Princess Diana Conspiracy Theories at Center of Anniversary Docuseries

Conspiracy theories surrounding the 1997 death of Princess Diana will be at the center of a new British docuseries commissioned to mark the 25th anniversary of her passing.

British TV network Channel 4 has announced that the four-part series will tell for the first time the story of two separate police investigations into Diana's death at the age of 36 in a Paris car crash. The first was undertaken in 1997 by French authorities, the second in 2004 by British police.

Since the princess's death, unfounded conspiracy theories have circulated, ranging from wild claims that Prince Philip ordered her assassination to speculation that intelligence operatives had issued a blinding flash in the Pont de l'Alma tunnel that disorientated the driver and caused the deadly crash.

Princess Diana Conspiracy Theories
Theories surrounding the death of Diana will be featured in a new British TV series. Above, the princess on June 2, 1997, and her funeral procession on September 6, 1997. Antony Jones/UK Press via Getty Images/Ralf-Finn Hestoft/CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images

In a press release announcing the series, which was co-produced with Discovery+, Channel 4 said the project explores "how powerful individuals, the press and the internet created and fuelled conspiracy theories that overwhelmed facts and called into question the very nature of truth."

Channel 4 executive Shaminder Nahal said: "This utterly compelling series explores in forensic detail what happened in the investigations following the death of Princess Diana —what it was like for the detectives working on a huge global news story that was not just a tragedy for the families involved, but a massive internet phenomenon too. In the end the series asks profound questions about ourselves as a society, and the nature of truth."

The project, whose working title is Investigating Diana: Death in Paris, will air around the time of the 25th anniversary of the princess's fatal car crash on August 31.

The series is the latest in a string of media studies of Diana and her life story to be released this year and will follow HBO's feature-length documentary The Princess, which was put together entirely from archive press footage and looks at the media's relationship with the royal from marriage to death.

Earlier this year, Variety announced that a drama series written in collaboration with Martine Monteil, the head of the French police's criminal investigation division at the time of Diana's death, was in production. It will look at the conspiracy theories surrounding the event and is titled Who Killed Lady Di?

The Death of a Princess

The princess's death occurred on the evening of August 31, 1997, while she was traveling from the Ritz Hotel in Paris with her boyfriend, Harrods heir Dodi Fayed. The car was being driven by the Ritz's acting head of security, Henri Paul, and the couple were joined by Fayed's bodyguard, Trevor Rees-Jones.

While the car was pursued by paparazzi, Paul lost control in the Pont de l'Alma tunnel, and the car collided at a high speed with a structural central pillar. Paul and Fayed were pronounced dead at the scene. Diana was taken to the Pitié-Salpêtrière Hospital, where attempts to save her life were unsuccessful. Rees-Jones was the sole survivor.

Princess Diana Paris Car Crash
From left, bodyguard Trevor Rees-Jones and driver Henri Paul, with Princess Diana and Dodi Fayed in the rear seat, before their car crashed in a Paris tunnel on August 31, 1997. Jacques Langevin/scottbaker-inquests.gov.uk via Getty Images

Public Inquiries and Conspiracy Theories

The 1997 French inquiry into the circumstances surrounding the crash determined that Paul had been under the influence of alcohol and antidepressants while driving. Members of the paparazzi who were arrested for pursuing the car at the time of the crash were cleared of manslaughter charges as a result.

Mohamed al-Fayed, the father of Dodi and friend of Princess Diana's, was among the most vocal figures who disputed the official verdict and claimed in the press that the crash was not an accident. Over the next seven years, Al-Fayed urged authorities to investigate a number of conspiracy theories, among them that Diana was pregnant at the time of her death and that she was about to announce her engagement to Dodi.

In 2004, British police opened a second inquiry into the death of the princess with an investigation into the conspiracy theories that was called "Operation Paget." Many of Diana's closest friends, as well as Prince Charles and Prince William, collaborated with authorities in the investigation.

In March 2008, the inquest finally came to a close, with a jury finding that Diana had been unlawfully killed in the car crash as a result of the "grossly negligent driving of the following vehicles [the paparazzi] and of the Mercedes driver Henri Paul."

After all the presented evidence was considered, the conspiracy theories examined were found to be false.

Dodi Fayed and Mohamed Al-Fayed
Princess Diana was traveling with boyfriend Dodi Fayed, left, when their car crashed in Paris in 1997. At right, Mohamed al-Fayed, Dodi's father, who urged an investigation into the conspiracy theories surrounding the deadly accident. Jacques Langevin/scottbaker-inquests.gov.uk via Getty Images/Tomos Brangwyn/WireImage

The Pop Culture Princess

In 2022, the year marking the 25th anniversary of the crash, the princess remains a popular royal figure. In a poll conducted by YouGov America in February, Diana was ahead of Queen Elizabeth II, Kate Middleton and Meghan Markle in a list of the most popular royals.

This, in part, can be seen in the princess's consistent depictions in popular culture. In addition to Channel 4's conspiracy theory docuseries, Diana will feature as a character in the highly anticipated fifth season of the Netflix drama The Crown and be played by Elizabeth Debicki.

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Princess Diana in Popular Culture
Princess Diana has been depicted numerous times on screen, including in the Netflix drama "The Crown." Above, Diana in Washington, D.C., on June 17, 1997. TIM GRAHAM/Getty Images