Conspiracy Theories About Princess Diana's Death

Lady Diana Spencer, or Princess Diana after her 1981 marriage to Prince Charles, heir to the English throne, was also commonly known as "The People's Princess," reflecting how she was adored by billions. Perceived as a sensitive humanitarian crusader, Diana represented a new kind of royal, one devoted to public service. She became one of the most photographed and widely loved celebrities on the planet, particularly in Europe and the United States, and her popularity certainly wasn't hurt by her fashion sense or conventional good looks, and it was a shocking international tragedy then when Diana died at age 36 in a car accident in Paris on August 31, 1997. In an effort to outrun pursuant paparazzi, per the BBC, intoxicated driver Henri Paul lost control of the vehicle carrying Diana, partner Dodi Fayed, and their bodyguard, and crashed into a pillar in a tunnel. 

The suddenness, violence, and weirdness of the death and its fallout — particularly as it so closely followed Diana's divorce and exit from the royal family — inspired many conspiracy theories. Here are the wildest, most unsettling, and unproven theories that suggest there's more to the death of Diana than a car accident.

Was Diana pregnant when she died?

Princess Diana wasn't the only person who died in that car accident in Paris in 1997. According to Parade, so did driver Henri Paul and Diana's romantic partner, Dodi Fayed, son of Mohamed Al-Fayed, according to Town and Country, owner of the top-shelf Harrods department store in London, and the Paris branch of the Ritz hotel, where Diana and Fayed were enjoying an evening before they got into the car where they'd die. According to the Hindustan Times, Al-Fayed told accident investigators that Diana was pregnant at the time of her death. "Diana told me on the telephone she was pregnant. I am the only person she told." While hesitant to point the finger himself, Al-Fayed also said that Diana suspected that "Prince Charles and Prince Philip were trying to get rid of her," with her ex-husband and former father-in-law particularly driven to kill her when she was expecting a child with a non-white Muslim man.

Playwright Jon Conway, who wrote the 2015 drama "Truth, Lies, Diana," told The Mirror that he heard about the pregnancy from a British forensic officer who knew two Muslim doctors who worked at the hospital where the princess died. One of the physicians "saw the fetus and was told to never mention it" because the public wouldn't accept "the King of England's mother, pregnant with a Muslim baby."

Did Princess Diana predict her own death?

Some people who believe Diana's death, particularly the manner of it, was prearranged and premeditated because of a story about the princess that suggests she knew she'd one day die in a car accident. Paul Burrell, who served as Diana's butler published his memoir "A Royal Duty" in 2003 (per CBS News), wherein he claimed that his late boss sent to him a letter in 1995 expressing the fear that, after leaving royal life and divorcing Prince Charles, her safety and life were in jeopardy. She was deeply concerned that someone working on behalf of her powerful ex-husband would physically harm or kill her, and then make it look like a common car accident, thus freeing up Charles to remarry. 

Ingrid Seward corroborated Burrell's claims, telling CBS News that in her capacity as the editor-in-chief of royal news magazine Majesty, Diana had told her in June 1997 — two months before her death — that she feared Prince Charles would have her killed in a car accident. Both Burrell and Seward noted that Diana told them she thought her apartment had been bugged with a listening device, or the brakes of her car had been messed with — both signs to the princess that an attack of some kind, from someone, was forthcoming.

Did Charles have Diana murdered so he could marry a nanny?

After Diana's former butler Paul Burrell publicly disclosed the note he received from the princess about how she was convinced she'd be murdered via car accident by someone connected to the royal family, a member of that royal family — Diana's ex-husband, Prince Charles — apparently grew very worried. In 2005, per Newsweek, Lord Stevens, ex-commissioner of the Metropolitan Police of London, interviewed the heir to the throne about the death of his former wife, as part of the years-long inquest into the August 1997 tragedy. The note didn't just say that Charles would make sure Diana would be killed in a car accident while they were still married, but the princess also floated the theory that the prince's motivation was to make himself available for a new marriage. 

Diana apparently believed that Charles wanted to wed Tiggy Legge-Bourke, one of his son's former nannies. As for Camilla Parker Bowles, with whom Charles had a long and well-documented affair, and whom he married in 2005, she was but a diversionary tactic. "Camilla is nothing but a decoy so we are being used by the man in every sense of the word," Diana reportedly wrote.

Was Diana's driver a British spy?

