August, 2017 will mark the 20th anniversary of Princess Diana’s death. It was an event which shocked the world: The Princess of Wales, one of the most recognized women on the planet, killed in a car accident in Paris.
Diana was not the only fatality of the incident. The driver, Henri Paul, and Princess Diana’s boyfriend Dodi Al Fayed are believed to have been killed instantly. The only survivor was bodyguard Trevor Rees-Jones, who was hospitalized for two months with severe injuries. He has consistently maintained he does not remember much of the crash.
Dodi and the Princess of Wales had been dating for only a few months—and had spent only a handful of days together—before their untimely deaths. Despite the relationship’s newness, there was much media and public interest in the couple—and speculation about their future plans.
Who was Dodi?
Dodi was the eldest of former Harrods owner and billionaire Mohamed Al-Fayed’s five children. Mohamed was, and is, a well-known, colorful, and controversial figure in the UK. With an estimated net worth of $1.87 billion, Mohamed was the owner of the famous luxury department store Harrods in London, Fulham football club, and the Ritz hotel in Paris,the last place Diana and Dodi were before they embarked on that fatal drive.
Dodi’s mother, Samira Khashoggi, was Mohamed’s first wife. Her father had been the personal physician to Saudi Arabia’s King Abdul Aziz and her brother was Saudi arms dealer Adnan Khashoggi.
Dodi was born in Alexandria, Egypt in 1955; he later attended schools in Paris, the exclusive Le Rosey in Switzerland, and Sandhurst military academy in the UK, which Princes William and Harry both attended.
As a child, Dodi split his time between the Khashoggi homes in Paris, the Riviera, and Cairo and his father’s home in Alexandria, Egypt, according to an obituary in The Independent. At 15, he moved to London, where he was “a handsome young man [who] became a familiar figure on the capital’s nightclub scene, with a predilection for fast cars and beautiful women.”
Dodi’s rumored girlfriends, pre-Diana, include Julia Roberts, Brooke Shields, Winona Ryder and Nancy Sinatra. In 1986, he married the model Suzanne Gregard, but they divorced after eight months.
Brooke Shields pictured with Dodi Al Fayed in 1985
As a young man, he was a junior officer in the United Arab Emirates air force, stationed in London, but he soon moved into the film industry, where he served as an executive producer on Chariots of Fire (1981), which won an Oscar for Best Picture, and The Scarlet Letter, starring Demi Moore and Gary Oldman (1995).
Dodi Al-Fayed and actress Cathy Lee Crosby at the premiere party for Chariots Of Fire in 1982
Dodi had a reputation as a wealthy playboy who wanted to be famous. According to an investigation by The Guardian in 2009, Dodi once remarked to a friend: “When am I going to meet a woman so famous she will get my face on the cover of People magazine?” In 1997, he certainly did.
Despite this reputation, many also remarked on how quiet and sensitive he was. The Vanity Fair writer Dominick Dunne reportedly said of him: “Whatever else he was, he was a nice guy. There was something very gentle about him.”
Dodi and Diana had first met when she was still married to Prince Charles. According to The Independent, this was at a 1986 polo match in Windsor when Charles and Dodi were on opposite teams. If their meeting was more than passing, no one noted it.
In the summer of 1997, Mohamed Al-Fayed invited the Princess of Wales and her sons to spend time on his yacht, the Jonikal, in the south of France. There, Diana got to know Dodi better.
Heart surgeon Hasnat Khan, whom Diana had dated seriously, later told a 2008 inquest into the Princess’s death that she ended their two year relationship after she first went on holiday with Mohamed Al Fayed and his family. He said that at the time she denied ending their relationship for anyone else, but weeks later he heard a radio report about her new relationship with Dodi.
Diana returned to the Jonikal in August, this time without her children, and a photograph of Diana and Dodi kissing made headlines around the world. They spent time in the South of France and Sardinia, before flying to Paris, where they died.
Their famous relationship
Diana and Dodi’s romance was short but well publicized and steeped in controversy. Dodi’s reputation as a millionaire playboy with a penchant for famous, attractive women caused quite a stir at home.
The scandal only intensified when a former partner of Dodi’s, Kelly Fisher, appeared in tears at a press conference alongside feminist powerhouse lawyer Gloria Allred to announce she was suing Dodi for allegedly jilting her at the altar. She had an impressive engagement ring to show as proof of the engagement, and she said she was seeking $500,000 because she had sacrificed her modeling career to marry Dodi, the LA Times reported.
In response, the Al-Fayed family said: “We are content to leave it to the good sense of the British and American people to judge this development for what it is.”
After Dodi and Diana’s death, Fisher dropped the lawsuit “out of respect for the tragedy and tremendous loss the Fayed family have suffered,” the Associated Press reported.
It is rumored that some members of the royal family did not approve of the princesses’ relationship with Dodi. Former Prime Minister Tony Blair revealed in his 2010 memoir that he personally told Lady Di he felt her relationship with Dodi was “a problem”, The Guardian reported.
At a 2007 inquest into their deaths, the BBC reported that Princess Diana’s former butler and confidante Paul Burrell said he didn’t have the impression from Diana that Dodi was “the one” and suggested he was a “rebound” from her relationship with Hasnat Khan.
After their deaths on 31st August, 1997, there was a small Islamic funeral for Dodi at a mosque in central London. His coffin was given a police escort, and a number of well-wishers lined the streets outside.
He was buried in a London cemetery but was later transported to his father’s property in Surrey, where the press reported on plans for a tomb to be erected to commemorate him.
The Al Fayed family’s department store Harrods honored both Dodi and Diana after their deaths with mini-shrines, and in 2005, a controversial bronze statue of the couple dancing was erected.
Mohamed Al Fayed sold Harrods to Qatari owners in 2010.