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The Day Diana Died

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The Day Diana Died offers a spellbinding, moment-by-moment account of the last day in the life of Diana, Princess of Wales, written by a veteran journalist and bestselling author of Jack and Jackie and Jackie After Jack. Where were you the day Diana died? Like the assassination of John F. Kennedy, the tragic death of the Princess of Wales on August 31, 1997 is one of those defining benchmarks in history -- an event that touched each of us so profoundly, we will never forget the ...
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Overview

The Day Diana Died offers a spellbinding, moment-by-moment account of the last day in the life of Diana, Princess of Wales, written by a veteran journalist and bestselling author of Jack and Jackie and Jackie After Jack. Where were you the day Diana died? Like the assassination of John F. Kennedy, the tragic death of the Princess of Wales on August 31, 1997 is one of those defining benchmarks in history -- an event that touched each of us so profoundly, we will never forget the moment we heard the news.

A full year after the Paris car crash that ended Diana's life at age 36, millions around the world remain in shock. Over the 16 years since her storybook wedding to Prince Charles, she had evolved from 'Shy Di' into the planet's most photographed, written-about, and talked-about woman -- arguably the most famous person in the world.

For all Diana's global fame, much of the human drama that swirled around her death remains veiled in mystery and intrigue. Now, Christopher Andersen draws on important sources -- many of whom have agreed to speak here for the first time -- to re-create in vivid and often startling detail the events leading up to that fateful night in Paris. Diana was, in every sense of the word, larger than life -- a force of nature that, as the Royal Family learned, could be neither dismissed nor ignored. A bittersweet saga of triumph, love, and loss, The Day Diana Died captures those last days when Diana's star never shone brighter -- and evokes the beauty, grace, heartache, and compassion that made Diana one of the most compelling figures of our time.

Christopher Andersen is the critically acclaimed author of 17 books, which have been translated into more than 20 languages worldwide. A former contributing editor of Time and senior editor of People, Andersen has also written hundreds of articles for a wide range of publications including Life magazine and The New York Times. He lives in Connecticut.

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Editorial Reviews

Newsweek
Riveting. . . .Andersen's insights can be as sharp as his details.
People
Not for the faint of heart. . . .Andersen's account is riveting, though sometimes very graphic. It won't make you like the Queen any better.
Newsweek
Riveting. . . .Andersen's insights can be as sharp as his details.
People
Not for the faint of heart. . . .Andersen's account is riveting, though sometimes very graphic. It won't make you like the Queen any better.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780440235330
  • Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 8/10/1999
  • Format: Mass Market Paperback
  • Pages: 381
  • Product dimensions: 4.19 (w) x 6.84 (h) x 1.07 (d)

Meet the Author

Christopher Andersen is the critically acclaimed author of nineteen books that have been translated into more than twenty languages worldwide. A former contributing editor of Time and senior editor of People, Andersen has also written hundreds of articles for a wide range of publications, including Life magazine and The New York Times.
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Read an Excerpt

The question you ask yourself afterwards is, did she know she was so loved?

Beatrice Humbert, chief nurse at Pitie-Salpetriere Hospital, Paris

We walked silently among the ocean of floral tributes. I could almost hear her voice in my ear: "Rosa, no, not all this! For me?" She never knew how much she was loved.

Rosa Monckton, Diana's closest friend

If anything ever happens to me, do you think they'll think of me as another Jackie Kennedy?

Diana, to royal milliner Philip Somerville

Sunday, August 31, 1997 9:25 A.M.

She looked down at the most famous face in the world. "It's not her," Beatrice Humbert thought to herself. "It isn't possible. I'm dreaming." For a moment Humbert, chief nurse at Paris's Pitie-Salpetriere Hospital, felt her knees begin to buckle and the room begin to swim as she desperately fought the overpowering urge to faint. Clad in her white hospital coat, the trim, businesslike Humbert looked every inch the seasoned professional that she was. And in a career that spanned three decades, Humbert had seen the mangled corpses of hundreds of accident victims. Yet nothing had prepared her for this. The nurse was gazing, she had to keep telling herself, at the lifeless body of the Princess of Wales.

From the moment she saw Diana lying there, beneath a white cotton sheet that had been pulled up to her bare shoulders, it struck Humbert how sad it was that the Princess looked "so all alone." Three hours earlier her body had been brought up from the basement operating room to the blue-walled second-floor room just above the main entrance to Pitie-Salpetriere's eight-story teal-green glass and cement Gaston Cordier Pavilion. Although this was the most modern section of the hospital, parts of which date back to the seventeenth century, Gaston Cordier had just undergone several months of extensive renovations. The blue-walled room above the entrance, chosen because hospital officials were told blue was Diana's favorite color, had been painted only three days before; the bracing smell still lingered in the air. There had been no need to inconvenience any other patients to make room for Diana; the wing had not been scheduled to reopen to patients until the following day, September1.