In the summer of 1998, less than one year after Princess Diana's death in a car accident in Paris, authorities in France launched an investigation into the matter. A French magistrate, Judge Herve Stephan, led the inquest, and according to the Irish Times, he questioned Richard Tomlinson, formerly in the employ of MI6 for four years, or the Secret Intelligence Service, the U.K.'s top and top secret spy agency, the English equivalent of the United States' C.I.A.

Tomlinson asserted to Judge Stephan that his agency had orders and plans to assassinate a different, famous (and ultimately not-named) non-French person in Paris on the night Diana died. He also claimed that Henri Paul, deputy head of security at the Ritz Hotel and driver of the car where Diana and Dodi Fayed died, was also a secret MI6 operative, while one of Diana's bodyguards was a mole for the agency. Operating from the position of a conspiracy theory, that means multiple people in Diana's inner circle were working for organizations that didn't necessarily support her, or which could easily have helped arrange her death.

Did the Special Air Service kill Diana?

Conspiracy theories about Diana's death were so rife in the U.K., that, according to Sky News, authorities set up Operation Paget, a police inquiry to look into the validity of those notions. Particularly vocal before Operation Paget was Mohamed Al-Fayed, father of Dodi Fayed, the man Diana was dating at the time of her death and who died alongside her. According to Al-Fayed, a white Fiat crashed into Diana's Mercedes that night, and it was never fully traced, as was a motorcycle driving close to the accident. The alleged sightings of those vehicles track with a conspiracy theory that says a white car and a motorcycle had something to do with the shining of an intensely bright light in the traffic tunnel, purportedly directed at driver Henri Paul so that he'd crash the Mercedes so severely that it would prove fatal for Diana.

According to The Mirror, a man identified only as "Soldier N," who once worked for the Special Air Service, the U.K.'s ultra-elite military division, told his wife (who then told the media and investigators) that his colleagues killed Diana. Acting on orders from the royal family, opposed to Diana's romance with Fayed, the SAS operatives took a white car and a motorcycle and followed Diana's car into the tunnel, where they shined a light into the driver's line of vision. According to Soldier N's now former wife, it specifically had to occur in a tunnel "to guarantee death."

How does a photographer later found dead factor into the death of Diana?

Mohamed Al-Fayed has frequently spoken of a white Fiat involved in the Paris crash that killed his son, Dodi Fayed, and Princess Diana. A French-born photographer named James Andanson happened to own a white Fiat Uno, according to the Evening Standard, meaning he was likely culpable in the deaths somehow, according to Al-Fayed, who also theorizes that Andanson had plans in 2000 to leak to the media new information about the night Diana died. Andanson never spoke up — because in 2000 his burned body was found in a flaming BMW in a forest in southern France. Investigator Jean-Michel Lauzun told the Diana death inquest that he discovered Andanson in his vehicle, dead behind the wheel, and with a large hole, about the size of a bullet wound, in the left side of his head. Police later ruled that Andanson had committed suicide by lighting himself on fire; the hole caused by intense heat, not a bullet.

Al-Fayed believes that Andanson was killed by high-ranking British operatives to ensure his silence. Andanson, working as a paparazzo in August 1997, had privately claimed to friends that he'd followed Diana's car into the Alma Tunnel in Paris and gotten some photos but later decided they'd be too incendiary to publish. When French police interviewed the photographer, however, he claimed to be nowhere near Paris, with receipts proving him to be in the town of Lignieres, 170 miles away.

Was emergency medical attention for Diana purposely delayed?

Some conspiracy theorists believe that it wasn't the car accident in a Parisian traffic tunnel that killed Princess Diana in 1997 — it was the lack of speedy medical attention that did. According to USA Today, Dodi Fayed and Henri Paul died on the scene, while Diana remained alive. She was transported to the Pitie-Salpetriere Hospital and arrived just past 2 a.m., 90 minutes after the accident. At 4 a.m., Diana was pronounced dead.

To some theorists, that timeline seems suspiciously drawn out, as if ambulance driver Michel Massebeuf purposely took as long as possible to get Diana to the hospital. Massebeuf even reportedly passed the closest facility, the Hotel-Dieu, in favor of the more distant Pitie-Salpetriere, although in 2007, according to The Guardian, Massebeuf explained to the inquest investigating the death of Diana that he was instructed to drive to Pitie-Salpetriere, but to not head there until the patient's condition had stabilized. A doctor treated Diana on the scene for 40 minutes — common emergency protocol in France at the time — before the slow trip to the hospital. "The doctor instructed me to drive slowly because of the condition of the princess," Massebeuf said.

Did Prince Philip have Diana killed?

