The powerful scenes have raised more questions than answers. Season 6 of Netflix’s hit The Crown chronicles Princess Diana’s whirlwind romance with Egyptian movie producer Dodi Fayed — with his billionaire father Mohamed al-Fayed pulling the strings — up until their final evening together at Paris’ Ritz Hotel, in which she gently rejects his proposal hours before dying in a horrific car crash. “We have to make some sort of leaps of the imagination,” creator Peter Morgan has admitted of his show, which was slapped with a “fictional dramatization” disclaimer last year after critics complained of historic inaccuracies. “Maybe sometimes I get it wrong.”

In this case, there’s plenty of evidence to suggest he did. “Dodi proposed — and Diana tearfully accepted,” a source tells In Touch of the night August 30, 1997. And now, after 26 years — using testimony from multiple friends and witnesses, a British inquest and the official French police report — In Touch reveals what really happened in their final 24 hours. “The truth,” says a source, “is that they were in love and planning a future together.”

Diana and Dodi were much closer than anyone realized at the time. “People say it was just a summer fling, but they had been friends for 10 years,” her confidante Rosa Monckton has said. They met through Mohamed in 1986, and Diana saw the family often. By 1997, “we used to hang out with William and Harry all the time at Kensington Palace,” Mohamed’s daughter Camilla, who was then 11, has said. “We were all very close — it’s just that no one really knew.”

That summer, Di and her sons vacationed with the Fayeds in St. Tropez, France. Mohamed bought the yacht Jonikal after she accepted his invitation. “His ulterior motive,” royal historian Katie Nicholl has written, “was to play Cupid between the princess and Dodi.”

It worked. Dodi “chatted Mummy up, his eyes plumping into red hearts,” Harry, who was 12 at the time, wrote in his memoir, Spare. And in a call from the yacht, Diana, 36, gushed that her time with Dodi, 42, was “bliss,” says Rosa.

“They’d watch TV and hang out like teenagers.” At the end of July, Diana broke up with her surgeon beau, Hasnat Khan, in London, he told police, and returned to Dodi. They took two more trips on Jonikal and even reportedly went ring shopping in Monte Carlo.

After breakfast and a swim on Jonikal on August 30, Dodi and Diana flew to Paris. They arrived at around 3:20 p.m. and stopped briefly at Villa Windsor. Mohamed leased the house — where Edward VIII and wife Wallis Simpson lived after he abdicated the British throne — and he told investigators that Diana and Dodi had planned to make it their home. (Her sister confirmed she considered moving to France.) After arriving with Diana at the Ritz Hotel at 4:30, Dodi walked to the Repossi jewelry store. He bought a sparkler from the Dis-moi Oui (“tell me yes”) collection, which was described on the receipt as an engagement ring.

Meanwhile, Diana had her hair done, then called her sons, who were staying with their father, Charles, at Balmoral Castle in Scotland. “Harry and I were running around, playing with our cousins,” William recalled, and rushed to hang up. “I can’t really remember what I said,” Harry said, but added that he would “regret for the rest of my life how short the phone call was.”

At 9:30, after another stop at Dodi’s apartment, they were back in the Ritz’s Imperial Suite. Multiple witnesses told French police Dodi planned to propose with the ring, which “would have been priceless to Diana because she actually chose it,” says the source. Dodi’s butler said he had chilled champagne ready so they could celebrate. And at 10, they called to tell Dodi’s father the happy news, Mohamed testified under oath, revealing that they were going to publicly announce it on September 1.

Princess Diana and Dodi Fayed Were ‘Planning a Future Together’ Before Fatal Car Accident
Michel Dufour/WireImage

Just after midnight, the pair were ready to go back to the apartment. Security camera footage shows Diana smiling in the elevator, then holding hands and cuddling with Dodi as they waited at the hotel’s back exit, where they were hoping to avoid attention. But there were photographers outside. “Don’t try to follow us; in any case you won’t catch us,” driver Henri Paul (whose blood alcohol was three times the legal limit) told them. By 12:20 a.m., they were speeding at 65 mph under an overpass by the Seine River, being tailed by motorcycles, before crashing into a pillar.

What caused the accident? According to Endgame, William and Harry have since uncovered shocking new details. Henri, they believe, was blinded by a “major white flash” from a camera, author Omid Scobie writes. Henri and Dodi were killed instantly. Bodyguard Trevor Rees-Jones, who survived with severe injuries, heard Diana calling out Dodi’s name. “Oh my god, what’s happened?” she asked a first responder at 12:32 a.m.

Those were her last words. The People’s Princess was rushed to a hospital, where she died at 4 a.m. on August 31, sending the whole world into mourning. “All anyone can do is wonder what could have been,” says the source. But until his death in August, nearly 25 years after losing his son, Mohamed insisted Diana was looking forward to years of happiness with Dodi. “She was completely full of joy,” he said. “At the end of the road, she found someone who could fulfill all her dreams.”

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