It’s been nearly 20 years since the untimely death of Princess Diana, and now, a new television special is chronicling the summer that led to her tragic passing. The Last 100 Days of Diana, which aired on ABC Sunday night, was hosted by Martin Bashir, a British journalist who secured the only extended interview Diana ever gave, in 1996. The special chronicled Diana’s “first and last summer as a single woman” after her divorce from Prince Charles; she died in a car accident in Paris on August 31, 1997.
The special paints an intimate portrait of a woman seeking to stake her own claim in the world and figure out the next chapter of her life, all while dating again and battling a constant crush of paparazzi. Here, five revelations from the special about the real person behind the People’s Princess.
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Diana had an on-again, off-again relationship with Hasnat Khan, a surgeon of Pakistani descent who worked in London. They met in a hospital where her friend was being treated, and she apparently thought he was “drop-dead gorgeous.” But he wasn"t sure their relationship had a future due to their cultural differences and his disdain for the harsh media spotlight. According to the special, they ended up having a shouting match in Hyde Park and Diana gave him an ultimatum: go public with their relationship, or end it entirely. Khan would later say during an official investigation into Diana"s death that she hid her relationship with Dodi Al Fayed from him. On the last night of Diana’s life, Khan said he called her constantly, but thinks she may have changed her phone number.She almost never met Dodi Al Fayed.
Diana was weighing spending the summer with Mohamed Al Fayed, Dodi’s father, or Gulu Lalvani, a businessman 20 years her senior who had taken her on several dates. “It developed into a romantic relationship for part of the time that we were together,” Lalvani said in the special. But Diana"s friend Roberto Devorik insisted the two never had a physical relationship; Devorik said Diana was using Lalvani to get back at Khan. Diana ultimately accepted Al Fayed’s invitation, taking Prince William and Prince Harry along for a beach vacation in Saint Tropez. There, she met Dodi.
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She hated the press, but used it to her advantage.
Diana was furious her friends and family talked to the press, including a candid interview her mother gave about her divorce from Prince Charles. “If anyone was to say anything, she felt that she should be saying it,” former royal press secretary Dickie Arbiter said. She felt “hunted and haunted” by the media. But according to the special, there may have been a few times she tipped off the press to get back at both Prince Charles and Khan. After Charles threw a birthday party for Camilla that made all the front pages, Diana staged a photo op while on vacation in Saint Tropez, going on jet skis and hanging out in a bathing suit directly in front of photographers. Later, while on vacation with Dodi Al Fayed in Sardinia, she may have tipped off the paparazzi to get the blurry “kiss” shot that hit every tabloid.
Diana had a difficult relationship with her mother.When Diana was a child, her mother, Frances Shand-Kydd, left her father for another man, so it was crucial to Diana that her marriage to Charles worked. “She wanted what she never had, to have a home, h-o-m-e,” Devorik said. But she chafed at the royal family, which was known for not being very open and emotional. She even had to call Prince Charles “sir” while they were dating.
After Diana"s divorce, her mother didn’t approve of her dating a Muslim man, which caused a strain when she dated Khan. The strain got worse when her mother spoke to the tabloids about Diana"s divorce from Charles.She didn’t want to dance with John Travolta in that iconic photo.
Instead, she wanted to dance with dancer Mikhail Baryshnikov, because he was her "hero," according to Diana’s butler, Paul Burrell. But President Ronald Reagan and First Lady Nancy Reagan had set up the opportunity to dance with Travolta, so she went along with it.
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