Princess Diana: Did She Know She Was Going to Die?

Diana signed the letter, put it in an envelope, and sealed it before handing it to her butler and confidant, Paul Burrell. "I want you to keep it," she told him, "just in case." A few months later, Diana would offer a different scenario for her demise. "One day I'm going to go up in a helicopter," she said, "and it'll just blow up. The MI6 will do away with me." (Diana was convinced that MI6 had already done away with her devoted Royal Protection officer Barry Mannakee when it was suspected he might be having an affair with the Princess. He was killed in 1987, when a Ford Fiesta swerved from a side street and struck his Suzuki motorcycle. "It [the affair] was all found out" Diana told her voice coach Peter Settelen in 1992, "and he was chucked out. And then he was killed. And I think he was bumped off. But there we are. I don'twe'll never know. He was the greatest fella I've ever had.")

This sad day in Paris, Mohamed Al Fayed knew nothing of Diana's prescient letter. Yet there was no doubt in his mind that Dodi and the Princess had been targets of an assassination plot. Flying his Sikorsky S-76 to Paris, Al Fayed arrived at Pitié-Salpêtrière Hospital at 3:50 on the morning of August 31 and was told his son had already been taken to the morgue. Ten minutes later, Diana was pronounced dead. On Al Fayed's orders, