People have long speculated that Dodi Fayed proposed to Princess Diana before their tragic deaths in a 1997 car accident in Paris, but how much merit actually is there to those rumors?
The couple’s romance takes center stage in part one of the sixth and final season of The Crown, with episode three going so far as to portray Egyptian film producer Fayed getting down on one knee to propose to Diana, who immediately rejects him. But the scene is a dramatized depiction of showrunner Peter Morgan’s interpretation of their relationship and the subsequent rumors surrounding it, and the reality a bit more complicated.
In episode three, Fayed’s father—the billionaire owner of the Ritz Paris hotel, Mohamed Al-Fayed—encourages his son to take the next step in his relationship with Diana, stressing how socially and financially advantageous for their family an engagement would be. Fayed knows such a move would be hasty, considering he and Diana have been dating only a few weeks at this point, and both are coming out of long-term relationships. (Diana’s divorce from Prince Charles was of course highly publicized, and Fayed had conspicuously broken his engagement to model Kelly Fisher.) Still, he acquiesces in an attempt to earn his father’s approval.
Fayed pops the question to Diana while they’re staying at a suite in the Ritz Paris the night before their fatal car accident. But as soon as he proposes, she quickly shuts down the idea.
“Stop—I can’t bear it. This is madness,” she tells him. “Please get up.”
In real life, Mohamed Al-Fayed did believe the couple was engaged. According to The Guardian, the billionaire claimed the two had called him to announce the news just an hour before the car crash, although the outlet notes that “he later seemed unclear about whether he had been told his son was about to propose, or that Dodi had done so and Diana had accepted.”
Al-Fayed also made several other allegations, accusing Prince Philip and Prime Minister Tony Blair of conspiring in a plot to murder the couple because Diana was pregnant. “Diana told me on the telephone that she was pregnant,” he told the inquest at the time. “I was the only person that they told.” Lord Justice Scott Baker rejected this premise, ruling in 2008 that Diana’s and Fayed’s deaths were the result of reckless driving and the paparazzi’s relentless pursuit.
It is true that Fayed had spent 11,600 pounds on an engagement ring just a few hours before the accident. CCTV footage from the Repossi luxury jewelry shop, across the street from the Ritz Paris, showed him inspecting various rings with staff before leaving the store with a brochure. Later, Claude Roulet, assistant to the Ritz hotel president, returned to the shop to retrieve a bagged item, which he then brought to the Imperial suite, where Fayed and Diana were staying. The bag was kept in the hotel strongroom before being transferred to Fayed’s apartment.
A ring inscribed with the words Dis-moi Oui (or Tell me Yes in French) was eventually recovered from the apartment, as well as a receipt for a “bague de fiançaille,” or engagement ring.
Despite these findings, it has not been proven that Fayed actually got the chance to propose or that, even if he had, Diana would have accepted.
People close to the late Princess of Wales would later refute tales of an engagement. While speaking to the inquest, friend Lady Annabel Goldsmith recalled expression concern over how fast the relationship was moving in a conversation with Diana.
“You’re not going to do anything silly like rushing off and eloping or getting married?” Lady Annabel recalled asking her.
The princess allegedly answered, “I would need marriage like a rash on my face.”
Lady Annabel explained the royal’s response: “I took it to mean that she was not serious about marriage to Dodi. She might have been having a wonderful time with him, I’m sure, but I thought her remark that she needed marriage like a rash meant she was not serious about it.”
Another friend, Rosa Monckton, agreed. She told the inquest that Diana was still in the process of getting over Hasnat Khan, a heart surgeon whom she had been in a relationship with for about two years. Their romance ended shortly before she began dating Fayed. “It was clear to me that she was really missing Hasnat, and I think Dodi was just a distraction from the hurt she felt from the breakup,” Monckton said. “She was very much in love with [Hasnat]. She hoped they would have a future together. She wanted to marry him.”
Diana’s former butler Paul Burrell later echoed this sentiment in an interview with The Telegraph. “This was only a 30-day relationship, and the princess had just finished a long relationship with someone she cared deeply about,” he told the publication. “She had met someone who was very caring and attentive, and the princess was enjoying it, but marriage was never mentioned and certainly not engagement.”
Journalist Petronella Wyatt presented a different theory. In a piece for The Sun, she explained how Diana’s true feelings were still for ex-husband Charles. “I always thought, and so did friends of both her and Charles, that she remained a little in love with him,” Wyatt said. “I never thought she was in love with Dodi Fayed. He was a bad joke in London. She told the diarist Taki [Theodoracopulos] she had no intention of marrying him. That was a fantasy of his father’s.”
Whether or not Fayed truly got a chance to propose to the princess, the writers behind The Crown seemed to agree Diana wouldn’t have accepted his offer.
As she explains to him in episode three: “I’m nowhere near ready for another marriage.”
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