Let’s say you love your mother a lot.
And let’s say you lose her when you are only 12 years old.
To a gnarly car accident.
Except maybe it wasn’t an accident.
Let’s also say that your somewhat detached father, who was divorced from your mother, marries the woman with whom he was having an affair before, during and after his marriage to your mom — all of which caused your mother a great deal of anguish and, even at your young age, you witnessed and felt her pain.
Seems to us one good reason why someone would run away from home, in this case bail from Blighty, and relocate to somewhere far, far away from dad, stepmom — and the land where it became impossible to escape all those bad memories.
We don’t presume to know what Prince Harry knows or believes about what truly happened to his mother, Princess Diana (other than his public pronouncements over feeling “helpless” and “hunted,” causing him to seek therapy for anxiety and trauma). But having studied the official 2008 inquest and investigated the circumstances, we do know there is reasonable cause to be suspicious about what went down that awful night in Paris 25 years ago this month.
Even the jury of that inquest refused to rule Princess Diana the victim of an “accident,” even though the judge tried to lead jurors to such a finding. Based on the evidence presented to them and after hearing from 278 witnesses, 11 jurors chose “unlawful killing.”
Perhaps one clue about what Prince Harry believes is the hiring last year of Ben Browning to head Archewell Productions, the entertainment company founded by himself and his wife Meghan.
Mr. Browning, in 2013, through his former production company Wayfare Entertainment, purchased the rights to a movie screenplay titled “Inquest,” a political thriller that suggests Princess Diana was murdered by the royal family she married into and got eructed from.
Question: Was the hiring of Mr. Browning a coincidence — or a warning shot fired across the bow of what’s to come?
One thing we do know for certain is that Prince Harry has serious concerns about his family’s security. Not only has he taken the U.K. Home Office to court for refusing to provide police bodyguards when he is present in Britain (a case now under review), but intruder scares (two in May) at his Montecito mansion have not been taken lightly by the local constabulary.
We reached out to Mr. Browning in the hope of learning the status of “
“Inquest” and if he has any plans to produce it for Archewell. He did not respond.
Penguin Random House recently announced that Prince Harry’s book will be released at Thanksgiving, just in time for the bustling Christmas gift season. Described by its publisher as “an intimate and heartfelt memoir,” we wonder if Harry will address the circumstances of his mother’s death and, through subtle nuances, reveal his mindset on this delicate matter.
The Duke of Windsor, another royal exile who a century ago abdicated his throne “for the woman he loved,” was tempted, soon after his marriage to Wallis Simpson and the commencement of what would become their permanent banishment from Britain, to write a book with Compton Mackenzie (a popular British author of the time). But, according to Andrew Lownie in his newly published book “Traitor King,” “the Duke withdrew … realizing it best he not be seen to cooperate with any writer.”
Which means Prince Harry is crossing a line even the very vain and vexed Edward VIII knew better than to cross. And if Harry is prepared to cross that line, one wonders how far he is prepared to go with revelations about the Royal Family he abandoned for a new life in Montecito.
DODI THE CAREER CAD
I have my own theory about what took place in the early hours of Aug. 31, 1997. Suffice to say, it’s not pretty, but it is mine to keep. So rather than theorize and risk getting gaslit like Martha Mitchell (who was not delusional but spot on about Watergate all along), let’s simply take a stroll down memory lane and assess the facts so that you, dear reader, can make up your own mind about a tragedy that befell a beautiful young princess way before her time. Remember, she was only 36.
Let’s start with Emad “Dodi” Fayed, who was 42, the cocaine-snorting do-little spoiled brat of a billionaire’s son who left a trail of bad debt in his wake and was under investigation by the IRS at the time of his death. (He owed $93,053 in back taxes.) Or as Vanity Fair put it, Dodi had “a reputation for reneging on commitments and creditors… failing to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars in rent, wrecking rental properties, selling film rights he didn’t own and neglecting to pay attorneys, doctors, repairmen, and even his projectionist.”
In 1994, American Express sued Dodi for $116,890. Courts were clogged with other such creditor actions.
Dodi was the playboy son of Mohamed Al Fayed (the “Al” being a royal prefix that Fayed, from humble Egyptian origins, bestowed upon himself).
I sort of knew Dodi in London, circa 1972-3. American teens hung out weekend nights at The Aristocrat, a pub on George Street in Marylebone. Dodi, about my age and ever the show-off, would park his show offish Trans Am Mustang on the curb directly outside the pub, on the prowl for underage American females, one right after the other. At first a cad cadet, Dodi graduated to career cad. I watched over a pint of lager as young Dodi matriculated.
The one thing Dodi was good at, through much practice, was picking up and schmoozing girls. Most men would be intimidated by Princess Diana, which is something she herself complained about after her divorce from Prince Charles. But not Dodi, which would prove to be the secret of his success in romancing her.
The powers-that-be in Britain’s (Church of England) Establishment watched in horror as Dodi, a Muslim, squired Diana around Europe, most especially (with media attention focused upon them) on his father’s yacht in the Med. It was getting serious. Very serious.
Estranged from her former husband, Prince Charles, and most members of the royal family, Princess Diana appeared to take delight in overshadowing them as the center of attention wherever she went, whatever she was doing — resulting in endless page-one photographs. The media made Diana’s life miserable but its representatives, from lowly paparazzi to senior news executives, adored her for providing them much copy and making all involved up and down the food chain fabulously rich.
Dodi, who met Diana through his father (then the owner of Harrods, London’s swankiest department store), was already engaged to an American woman named Kelly Fisher. But Mohamed had other plans: He knew the only thing his son was any good at was charming the pants off women.
