Today is the nineteenth anniversary of one of the most truly shocking celebrity news stories of all time: The sudden death of Princess Diana, a media darling and, at the time, one of the most famous women in the world.
Looking back at broadcasts from the time even the reporters covering the news just can’t seem to get their heads around it.
It was shocking because it’s shocking when a 36-year-old woman suddenly dies in a horrible car accident. But it also flew in the face of the presumed narrative thrust to Diana’s life. She’d just barely gotten officially divorced from Prince Charles, after an extended separation and ages of well-publicized marital strife. She was seemingly everywhere in her philanthropic efforts. She was supposed to do something like marry Dodi Fayed or some other ludicrously rich man of whom the Palace didn’t quite approve. For instance, People coverage of that thoroughly photographed yacht trip from August 25, 1997, just days before she died:
If the latest tabloid telephotos gave her cause for regret, she certainly wasn’t showing it. Back in London on Aug. 7, clad in a curve-hugging blue dress and beaming, she stepped out of a limo and entered Dodi’s lavish Park Lane apartment (one of some 11 Al Fayed family residences at his disposal). Dinner was served on silver trays, and Di stayed until 1 a.m. The next day, after arriving in Bosnia to campaign against land mines—her cause du jour—she declined to discuss Dodi with reporters but looked more cheerful than she had in months. On the plane home she reportedly devoured her own tabloid press with the enthusiasm of a schoolgirl. “Diana,” confirms one longtime royal watcher, “is besotted.”
It’s like if Jennifer Aniston broken her neck in a staircase accident shortly after Brad Pitt bailed, right at the height of the LONELY JEN storyline. It seemed impossible.