Instead, shortly after midnight on Aug. 31, they headed downstairs and lingered for about seven minutes near the rear entrance of the Ritz while staffers created a diversion out front to throw the horde of paparazzi off the scent.
The couple climbed into the back of a Mercedes being driven by (as subsequent investigations and inquests concluded) the intoxicated head of security at the Ritz, Henri Paul, who was unexpectedly tasked with taking them back to Dodi’s apartment. Dodi’s bodyguard Trevor Rees-Jones got into the front passenger seat.
Photographers who weren’t fooled by the ruse took off after the Mercedes by car and on motorbikes. Henri sped into the Pont de l’Alma tunnel and, seconds later, the Mercedes smashed into a pillar. The driver and Dodi died at the scene, while Diana was taken to Pitié-Salpêtrière Hospital. After life-saving efforts failed, doctors pronounced her dead at 3 a.m. The world found out three hours later.
When the queen and Charles got the call at Balmoral in the middle of the night, he decided to let William and Harry sleep. He’d tell the boys in the morning.
Part 1 of the sixth season of The Crown is streaming on Netflix. Part 2 premieres Dec. 14.