfriend, Andrew Parker Bowles.
It was then, according to Bedell Smith, that Camilla’s father and brother stepped in to ensure she wouldn’t marry Charles, changing history in the process.
“They intervened by publishing an engagement notice in The Times on March 15. His hand publicly forced, Andrew proposed to his girlfriend of nearly seven years,” Bedell Smith wrote.
When Charles learned of the engagement days later he was devastated, unable to understand how “such a blissful, peaceful, and mutually happy relationship” had ended so suddenly.
Fast-forward eight years later to 1981 when a 19-year-old Diana was just weeks away from marrying Charles.
Her happiness had come to an abrupt end when she discovered her fiance’s friend Camilla was more than just a friend and was actually his mistress.
In documentary Diana: In Her Own Words, audio interviews the princess gave biographer Andrew Morton reveal how an earlier attempt to confront Charles over a bracelet he gave Camilla came to nothing.
“(Charles) absolutely cut me dead. It was as if he’d made his decision and if it wasn’t going to work it wasn’t going to work,” she said.
Unhappy and torn as to whether she should still marry Charles, Diana had one last opportunity to break off her engagement.
The moment came when Camilla interrupted Diana’s last meeting with Charles before he left on a trip.
But instead of confronting him, Diana made the split second decision not to say anything, sealing her fate in the process.
“I was in his study talking to him about his trip. The telephone rang. It was Camilla. Just before he was going for five weeks,” Diana said.
“So I thought, ‘Shall I be nice or shall I just sit here?’ So I thought I’d be nice, so I left them to it and it just broke my heart.”