Humbert was soon joined by Jeanne Lecorcher, Pitie-Salpetriere's chief emergency nurse, and an ashen-faced Sir Michael Jay, Britain's ambassador to France.  Moments later Sylvia Jay walked in and stood at the foot of the bed, choking back tears. Humbert was somewhat surprised to notice that the ambassador's wife, who blew her nose into an Irish lace handkerchief, was already dressed from head to toe in black.

Thierry Meresse had been there when they first wheeled Diana, still clinging to life, into the operating room at 2:05 a.m. "At first I didn't dare look," said the hospital's thirty-six-year-old communications director. "I had a certain vision of what she should look like that I wanted to preserve in my mind. And I thought, this beautiful face is going to be horribly disfigured by such an awful accident." Hours later, when he finally did summon the courage to look at Diana, he was astounded to discover that "she looked entirely peaceful. Her face hadn't been marked at all, really. Just a little bruising, that's all."

At Pitie-Salpetriere, disbelief gradually began to yield to an overwhelming, soul-crushing sadness. "The way you see her on television," Humbert said, "with those big blue eyes and that marvelous smile, and then the big blue eyes were no longer there, nor was the marvelous smile. There was the closed, pallid face of a cadaver, that's all. It wasn't an expression of peace, or the absence of peace. It was as though, stupidly, I was waiting for a smile. And then I thought, we'll never see this smile again . . ."

Father Yves Clochard-Bossuet, who had worked for Air France until he joined the priesthood just five years earlier, had been trying to come to terms with that realization for hours. Short and balding at age forty-six, Pitie-Salpetriere's resident priest had been fast asleep in his apartment when he was jolted awake by a phone call at 3 a.m. "The emergency unit of the hospital told me someone very important needed the Last Rites," he later recalled. "When they said it was Princess Diana, I thought someone was playing a joke. I thought they were drunk." He slammed down the receiver and tried to get back to sleep. But, he said, "Something kept me awake."

When Father Clochard-Bossuet called back, hospital officials confirmed that Diana had been in a car crash with her Egyptian-born boyfriend, Dodi Fayed, Dodi's bodyguard Trevor Rees-Jones, and the car's driver, acting Ritz Hotel security chief Henri Paul. Dodi Fayed and Henri Paul, Clochard-Bossuet was told, had died on the scene. Rees-Jones had suffered multiple fractures and half of his face had been literally ripped away, but he was likely to survive. Diana was not.

The priest leapt out of bed and quickly dressed. Even as he fumbled with his clerical collar, Mohamed Al Fayed's helicopter was touching down at Paris's Le Bourget Airport. Dodi's controversial father, owner of Harrods department store in London as well as Paris's Ritz Hotel, had been at his baronial estate in Oxted, Surrey, when Ritz president Frank Klein called over two hours earlier with news of "a terrible accident." Dodi, Klein said, trying to find some way to soften the blow, had "passed away."

"An accident? Do you really think it was an accident?" Mohamed Al Fayed asked Klein. Within minutes, Dodi's father was aboard his Sikorsky S-76 heading for Paris. At Le Bourget, he was met by Alexander "Kes" Wingfield, one of his son's bodyguards, and by Dodi's regular chauffeur, Philippe Dourneau. Unaware that Dodi and Henri Paul had been taken directly from the site of the accident to the Paris morgue, Mohamed Al Fayed ordered Dourneau to take him to Pitie-Salpetriere, where Diana was still in surgery.

It seemed oddly fitting that the life of the Princess of Wales, whose compassionate nature led her to reach out to the disinherited, should have ended there. Founded in 1656 by Louis XIV to care for the poor and the insane, Pitie-Salpetriere (literally "Pity-Saltpeter") took its name from its charitable mission and from the saltpeter once used in arms production on the site. Much of the original seventeenth-century structure still stands--including the hospital's landmark Chapel of St. Louis with its distinctive octagon-shaped dome--in stark contrast to the modern Gaston Cordier wing where Diana was taken.

Mohamed Al Fayed reached the hospital at 3:50, and was met by Ambassador Jay and French Interior Minister Jean-Pierre Chevenement. "Mr. Al Fayed got there so quickly," Thierry Meresse said, "that we naturally assumed that he must have been in Paris when the accident occurred." Ten minutes later, at 4 a.m. Paris time, Diana was pronounced dead. "I could not believe it," Dodi's father said. "The situation was too desperate to take in."

Yet Al Fayed wasted no time waiting to pay his respects to Diana. Already all but convinced that Dodi and Diana had been assassinated, presumably by enemies of the Al Fayed family within the British Establishment, Mohamed moved swiftly to protect his interests. Employees of Al Fayed's far-flung empire, many of whom already suspected that their phone calls were bugged and their actions monitored, were now instructed under pain of immediate dismissal not to speak to anyone regarding Dodi and the Princess. In a move that angered hospital officials, Al Fayed also ordered that everything belonging to the Princess and Dodi be packed up immediately and shipped back to London along with their luggage. It was only then that he asked to be driven to the morgue to see the body of his son. Diana's body was still on the operating table when Al Fayed left the hospital.

