I was there for Diana and Dodi’s summer of love – and it wasn’t like The Crown

As Mohamed Al-Fayed’s biographer, Mark Hollingsworth witnessed Dodi and Diana’s romance first-hand – and the inside story he tells here is more gripping and surprising than anything portrayed in the hit Netflix show...

Thursday 16 November 2023 06:30
<p>The Crown</p>

The Crown

It was MI6. They killed Dodi and Diana. Absolutely,” said Mohamed Al-Fayed as I walked towards him across the lawn of his vast country mansion Barrow Green Court, near Oxted. Set on 16 acres of Surrey countryside, Fayed had bought the house in 1972 from Lord McAlpine, later Treasurer of the Conservative Party, and transformed it from its Georgian roots. Inside was a bizarre combination of toys and teddy bears and statues of naked nymphs and semi-nude Greek goddesses. His bedroom was dominated by a gigantic bed surrounded by paintings of more naked girls. And marble and gold dominated the interiors. Outside, the garden featured a large Arab-style white tent that Fayed used as his office and a meeting place away from the prying eyes and ears of his family.

The Egyptian owner of Harrods ushered me into the tent. It was 9 October 1997, six weeks after the death of Princess Diana and his son Dodi. Earlier that year I had been hired as the ghostwriter of Fayed’s autobiography. I was the author of MPs for Hire and Thatcher’s Gold, which appealed to Fayed’s grievance with the political establishment. Despite his courtship of the elites – sponsoring the Royal Horse Show at Windsor, donating to charities and investing in British business – he had been denied British citizenship. And so, he wreaked vengeance by claiming he paid two Tory MPs (Neil Hamilton and Tim Smith) to lobby for him in parliament and that the Ritz Hotel bill for defence minister Jonathan Aitken had been paid for by a Saudi arms broker.

CCTV footage of Diana and Dodi – one of the last pictures of them before their fatal car crash

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