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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.
Read an Excerpt
When I was born, I was unwanted. When I married Charles, I was unwanted. When I joined the Royal Family, I was unwanted. I want to be wanted.
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.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
This book goes above and beyond giving all the details of Diana's death. It was a plot to do way with her. She was the victim of the royal family. Why is she not remembered by her own sons and countrymen as the devoted mom, and a woman who made a difference to the royal family she brought a light and breath of fresh air to the dim royal family, Look where we are today with Camilla ug and charles only years away from being king. Diana was a woman who found love and the royal power of grey suited men did her in for loving a muslim.
One reason I did not care for this book was the attack on people around the world who believe Diana's death was arranged. The term conspiracy theories is used here as if it leaves a bad taste in the author's mouth. There have been hints that when Charles becomes King he needs a wife. Diana as the ex-wife would not be Queen. The Church of England was against a divorced King being head of the Church of England. When you look at it from that perspective the conclusion is Diana had to go. That is not a wild conspiracy theory that is a fact. Who actually conspired is a conspiracy theory but that Diana could have been murdered is not. In my opinion there is reasonable doubt that she was murdered.