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First Chapter

As they stood by Diana's body shortly before 10:00 that Sunday morning, nurses Humbert and Lecorcher also feared their grasp on reality was tenuous at best. Yet there was no time for introspection. Ambassador Jay informed them that Prince Charles would be arriving that afternoon at 5:00 to escort the body of his ex-wife back to London.

The nurses sprang into action. Humbert's first thought was that they were going to have to cool the room to keep the body from decomposing. "I knew it was going to be hot during the day," said Humbert, who asked that an air conditioning unit be installed in the room. "But that's a natural professional reflex, to immediately think of preserving the body. And I thought of all the people who would be coming, that it would create a lot of movement, and a lot of heat. The first thing was to chill this room."

Even the installation of an air conditioner presented special problems. To prevent the throng of reporters as well as run-of-the-mill curiosity seekers from learning which room Diana was in, sheets had been placed over all the second-floor windows of the immense hospital complex. There was ample reason for such caution: Several enterprising tabloid journalists had rented rooms across the street from the hospital.

Rather than mount the air conditioner in a window and risk opening a breach -- "We can't leave an opening because someone might stick a camera through it," Humbert told the technicians -- the unit was hooked up to a sink in the room, using the running water as the cooling element. "It worked," Humbert recalled. While the heat in the hospital corridors was scarcely bearable, the room where the body of Diana lay remained a cool 60 degrees F. "It was," the nurse added without irony, "the most agreeable place in the building."

Sadly, only a single bouquet arrived for Diana all morning -- two dozen red roses from former French President Valery Giscard d'Estaing and his wife, Anne-Aymone, another friend of Diana's. That afternoon, more flowers would arrive -- this time an arrangement of lilies Prince Charles had asked the hospital to make up "because they are her favorite." In striking contrast to the ocean of floral tributes that would engulf central London, these were the only flower arrangements in Diana's otherwise spartan hospital room that day.

There would be an autopsy, but it would take place in England, not in France. Until that time, the body would not be embalmed. Meanwhile, every effort would be made to make Princess Diana presentable to the scores of dignitaries who would undoubtedly come to pay their respects throughout the day. "The body is very important, whether it's Princess Diana or someone else," Humbert explained. "You have to think of the family, their pain. To come to contemplate a body whose hair has not been arranged, that hasn't been washed. . ."

Members of the hospital's amphitheater staff -- the nurses and orderlies who prepared cadavers for anatomy courses and dissection -- arrived to carefully wash Diana's body and shampoo her hair. Diana's face and her famous blond coif were, understandably, of particular concern. A female cosmetician and a male hairstylist dispatched from a Paris funeral home arrived carrying a large color photo of Diana that had run in a recent issue of Paris Match.

"They tried to fix her the same way, with a curl in front," Humbert recalled, "and to make up her face to look exactly like she looked in the picture. They never stopped sending for me throughout the day, to ask if this was the way it should be, or that. . . it was very touching, and very hard to take. It was all rough. Very rough."

While the couple from the funeral home applied lipstick and styled and restyled her hair to match the photo in Paris Match, Humbert faced an alarming fact: They had nothing to dress her in. The white pants and black short-sleeved top she had been wearing that night had been cut off her by emergency medical personnel at the scene of the crash. All that remained of her personal effects -- Diana's black jacket, her black size 9 Versace high-heeled shoes, her purse, her Jaeger-leCoultre gold watch with white stones, her bracelet with six rows of pearls and a dragon-shaped clasp, a black size 30 Ralph Lauren women's belt, a single gold earring -- were placed in a plastic bag stored in the basement.

"She was completely nude under the sheet," recalled Humbert, who asked British Consul General Keith Moss to call the Ritz and have them supply a dress. They were shocked to discover that all of the Princess's possessions had been packed up and, on Mohamed Al Fayed's specific instructions, shipped back to London. "Everything!" Humbert declared. "That very morning!"

While British Embassy officials scoured Paris for a suitable dress, the nurses were suddenly faced with yet another emergency. Most of the Royal Family -- specifically the Queen, Prince Philip, Charles, and Diana's two sons -- had been enjoying their summer holiday at Balmoral Castle in Scotland at the time of the accident. The Queen, who remained behind with Prince William and Prince Harry while Charles flew to Paris, had phoned the British Embassy in Paris -- not with questions about Diana's medical care or how much she might have suffered, but with concerns of quite a different sort.

"The Queen! The Queen!" Consul General Moss blurted to Humbert as he rushed into the room where Diana still lay naked under a sheet. If there were any royal jewels among Diana's effects, Her Majesty wanted them returned to the Royal Family immediately. "Madame," said Moss, "the Queen is worried about the jewelry. We must find the jewelry, quickly! The Queen wants to know, 'where are the jewels?'"

"But there wasn't any jewelry," replied Humbert, somewhat stunned at the apparent callousness of the question. "No wedding band, of course, no rings, no necklace."

