What would Princess Diana be doing if she were alive today? Would she be on a reality show? Would she wear peplums? Would she have solved global hunger? Admittedly I think about this more often than I should, because so much potential, so much intrigue, so much gossip was lost when Lady Di, the Queen of Peoples' Hearts and One-Piece Bathing Suits and Foofy Blond Short Haircuts and Being a Humanitarian but Not in a Weird, Scary Self-Righteous Way Like Angelina Jolie, died. Or rather: was murdered.
Let's first nail down our facts. Diana, Princess of Wales, died at age 36 in a car crash in the Pont de l'Alma tunnel in Paris on the night of August 31, 1997. The driver of the car, a Frenchman named Henri Paul, was drunk and driving erratically to outfox a gaggle of paparazzi who were in pursuit of the vehicle. Paul was also killed in the crash, as was Diana's boyfriend, Dodi Fayed. Her bodyguard, Trevor Rees-Jones, was injured.
Seems fairly open and shut. High speeds, intoxicated driver, a dark tunnel, a car crash. Paris in the '90s. But wait. Why would Diana and her incredibly wealthy boyfriend get into a Mercedes with an extraordinarily drunken driver? Paul's blood alcohol level was three times the French legal limit. The paparazzi chasing them down at high speeds—what is this, a Bond film? Why weren't Diana and Dodi wearing seat belts? Were the seat belts compromised? What about those cars that fled the scene, never to be heard from again? And why was Diana's body embalmed so quickly? Was it to hide the fact that she was... pregnant with Dodi Fayed's baby??? All signs pointed to something sinister.
And by "something sinister," I mean the Royal Family, because if anyone was out to get Diana, it was them. She had been a thorn in their side for years—"skimpily educated," as one journalist put it politely, media-hungry (usually in a way that made her look good and them bad), and at the center of an embarrassing divorce, after 15 years of marriage, from Prince Charles, who married Diana despite his everlasting love for his ex-girlfriend, Camilla Parker-Bowles. But regardless of the Royals' pursed lips when it came to Diana, she was forever theirs as the mother of William Windsor, who would one day be king, and little Harry, who was probably not biologically the son of Charles but that's another post for another time.
There are two competing theories as to why the Royals would have wanted Diana dead. The first has to do with Dodi Fayed, the very rich man that Diana had just started dating before they were united in eternal hellfire. The son of Egyptian billionaire Mohammed Al-Fayed, who owned the English department store Harrods, Dodi worked as a film producer (Hook) but seemed mostly to party and spend his father's money. So it's weird that the Royals allegedly had a problem with him, because that's basically their modus operandi, but they did. Can you guess why?
If you answered "because he was a Muslim" you are right! Rumors abounded that the romance between Diana and Dodi was heating up at a very fast clip—and that Diana was pregnant with Dodi's baby and the couple was planning to get engaged. Conspiracy theorists suggest that the Royal Family would simply crumble like a teacake at the inclusion of an Egyptian Muslim (or more tactfully put, a non-Christian) into their fold, and would rather murder the expectant couple and their unborn child in cold blood (but make it look like an accident, you know, for appearances).
The other theory involves Prince Charles, our George W. Bush of the East. Charles did not come out looking good from the Diana divorce, not only because he is an exceptionally ugly man, but because of very dirty and weird phone conversations between him and Camilla Parker Bowles that were leaked to the British press (for the uneducated, Charles told Camilla that he wanted to be her tampon).
Anyway, everyone knew all along that Charles had been in love with Camilla and would probably marry her when Diana was out of the picture. But that was the problem: Even though they had divorced, Diana wasn't getting out of the picture. Their divorce had made her more popular than ever. She was still the Queen of Peoples' Hearts. She was giving extraordinary interviews to television journalists. She was bringing the world closer to peace by eradicating land mines in Africa. And her divorce made her all the more relatable. Now she was a single mother! To the perpetual annoyance of the Royals, she was the most popular person in their family, and she was barely in their family. Charles wanted to move on, to install a new princess in his life (or a duchess, as Camilla eventually became, when they married 2005). But no matter what, Camilla would be despised in Diana's shadow.
So, according to conspiracy theorists, the choice was clear. Disposing of Diana would be a complicated task for the Royals, made a bit easier by the state services at their beck and call, including the MI6, or the CIA of Britain. She was, after all, a threat to the sanctity of the Royal family, so why not use the secret state intelligence service to rid the country of her? It was an almost patriotic undertaking.
As the theory goes, besides the engagement of willful drunk Henri Paul and a thrum of unruly paparazzi, there were several "mystery cars" involved in the crash, some of which were never found. Evidence suggests these cars were Diana's true undoing: one of them, a white Fiat Uno, made contact with Paul's Mercedes before it crashed in the tunnel that fateful night, evidently pushing it toward its demise. Were these cars tools of the MI6? French police zeroed in on the driver of the Fiat Uno in 1998; he committed suicide in 2000. His body was found in a burnt-out BMW in the French countryside, a gunshot wound to his head.
The search for answers in Diana's death is not a fruitful one. You can accept the answer that it was simply an accident. Or you can think like a Royal: Diana was the most beloved woman in the world at the time of her death. She would only become more powerful with Dodi Fayed's money and child, both of which would stain the fabric of the Windsor tapestry. How could anyone move on with their lives? The health of the Royal Family, the country's ballast, stretching back hundreds of years through numerous global catastrophes, had to be considered. What was the most sensible option?
Perhaps it was a drunk driver, the paparazzi, and a dark tunnel in Paris on a late summer's night.
This is Illuminati Month on Black Bag, in which Gawker locks itself in the woodshed and breaks out the red yarn to explore its favorite conspiracy theories. Photo via AP. Contact the author at firstname.lastname@example.org.