Princess Diana was one of the most popular and best-loved royals of all time, with her kind and caring personality and down-to-earth interactions with her fans changing the face of the royal family forever. It’s hardly surprising she was nicknamed the “People’s Princess”, as she endeared herself to everyone she met.
The former Lady Diana Spencer, who would have been 58 on 1st July, tragically lost her life in a car accident in Paris on 31st August 1997, when she was only 36.
Diana’s life and family
Having been in the media spotlight since her wedding to Prince Charles on 29th July 1981, she had always handled the attention graciously.
During her 15-year marriage to Charles, which sadly ended when the couple divorced in 1996, she gave birth to two sons, Prince William in June 1982 and Prince Harry in September 1984. She remained the Princess of Wales and threw herself into humanitarian work for the rest of her life.
After Diana’s divorce, she was often photographed in the company of Dodi Fayed, the dashing son of Egyptian billionaire, Mohamed Al-Fayed, who at the time was the owner of Harrods’ department store in London.
Dodi also lost his life alongside the princess in the devastating car accident, at the age of only 42. They had been driving along the Pont de l’Alma underpass when the accident occurred.
After having enjoyed a holiday together in the French and Italian Rivieras on Dodi’s family yacht, the Jonikal, they had stopped in Paris on their way to London.
Mr Al-Fayed, a wealthy business magnate, had bought Harrods from the retail group House of Fraser in 1985. After the fatal car accident, he erected a memorial to his son and Princess Diana in Harrods.
The monument was designed by the store’s architect, Bill Mitchell, who was a close friend of Mr Al-Fayed’s who had worked at Harrods for 40 years.
The first memorial is displayed on the lower ground floor of the Knightsbridge store, at the bottom of the Egyptian escalator. The tribute features portraits of Dodi and Diana, with an inscription.
A second memorial, called “Innocent Victims”, was unveiled in 2005, again created by Mitchell. This time, it featured a bronze statue of Dodi and Diana on the beach, sheltering underneath an albatross’s wings. The second statue was displayed on the top floor.
New memorial statue
In January 2018, it was revealed that the Innocent Victims statue was being returned to the Al-Fayed family, who sold Harrods to the Qatari royal family in 2010 for a reported £1.5 billion.
Harrods’ bosses said that because the Duke of Cambridge and Prince Harry were planning a new official statue to commemorate their late mother at Kensington Palace, the time was right to give the Egyptian tycoon his memorial statue back.
They said they were proud to have celebrated the lives of Diana and Dodi by welcoming people from all over the world to visit the memorial for the past two decades, but now the public were being invited to pay their respects at Kensington Palace, it was fitting that Mr Al-Fayed should be able to have his memorial returned for his own private tribute.
After the fatal car accident, thousands of memorials and floral tributes were placed around Kensington Palace, while an estimated 2.5 billion people all over the world watched the television broadcast of the princess’s funeral on Saturday 6th September 1997.
Fans of the royal family will be preparing to remember the People’s Princess, as the 22nd anniversary of her death will be marked on 31st August.
Harrods, a Grade II Listed art-deco building, enjoyed a £20 million refurbishment in 2016, when a new entrance and 16 sets of eye-catching double escalators, were installed. The store also features a stunning large glass dome on the roof.
No trip to London would be complete without a visit to Harrods. Why not hire a modern minibus from H&H Van Hire for your convenience? It’s a popular and cost-effective option for groups of travellers so that everyone can arrive together and save on costs by clubbing together for the hire fee. Please contact us for details of our nine, 14 and 17-seater minibuses.