Before boarding the plane for Paris, Prince Charles had also called ahead with a question about Diana's jewelry. Knowing that she would have wanted to look her best for those coming to pay their respects at the hospital, Charles called the hospital and personally requested that her gold earrings be put on. "Diana always likes to wear her earrings in public," Charles said, still speaking of his ex-wife in the present tense. "There will be so many people there, looking at her. I'm sure she'll want the earrings. . ." But after scouring the premises, hospital officials failed to find the missing earring.

It would be seven weeks before the gold earring, which had been ripped from Diana's ear by the force of the crash and embedded deep in the dashboard, was recovered from the crumpled interior of the Mercedes by crash investigators. Still, Humbert later said she was impressed by the Prince's interest in preserving Diana's dignity, even in death. "That he cared to think of such details," Humbert later said, "oh la la, that surprised me."

Meantime, the hunt for a suitable dress continued for nearly two hours. Finally Ambassador Jay's wife, Sylvia, who was roughly Diana's size, offered one of her own. Shortly after noon, two men arrived at the hospital with a suitcase. One was a former bodyguard of Diana. The other was the man who had arguably been closest to Diana -- her trusted butler, confidant, and protector, Paul Burrell. He had expected to be in Paris, but never under these circumstances; the evening before, Diana had phoned Burrell in high spirits, saying how eager she was to see her sons for the first time in five weeks. Would her old friend fly to Paris and accompany her on the flight home to London? she had asked.

Humbert stopped the two Britons, neither of whom spoke French, at the door, "They wanted to see her," she recalled, and they said that they had the dress in the bag." Before they could enter the room, Humbert insisted that they open the suitcase. "It was a black dress with a V-necked shawl collar that fastened in the front, in a light wool material that was a bit thicker than wool crepe." The dress, which came down just below the knee, had long sleeves and was belted at the waist. The suitcase also contained a pair of Sylvia Jay's black patent leather pumps.

While Burrell waited in the hallway, Humbert and Lecorcher took the suitcase into the room, placed it on a chair, opened it, and removed the dress. Humbert, who with the others had marveled at the extent to which Diana's face had remained unmarred, steeled herself as Lecorcher pulled back the sheet. In an instant, the brutal nature of her injuries became horrifyingly apparent. A scar crisscrossed with sutures ran from her sternum almost to her navel -- the graphic, Frankenstein-like result of the surgeons' frantic attempts to repair her heart. Diana's hands and feet were bruised, as was her right side -- the only external evidence that her ribs had been crushed. Similarly, her right forearm, which had been badly fractured, was also black and blue. As they maneuvered Diana's body so they could slip the dress over it, the nurses discovered more injuries including a two-inch-long cut on the right buttock and a nasty three-inch gash on the right thigh.

All of Diana's injuries were duly noted on Humbert's chart, although no one reading it would have had the slightest inkling as to the identity of the patient. On her chart, Diana was not listed by name. "We used the saint's name of the day, St. Patricia," Humbert explained. "She was listed on her chart simply as Patricia." Appropriately St. Patricia, patron saint of Naples, was born into a noble family in Constantinople, fled to Italy to escape a royal marriage, distributed her wealth to the poor, and died young.

Diana had once told Burell that she wanted to be buried in a casket with a window in it so that her face could be clearly seen. Now just such a gray metal casket -- the strangest either of the nurses had ever seen -- was rolled into the room. Humbert and Lecorcher, aided by the undertaker and two British Embassy staffers, then lifted Diana's body ("one takes the arms, the other the legs," Humbert explained) and placed her inside. They then carefully arranged her arms and feet. For the dignitaries who would arrive that afternoon, the coffin lid was left open. Just ten weeks earlier, an auction of seventy-nine gowns belonging to Diana at Christie's in New York had raised over $3 million for AIDS research -- an idea that originally had been proposed by her increasingly publicity-savvy son William. Now the most fashionable woman in history lay in her coffin wearing a borrowed dress.

Diana often described the burly soft-spoken Burrell as "my rock -- the only man I can trust." As soon as he saw her, Diana's rock dissolved. "He broke down, just came undone," Beatrice Humbert remembered, contradicting later reports in the Sunday Times of London and elsewhere that Diana's butler had never lost his composure. Burrell "wept, with great sobs." He placed his hand on hers, which the two nurses had lovingly folded across her chest. ("He had to touch her because he just could not believe she was dead," Lecorcher said.) Then he "sat down at the Princess's feet, and he cried and cried."

Burrell reached into the suitcase that had contained the dress and pulled out a rosary. "These were a gift to the Princess from Mother Teresa," he said, handing Lecorcher the beads. Burrell then asked if the rosary could be placed in Diana's hands. Lecorcher gently opened Diana's fingers and placed the rosary inside. Then Burrell produced a framed photograph of William and Harry that Diana always traveled with, and a snapshot of her adored late father Earl Spencer. These were also placed in Diana's hands.