Many Diana death conspiracies implicitly suggest that she was killed because she became an enemy of England's ruling Windsor family, with the assumption that her assassination was personally ordered by the United Kingdom's most symbolically powerful person: Queen Elizabeth II, who was worn the royal crown and sat on the royal throne of the British Empire since 1953. Six years before her coronation she married Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh, and one widely disseminated conspiracy theory holds that this slightly less powerful figurehead is who really called for the death of Diana, who by 1997 was his ex-daughter-in-law, divorced from his son, Charles, after years of embarrassing scandal.

According to the AP (via The Hollywood Reporter), Mohamed Al-Fayed, father of Diana's partner Dodi Fayed, insisted to the inquest investigating the crash that killed his son and his partner that Prince Philip organized the murder plot, which was executed by English spies. Investigators found no evidence that the claim was true, although they interviewed Diana's therapist, Simone Simmons, who testified that Philip sent her client letters of an "extremely derogatory" nature, according to Reuters. Diana interpreted those letters as "threatening," believing that Philip (and associates) would have her killed because of her outspoken drive to ban landmines.

Did the C.I.A. kill Diana?

The United States' top and most covert espionage arm, the Central Intelligence Agency, is legendary for its secretive, high-stakes actions that affect governments and populations around the world. The C.I.A. is so secretive and cutthroat, some conspiracy theorists suggest, that the agency simply must have had something to do with the death of Princess Diana, an enemy of the royal family of the U.K., a major ally of the United States.

In April 1998, according to the Irish Times, a man in Austria was detained on his way to extract $15 million from Mohamed Al-Fayed in exchange for documents that he claimed proved that U.K. and U.S. intelligence agencies conspired to kill Diana (and Al-Fayed's son, and Diana's partner, Dodi Fayed). The American agency publicly issued a detail. "The assertion that the C.I.A. played any role in the death of Princess Diana is ludicrous," spokesperson Tom Crispell said. Eight years later, American officials once again denied that the C.I.A. played a part, following a report by The Observer (via NBC News) that the agency had tapped Diana's phone and was monitoring her phone calls the day she died.

Did a bodyguard working for Diana's partner set up a murder?

Four people were in the Mercedes that crashed into a pillar in the Pont de l'Alma tunnel in Paris on August 31, 1997, and three of them died — Princess Diana, her partner Dodi Fayed, and driver Henri Paul. The one survivor: Trevor Rees-Jones, Fayed's bodyguard, who rode in the front passenger seat. While conscious after the accident, according to Sky News, he was hospitalized for his injuries immediately after and was under sedation for nearly two weeks. After that point, he suffered memory loss and reportedly has no recollection of the accident or its aftermath. A psychiatrist testified as such to the inquest investigating the crash in the 2000s.

Fayed's father, Mohamed Al-Fayed, believes Rees-Jones is lying, and that it's all part of a campaign to bury his involvement in the premeditation of the fatal accident. Al-Fayed called Rees-Jones' book "The Bodyguard's Story: Diana, The Crash, and the Sole Survivor" a "tissue of lies" that had been written by covert British government operatives who'd also planned the accident as propaganda to cover their tracks. As further so-called proof of the conspiracy, Al-Fayed said that Rees-Jones' later job working security for the United Nations was contingent on his never revealing the truth about how Diana and Dodi Fayed really died.

Were the seat belts in Diana's car altered?

While most conspiracy theories surrounding the death of Diana focus on the who and the why, a few simply amplify a few striking details or supposed pieces of evidence that prove someone — neither the party nor their motive necessarily matter — wanted the ex-royal dead, and they may have carried out a plan to fruition.

According to The Daily Beast, Diana was not wearing a seat belt while riding in the Mercedes when it crashed into a pillar in a Paris tunnel in August 1997. According to The Daily Express, which The Royalist noted in 2006 devoted a preponderance of coverage to Diana death conspiracies, it's suspicious that she wasn't buckled up, because she was often photographed wearing a seat belt. And then a lawyer who claimed to be close to investigators working the official inquest into Diana's fatal car accident, said that there was evidence the fastening pins in the seatbelts worn by Diana and partner Dodi Fayed had been filed down, making it impossible for the safety devices to properly fasten. Had Diana been wearing a seat belt, it feasibly could have saved her life, and conspiracy theorists point to this act of sabotage as proof the accident was a planned murder. Another bit of supposed evidence: The Mercedes had been stolen (and returned) a few months before the deadly crash, giving conspirators time and opportunity to mess with the seat belts.