by Shannon Novak
Princess Diana, the beloved Princess of Wales, is one of the world’s most recognized names. She was the first wife of Prince Charles, the Prince of Wales, and the mother of Prince William and Prince Harry. Born into a family of British nobility in 1961 and marrying into Britain’s royal family in 1981, the world’s spotlight shined brightly on her throughout her lifetime. The world’s spotlight became harsh when she and Prince Charles divorced in 1996, and the world’s fascination with her life carried over into her death as well. She died on August 31, 1997 in a car crash that also took the lives of her boyfriend, Dodi Fayed, and her driver, Henri Paul. The tragedy of her death struck the world so hard that people were incredulous to believe that someone as special as her could have been killed in something as random and futile as a car accident (Lawless, 2017). For this reason especially, as well as several other pieces of seemingly convincing information, conspiracy theories arose about her death having been the result of a murder plot – created by England’s royal family – against her.
The general belief of this conspiracy theory is that the royal family was ashamed of the public conversation about the unhappy marriage and divorce of Diana and Charles and therefore took action to conspire against the princess and ultimately murder her. One major proponent of this conspiracy theory of Diana’s plotted murder was Dodi’s father. He had claimed that Diana and Dodi were in fact pregnant and planning to get married, but the royal family very much disapproved of their relationship because they refused to let the princess marry a man of Islamic faith (Wood, Douglas, Sutton, 2012). Dodi’s father also believed that there was an entire list of people who conspired against Diana and Dodi, including but not limited to Prince Philip, Prince Charles, Diana’s sister, and the CIA. He publicly expressed these beliefs and soon these beliefs spread through the world like wildfire. Numerous investigations were held to determine the truth of the matter. Even though both the French Court and London’s Royal Courts of Justice deemed Diana’s death to be an accident, there are still countless people that believe in the conspiracy theory today. Information about whether or not Diana’s death was truly an accident or the result of a murder plot can be found all across the Internet and even international judicial systems. The belief in this conspiracy theory is so important because Princess Diana was not only one of the most famous women of her time, but also an icon of the royal family – a family that is supposed to maintain a pristine reputation. This conspiracy theory could be considered extraordinary because accusing the royal family of committing such a heinous crime of murdering one of its members is such a bold thing to do, and it is an extraordinary claim that would definitely require extraordinary evidence.
One piece of evidence that led to the conception of the conspiracy theory is that it is said that Diana herself had speculated about the plot against her and had written letters in 1995 about her fears of Charles “planning an ‘accident’ in my car” or meeting her demise in an airplane or helicopter ‘accident’. Additionally, the car crash occurred inside of a tunnel that did in fact have surveillance cameras inside of it, however there is absolutely no video footage that exists of the crash despite the existence of cameras at the site of the crash. Many people find this to be very suspicious and claim that the police and/or CIA must have been involved in the destruction of the footage that could’ve served as proof of the murder plot. Evidence against the conspiracy theory is that Diana’s driver, Henri Paul, had been drinking earlier that night before he drove. Additionally, the paparazzi were following the car, and Paul tried to drive faster to evade them. The combination of Paul’s intoxication, the car’s high speed, and the fact that they were inside of a tunnel led to Paul’s loss of control of the car. This loss of control ultimately ended in devastation as three of the car’s four passengers died as a result of the crash. Furthermore, Diana was not pregnant and Dodi and Diana were not planning on getting married – as Dodi’s father had claimed and used as some of the crucial information in creating this conspiracy theory (Lawless, 2017).
People who believe in this conspiracy theory are certainly not unintelligent. Instead, in believing in the theory, they are fulfilling their need to gain an understanding and have control over something that they are having a difficult time grasping. As previously mentioned, people have a difficult time believing that a person as remarkable as Princess Diana would meet her ending in such an ordinary way. The believers are looking for power and hope in an event that has been so tragic and devastating to the world. Additionally, the people who believe in this conspiracy theory might have a certain level of mistrust towards the royal family and have therefore found reasons as to why they would want to plan her murder anyways. Furthermore, with the proper motivation to find information, people will develop a specific lens when looking at information about the accident and fall victim to the confirmation bias. They may have been misinformed by the media or may be misinterpreting evidence in such a way that fits the lens of their confirmation bias.
Believers of this conspiracy theory come from all types of communities, however Dodi’s family were, and continue to be, very strong influences on the belief in the theory. In fact, Dodi’s father has taken lots of legal action to prove his beliefs, however those attempts have proved to be unsuccessful for him. An interesting social influence that has helped believers sustain their belief system in this conspiracy theory is the existence of other, slightly different conspiracy theories that exist about the car crash. For example, some people believe that she Diana and Dodi are actually not dead, but instead they faked their deaths to seek refuge from the press and to live a happy life together away from the spotlight. Another theory that some people have is that Dodi and Diana were not the targets of the British royal family, but they were actually the targets of Arab arms dealers (Anonymous, 2006). Despite the fact that all of these theories contradict each other, the contradictions do not weaken the belief in the main theory, – that the royal family plotted Diana’s murder – but rather strengthen it because the contradictory theories give support to the belief in the existence of conspiracy theories about this event in general (Wood, Douglas, Sutton, 2012).
In conclusion, the main reason that some people believe that the royal family conspired to kill Diana was so that people may have an explanation for something that they are having a difficult time making sense of. By being able to provide a reason behind Diana’s tragic and unexpected death, people are able to fulfill their need of having some control over the unknown. Additionally, high levels of suspicion and mistrust of the government are important in the creation of this specific extraordinary belief because the people who believe in it have come up with reasons as to why the authorities should not be trusted and reasons as to why the royal family would do something like this in the first place. Finally, with the help of confirmation bias, people are able to evaluate certain information and ignore other bits of information in such a way that fulfills their pre-existing ideas about Diana’s death.
Anonymous (2006). Last refuge of the conspiracy (Death of Princess Diana). Retrieved from
Lawless, Jill (2017). Diana’s Tragic Death Spawned Web of Conspiracy Theories. AP News,
Associated Press, www.apnews.com/ac2f7bbb6c9f4818a47e24dc79d00394.
Wood, J., Michael, Douglas, M., Karen, Sutton, M., Robbie (2012). Dead and Alive : Beliefs in
Contradictory Conspiracy Theories. Retrieved from https://journals-ohiolink-edu.proxy.lib.ohio-state.edu/pg_99?108166688624377::NO::P99_ENTITY_ID,P99_ENTITY_TYPE:265455224,MAIN_FILE&cs=3v-MRCQgQznBnRWUdwsP_vTcqv8n4FKn4gLcCs22NRuSNWspRBSnmCR0GKC8_1tSQak4ueJ42cU2h5dIF3DwPdg