Burrell began to stagger, as if he were about to faint. "We were afraid he was going to pass out," Humbert said. "We made him sit down, we tried to reassure him." But Burrell was beyond consolation. "He didn't want to leave her body. We had to tell him, 'Paul, it's time to leave now...'"

Burrell was not the only devastated mourner Humbert tried to comfort that day; she had been assigned the thankless task of escorting all visitors to Diana's bedside. The reaction of France's Health Minister Bernard Kouchner was typical. Monsieur Kouchner was, Humbert said, "overwhelmed" when he saw her.

"It's impossible, it's impossible, it's impossible," Kouchner kept saying. "This beautiful lady. It's impossible." Humbert would become emotional when she remembered this. "It is dreadful, every time I think of these people. It was very hard for me."

At 2:00 p.m. about thirty people -- including Dr. Bruno Riou, who headed the emergency medical team that tried to save Diana, Chief of Police Philippe Massoni, the heads of protocol from the Elyse Palace and the British Embassy, as well as several security chiefs and press attaches -- met to decide how the afternoon was to proceed. The most pressing question: How would the coffin carrying the body of the Princess of Wales leave the hospital? At first, it was assumed that the casket would leave via the hospital's rooftop helipad. From there, it would be taken to Villacoublay, a military airfield southwest of Paris, and placed on a British military aircraft for the journey home.

But Charles himself, in constant touch from Scotland via phone, insisted Diana leave by the main entrance. By then a crowd of thousands had gathered in front of the hospital. "People want to see her and they should," said Charles, much to the relief of police officials, who feared any attempts to spirit her body away in secret might spark a riot. "There is no reason to sneak out. We have to leave normally."

To Meresse, the hospital's communications director, the atmosphere was decidedly Shakespearean. "It reminded me of Hamlet," he said. "Inside the castle everything is conspiratorial, very quiet, very hushed. Outside there is this gathering mob."

There was, it turned out, legitimate cause for concern. Early news dispatches had already laid the blame for the crash on the notorious Parisian paparazzi. Outside the angry mob shouted 'Bastards! Assassins! Murderers!' at the pool of six reporters and six photographers allowed inside. "I did not want an ugly scene to greet Prince Charles when he arrived," said Meresse, who had spent the morning sprinting between the emergency wing and his press office down the street. "It would not have looked good for the hospital. It would not have looked good for France."

Tossing off his jacket, Meresse climbed over the police barriers and waded into the anxious crowd, "I picked out the ones that seemed to be ringleaders," he said, "and told them that Prince Charles was about to arrive and I didn't want to hear a word, not a murmur, nothing. To my total astonishment, they agreed. No one wanted to do anything that might upset the family."

By 4:30 p.m., in strict accordance with protocol, a red carpet had been rolled from the curb to Pitie-Salpitrire's main entrance, flanked by officers of the French President's colorfully garbed Republican Guard. The rest of the hospital was not so pristine. In the wake of a wave of bombings by Algerian terrorists, trash receptacles throughout the hospital had been sealed. To make matters worse, the maintenance staff had not yet arrived to clean up the mess that had accumulated over the weekend. As a result, the hallways and stair landings were strewn with discarded plastic coffee cups, candy wrappers, and cigarette butts. Members of the nursing staff were dragooned into picking up brooms and hastily tidying up before the arrival of His Royal Highness.

The British Royal Squadron BAe 146 carrying Charles and Diana's sisters, Lady Sarah McCorquodale and Lady Jane Fellowes, touched down at Villacoublay at 5:00 p.m. Thirty minutes later, their silver Jaguar limousine pulled up in front of the entrance to the hospital's Gaston Cordier wing. Meresse's admonition to the crowd had worked. "All you could hear was the whisper of the luxury car's tires," he said. "A vibrating silence." The trio emerged from the car, Charles wearing a double-breasted dark blue suit, Lady Jane in a tan coat draped with a floral print scarf, and Lady Sarah dressed all in black, her glasses hanging from a chain around her neck. French President Chirac bent down and took Charles's hand as he offered words of condolence. The Prince, smiling bravely, thanked the French President and Madame Chirac in his perfect French, then placed his right hand into his jacket pocket as he was led inside.

Chirac accompanied them to the second floor, but stopped short of accompanying them to Diana's body. Instead, Chief Massoni, the British protocol chief, and Beatrice Humbert escorted Charles and his former sisters-in-law down the hall. As they reached the two uniformed police officers guarding the room, Humbert recalled, "the British protocol chief turned to me and said, 'Madame, ici s'arette mon role, c'est vous d'introduire son Altesse royale' -- 'Madame, my role ends here. It is up to you to introduce His Royal Highness.'"

Humbert was stunned; she had been told that Charles and Diana's sisters would enter the room alone. What shall I say to him? she thought to herself. What will happen?

She forged ahead. "Your Highness," she said in French, "if you will, please follow me." They went to the door, and Charles entered first. Lady Jane and Lady Sarah followed. "Prince Charles stopped, frozen before the casket," Humbert said. "Lady Jane burst into sobs."

