Diana divorced Prince Charles in 1996, but was still the world’s most photographed woman. By the following year, she was on good terms with her ex-husband – looking to focus on the charities close to her heart – and her love life was looking up, too. Dodi was a film producer and invested in a number of successful films when he was younger.
He had first met the Princess of Wales in 1986 at a polo match, and then again in 1992 at a film premiere – but, by the time sparks flew between them, he was engaged to the former Vogue model Kelly Fisher.
Even so, Diana reportedly told her friends at the beginning of 1997 that Mohamed Al Fayed — Dodi’s father — had told her she and his son were made for one another.
Then that summer, Mr Al Fayed invited both Diana and his son to join him on his yacht.
Mr Al Fayed allegedly thought the Princess of Wales would appreciate some time with someone closer to her own age, and Dodi had a “gentleness and willingness to please”, according to biographer Howard Hodgson.
Writing in his 2007 book, ‘Charles — The man who will be King’, Mr Hodgson explained how it was actually the Princess of Wales who made the first move.
Yet, Mr Hodgson claimed “Diana knew she was on to a certainty with Dodi” and it was she who took the “lead in the seduction”.
The biographer also described how the two first bonded.
Allegedly, after dinner, Dodi dropped some fruit on the floor by mistake, before mischievous Diana picked it up and threw it at him.
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When they departed, Dodi sent her a large bouquet of pink roses and a solid gold Panther watch.
At the end of July, she saw Dodi again in Paris, for a secret weekend and then on July 31, they went on a cruise, and soon photographs of the two of them had been published around the world.
Commentators have been divided over whether the Princess of Wales had truly fallen for Dodi, or if she was trying to bounce back from her relationship with the heart surgeon, Hasnat Khan, ever since, although Mr Hodgson claimed it was the latter.
He said her friend, Lady Elsa Bowker, claimed Diana had pursued Mr Khan “with such determination because he didn’t appear to be under her spell”.
Lady Elsa reportedly told the biographer that “Diana’s feelings had never been stronger” for the surgeon – just before her death, and that her romance with Dodi was an attempt to win Mr Khan back.
However, some close to Diana say she had never been happier than when she was with Dodi — while others claim she had suggested it was just a holiday romance.
Their romance was sadly short-lived, as the couple died together in Paris in a tragic car accident, in 1997.
‘Charles — The Man who will be King’ by Howard Hodgson was published by John Blake in 2007, and is available here.