As such, he contrived to play Cupid, putting his yacht, his Gulfstream IV jet, his Hotel Ritz in Paris — and other resources at Dodi’s disposal — to woo Diana as part of the old man’s ongoing quest to further establish himself as part of The Establishment.
Kelly, already sporting a diamond-and sapphire engagement ring, got jilted by Dodi in a phone call two days before their planned marriage as he, preparing to become engaged to Diana instead, decided on a $205,000 diamond encrusted ring from Repossi in Monte Carlo, to be collected (after being customized) at the jeweler’s swank Paris boutique a few weeks later.
On the day before they died, Dodi and Diana inspected the Duke of Windsor’s old digs, the villa at 4 Route du Champ d’Entrainement (leased by daddy Mohamed) in the Bois de Boulogne, as a potential future home for themselves and her sons, Princes William and Harry, the so-called “heir and spare.”
Mr. Al Fayed was thrilled. If Diana married his son, Mohamad would become stepfather to the future King of England.
The poetry was too perfect. And perhaps unacceptable to some, who perceived Diana and Dodi’s expected engagement as the most unholy of matrimonies.
THE AL-22 FLASHBULB
The Paris paparazzi, perhaps the most pernicious in the world, could presumably be exploited as unwitting accomplices to the plan. (Despite France’s stringent privacy laws, it is ironic that the French legal system permits homegrown paparazzi immense flexibility to intrude upon the privacy of visiting foreigners — so long as their intrusive photographs are published outside of France.)
Using paparazzi as a cover, an assassin — maybe working for an entity wishing to embarrass the British powers-that-be, whom everyone would naturally blame — would have initially camouflaged himself among the mob of motorcycle-riding photographers.
The assassin — way ahead of the pack due to a diversion contrived at the Ritz Hotel, from which Dodi and Diana emerged — would have been equipped with an AL-22 flashbulb, which, with its 110,000 lumens (candle power) produces a flash so bright, it renders anyone in who sees it in a dark environment temporarily blinded for at least 20 seconds.
Not designed for photography, the AL-22 flashbulb was once commercially available as a defense weapon for homeowners to discharge at nighttime home invaders as a means of providing time to escape while such criminals struggled to regain their vision.
After nine hours of paparazzi harassment, Dodi was fed up and eager to manifest his manhood. “Step on it!” he supposedly ordered his driver, Henri Paul (acting head of security at the Ritz) who was not sloshed at the wheel as widely depicted (“Drunk as a Pig” screamed the newspaper headline), having drunk only two alcoholic beverages (Ricard pastis) much earlier in the evening, during which he disappeared for several hours, holed up somewhere with someone (still unidentified) who gave him $2,000 in cash. In the previous six months, Mr. Paul had banked other unexplained earnings, perhaps from whomever he mysteriously signaled with a wave of his hand down the road just before leading Dodi and Diana from the back entrance of the Ritz to their death trap.
In pursuit by supposed paparazzi, Mr. Paul gunned the pedal up to 80 miles an hour as he approached the Pont d’Alma tunnel. (The irony: Dodi was said to be obsessive about safety and terrified of speed.)
Surveillance cameras would normally record comings and goings through the tunnel, 24/7. Alas, all cameras had been mysteriously switched off.
Ahead of the vehicle, just as Dodi’s Mercedes entered the dark tunnel, someone discharged the AL-22 flashbulb directly at his windshield, temporarily blinding Mr. Paul and causing him to lose control of his vehicle, which then crashed into a pillar, killing him and Dodi instantly.
Diana had not been wearing a seatbelt because, mysteriously, it was broken. But she survived the crash. However, it took an astonishing one hour and 43 minutes to remove Diana from the unobstructed backseat, place her in an ambulance and transport her to a hospital. Consequently, soon after delayed arrival, Diana succumbed to her injuries.
(Jeez, don’t know if you’ve noticed but the word mysteriously crops up an awful lot.)
Dare we add, three years later it was discovered that Diana had left handwritten notes for both her butler and lawyer forecasting that she would be murdered in a way that it would look to be a car accident?
Mohamed Al Fayed has always maintained that his son and Diana were murdered. His views were made known in a 2011 documentary, “Unlawful Killing,” presented at the Cannes Film Festival, banned in Britain, and later withdrawn from distribution in the U.S. though it can sometimes be found on YouTube.
Later this week, the Discovery+ channel will commence streaming their new four-part television documentary called “The Diana Investigations.”
In the aftermath of Diana’s death, several witnesses mysteriously (there it is again) disappeared, not unlike what transpired during the years following the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.
But the strangest death associated with Diana’s demise was the case of James Andanson, a photographer who had relentlessly trailed the princess around Europe for a month before her accident and, though he denied officially being at the Pont d’Alma Tunnel on that fateful night, confirmed later to friends that he was present.
In 2007, Mr. Andanson was shot in the head. Twice. Then set on fire.
This happened at a ministry of defense field near Montpelier in France.
Mr. Andanson’s charred remains — with two bullet holes in his skull— were found in his burned-out car, the key to which was missing.
Cause of death?
The media quickly rose to the occasion as the summer of ’97 ended with a bang — a bang with a resounding echo heard around the world.
Newspapers sold so many copies in the two weeks following Princess Diana’s death, circulation records were broken — and newsprint mills cleaned out.
Diana’s charities would reap more donations in four weeks than the previous four years.
The world would have a good cathartic cry; in Britain, there was mass-mourning to the point of hysteria.
The monarchy would suffer a blow, its sensitivity publicly questioned.
But in the long-term the royal family’s popularity would rise out of the quagmire into which it had sunk even before Diana’s death, if only because Britain’s future king — William — is saintly Diana’s son.
With one casualty: A wildcard named Harry
Robert Eringer is a longtime Montecito author with vast experience in investigative journalism. He welcomes questions or comments at email@example.com.