Even after hours of watching grief-stricken dignitaries pay their respects, Humbert was astonished by Charles's reaction. As he looked for the first time at Diana's lifeless body lying in her coffin, a breeze from the air conditioner lifting a lock of her hair, Charles's head snapped back as if hit by some unseen force. "The Prince of Wales recoiled," she said. "He drew back his head in one involuntary motion, as though he had actually been stricken. As though he simply couldn't take it in. He couldn't believe it. You could feel his immense sorrow."

Two chairs had been set up on either side of the coffin. Charles pulled one of them over from the other side, and beckoned Diana's sisters to sit down on either side of him. All three bowed their heads in silent prayer. Lady Jane -- "utterly devastated," Humbert observed -- was crying loudly now. Charles put his arm around her and whispered something in her ear.

"I was all alone with them," said Humbert, who waited, wondering what to do next. Charles, his pale blue eyes brimming with tears, turned to her.

"Madame, could we have an Anglican priest?" he asked.

Within minutes, Reverend Draper and Father Clochard-Bossuet joined them and, Humbert said, "Together, we all prayed." In English, Reverend Draper led them in reciting the Lord's Prayer.

"I knew the Princess of Wales through the prism of the media and found her very sympathetic," said Meresse, who observed Charles from the sidelines. "She liked to, as we say in French, 'kick the anthill'--stir up trouble with the Establishment--and we loved that about her. She was much more sympathetic than the Prince. But he surprised me. I think he surprised us all. He was so totally broken up by what he saw, it was very moving. At one point he came very close to fainting, but managed to steady himself at the last minute. Charles was clearly devastated by the sight of Diana's body."

The hospital staff was no less impressed by the way Charles treated Diana's sisters. "He was extremely kind, very caring toward them," Meresse recalled. "He was a very gentle man who did not conceal his pain. It was something none of us had expected."

Then Charles asked to be alone with Diana. When he emerged five minutes later to rejoin President Chirac and the rest of the official party in the hallway, it was clear to everyone that he had been crying. "There was great anguish, great melancholy in Charles's face," Meresse said. "His face was transformed by despair."

Charles pulled himself together enough to individually thank Humbert, Lecorcher, Meresse, and other hospital staffers for all they had done. Introduced to two of the surgeons who had tried, in French medical terms, to "reanimate" Diana, Charles groped for the right words but failed to find them. "Congratulations!" he blurted in French as he firmly shook Dr. Riou's hand. Then, regaining his command of the language, Charles thanked the bespectacled Riou and leading French cardiovascular surgeon Dr. Alain Pavie, who by chance had been on duty that night, for their heroic efforts. In the hours since they had finally been forced to acknowledge defeat, both Riou and the balding, gaunt Pavie had shaved and changed out of their blood-spattered green surgical gowns into crisp white hospital coats.

While the casket was being readied for departure, Charles launched into a series of questions. What were the circumstances surrounding Diana's arrival at the hospital? he asked. How she was treated? What had been the role of each person in trying to save the Princess's life? "He was very, very anxious about everything," Humbert said. "He stayed for half an hour and he talked and he talked. He wanted to talk. He needed to talk."

Lecorcher, meanwhile, went into a lounge area that had been set up in the room adjoining Diana's and shared a cup of tea with Lady Jane and Lady Sarah. Again, both of Diana's sisters broke down.

"Tell me," Lady Jane pleaded, "did she suffer?"

"No," Lecorcher replied, "it all happened so fast, she must not have suffered."

Did anyone pray for her?"

The nurse reassured Lady Jane that the hospital priest had prayed for Diana and for her children. "She seemed," Lecorcher said, "very comforted by that."

It was 6:00 P.M.--the appointed time at which, according to the schedule worked out during the hospital staff's afternoon strategy session, Diana's body was to begin her journey home. The casket was carried down the main staircase by four pallbearers hired by the funeral home. The Princess's face would have been clearly visible through the small glass window, had the casket not been draped with the lion-festooned gold, purple, red and white royal standard that had accompanied the Prince of Wales's party on the plane. In front of the coffin was the Reverend Draper, wearing a white cassock over his black clerical garb, a Bible clasped in his hands. Directly behind Diana was Charles, followed by Lady Sarah and Lady Jane, then the French President and Mrs. Chirac. Each face in the funeral party was etched with shock and grief.

A dozen members of the Republican Guard stood rigidly at attention, the late afternoon sun glinting off the gold shields on their red-plumed hats. As a lone bagpiper played, more than two hundred hospital staffers and patients, some trailing intravenous lines, emerged from the Gaston Cordier wing to pay their respects. Charles and Diana's two sisters stopped beneath the canopied entrance and, with their arms hanging straight at their sides, stood motionless as the pallbearers lifted up the coffin and slid it into the black and silver hearse.

Seemingly oblivious to the eerily silent crowd of well-wishers pressing against the police barricades, Charles once again thanked President Chirac and numbly climbed into the back of Ambassador Jay's green Jaguar while his former sisters-in-law were escorted to the silver and gray limousine. No sooner did Lady Jane and Lady Sarah settle into their car than a staffer from the British Embassy bolted toward it grasping a plastic garbage bag in his left hand. It contained the clothes Diana had been wearing when she was brought into the emergency room. He threw open the trunk lid and gently placed the bag inside. As the staffer closed the trunk, the driver glanced in the rearview mirror and saw that the young man was crying unashamedly.

As the cortege began to pull away from the grounds of Pitrie-Salpitrire, the crowd that had been so reverently silent burst into spontaneous, if muted, applause. "Diana we love you!" someone shouted as the applause grew louder. And then another, "WE LOVE YOU! WE'LL NEVER FORGET YOU, DIANA!"

Thirty minutes later, the procession rolled onto the tarmac at Villacoublay airfield. A Royal Air Force honor guard slowly removed the flag-draped coffin from the hearse and carried it aboard the military transport as Charles, the Spencer sisters, and several British dignitaries stood respectfully on the sidelines. She was bound, finally, for England. The world had no way of knowing that in her hands was the rosary from Mother Teresa and pictures of her boys--or that, on her final journey home, the people's princess wore a borrowed dress.

Reprinted by permission of William Morrow & Company, Inc. Copyright 1998 by Christopher Andersen. All rights reserved.

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Interviews & Essays

On Wednesday, August 26th, barnesandnoble.com on AOL welcomed Christopher Andersen, author of THE DAY DIANA DIED.


JainBN: Christopher Andersen is a former contributing editor of Time magazine and senior editor of People and is the author of 19 books, including JACK AND JACKIE and JACKIE AFTER JACK. His new book is THE DAY DIANA DIED. Mr. Andersen, so glad you could join us tonight in remembering Diana.

Christopher Andersen: My pleasure!


JainBN: Do you have any opening comments on this remarkable woman who is greatly missed?

Christopher Andersen: The word "unique" is overused, but in this place it applies. Diana was one-of-a-kind, and I don't think we'll see someone like her again.


Question: Do you place the blame for Diana's tragic death on the paparazzi?

Christopher Andersen: No. I interviewed more than 300 other sources, including Frederick Malliez, the first doctor on the scene and the man who treated Diana in the tunnel. He insisted that the paparazzi never interfered in Diana's treatment and kept their distance. As for the crash itself, as mundane as it sounds, it was a case of drunk driving. The car itself was also a major contributing factor, in my opinion.


Question: Toward the end of her life, Diana seemed to be moving from philanthropy to activism, endorsing causes even on issues that invited controversy, like the international ban on land mines. Were her politics undergoing radicalization?

Christopher Andersen: I really don't think so. But Diana did have a keen sense of right and wrong and how to use her unparalleled global name to correct, or at least alleviate, society's ills. She was emerging as a force to be reckoned with. British Prime Minister Tony Blair had discussed plans with her to make her Great Britain's unofficial ambassador for good.


Question: Were you distressed by the opportunistic commercial exploitation of Diana's death?

Christopher Andersen: Well, yes. Particularly when in Great Britain they used her image to sell [everything from] ceramic figurines to margarine.


Question: What was Prince Charles's reaction to the death of his ex-wife?

Christopher Andersen: This is one of the truly amazing revelations in my book. The nurses at the Paris hospital where Diana died told me that when they led him into the room where Diana's body was lying naked under a sheet, he froze by the side of the bed. Then his head snapped back as if, as one nurse put it, he had been "struck by an unseen force." Then he almost passed out. He was devastated -- truly destroyed -- by Diana's death.


Question: How did Diana change the popular conception in England of the monarchy and the royal family while she was alive?

Christopher Andersen: Diana's life constituted nothing less than a revolution within the royal family. She said that "nothing, nothing, could be done naturally by the royal family." But she had a way of "going straight to the heart," as another friend said. Her death changed Charles, her life shaped the destinies of William and Harry. But, unfortunately, I believe the rest of the royals remain unchanged. And that applies especially to the queen.


Question: Do you think that ultimately, Charles would not have wanted anyone other than Diana to be the mother of his children, based on who they are today?

Christopher Andersen: Absolutely. No one else would have exposed those boys to the real world the way Diana did. Or shown them the degree of affection that she did. Diana was the first person inside the royal family to stand up to the powers that be. If Diana didn't change Charles during her lifetime, she certainly has in death.


Question: If Diana's death was the result of celebrity worship -- far from unknown in America -- then could the same thing have happened here?

Christopher Andersen: Sure. But I don't think her death was the result of celebrity worship. Everything that could have gone wrong that night did go wrong. The car itself was a disaster waiting to happen; it had been stolen only a few months earlier, stripped for parts, and abandoned. The brake warning lights were flashing that very day. The driver had three times the legal limit of alcohol in his blood, was under the influence of two strong drugs, and was not even licensed to drive that car. His boss, Dodi Fayed, was ordering him to run red lights and to speed. And I discovered that even the sole survivor, Trevor Rees-Jones, had a hidden hit-and-run drunk-driving record. Ironically, this tragedy might not have happened if Diana had been behind the wheel.


Question: Do we know how the boys reacted to hearing about their mother's death? When seeing them on TV, forced to parade, one could only think that these boys wanted nothing more than to be in their beds, weeping. How did they cope? Where did they get the strength?

Christopher Andersen: Charles heard about Diana's death shortly after 3am on Sunday morning. He waited until 7am to wake William up. "I knew something was wrong," William said, "I kept waking up all night." The queen forced the boys to attend church, as usual, four hours later. She made sure their mother's name was never mentioned. Since then, William has held up remarkably well. But Harry is far more fragile, and he leans heavily on his big brother for support.


JainBN: Christopher, this has been very moving tonight. Before we say goodnight, do you have any closing remarks?

Christopher Andersen: The fact that THE DAY DIANA DIED is already the number one book in America is a reflection of the public's enduring facsination and love for Diana. I see no signs of her fame diminishing -- and it shouldn't.


JainBN: Christopher, a heartfelt thank you for joining us tonight. Goodnight.

Christopher Andersen: I enjoyed it! Goodnight.


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Sort by: Showing all of 7 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted March 19, 2004

    Sad! Sad! Sad!

    This is a sad book. But then how could it be anything else? The world lost the People's Princess and William and Harry lost their beloved mother. I have believed from Day One that the death of Diana was no accident. In the years since this book was written, there has been some questions and new revelations that have many people wondering if the car crash was indeed an 'accident'. One point that is inexplainable is that the young doctor who arrived on the scene minutes after the crash later told reporters if he had had a blood pressure cuff he would have been able to know that Diana was bleeding internally. The emergency personel that arrived DID HAVE the blood pressure instrument and could have determined Diana was bleeding from within, however the EMS used CPR on Diana, which only made matters worst. How could these professionals have made such a medical error? A good book to read, but be prepared to have the sorrowful events break your heart. I was close to tears.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 25, 2004

    Finally, a REAL journalist...

    Christopher Andersen should be a model for all up and coming journalists... He has a way of stating the facts in an unbiased manner, leading the reader to draw their own conclusions. His story is a must read for anyone seeking the facts about Diana's trials and tribulations... and what happened the day Diana died, and the days that followed. I take my hat off to you Mr. Andersen... and desperately wish there were more journalists with your integrity.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 23, 2000

    An intimate timeline focusing on Diana's last days/hours.

    I read this book in 6 hours, staying up to read in the middle of the night, only taking one break in between; I couldn't put it down! This book is such a detailed timeline drawing up to the fateful hour of Diana's death. It is all respectful, and I don't find any of it controversial. It tells of various other brief times in Diana and Dodi's life, but mainly focuses on her summer romance with Dodi, and her last days, leading up to a detailed, yet respectful description of the fateful crash; and it's over 400 pages! But it is NOT boring! The most touching part I found was the description of the time when Diana died on the operating table, when she was in a private room in the hospital when dignitiries were visiting her, and the days before and during the funeral, which also describe the sympathetic actions of her 2 sweet sons. If you think you know everything about the details of Diana's death, without reading this book, think again; a must-have for true Diana fans.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 21, 2000

    Excellent Book!!!

    This book was an excellent book about the life and death of Princess Diana. The book was quite graphic at times, but it provides so much unknown and interesting information about Princess Diana. I was amazed at how compassionate Charles was toward his sons when Diana was killed, and shocked to learn that the Queen's only concern was if Diana was wearing any royal jewelry at the time, and if so she wanted it returned immediately. A must read for Princess Diana fans.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 4, 2000

    Brutally Graphic

    This was a GREAT book! Sad but great reading! Mr. Andersons way of writing the book kept my interest that I could hardly put it down. I've read a lot of books on Diana, but this one was so detailed that you feel like you yourself were with Diana the day she died. Some books drone on with details we've heard. NOT this one! It's well worth the money. I wish I would have bought this in hardback. I never thought I'd say this, but I actually felt compassion for Charles and appreciated the way he handled this very delicate situation. I applaud him for standing up to his family by doing right by Diana, if not in life, but in her death.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 15, 2000

    Riveting, yet graphic book

    I have been anticipating reading this book, and after checking it out from my library, I was immediately satisfied with it. Christopher Anderson wrote a wonderful, fact filled story that will keep you reading. I wasn't able to put it down until the last page was read. An excellent, realistic, and also graphic but readable book on the late Diana.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 30, 1999

    FANTASTIC !!!!

    I have almost all the books written about Diana, from before to after her death. This book is rated in the top 5 in my library. It is written with taste, class and respect. It is a book that is difficult to put down. Graphic details and 'never before known details' make this book a must have. It can be, however, emotionally draining at times. The details provide the reader with the feeling of 'being there with the Priest as he gave Diana the Last Rights'....very compelling!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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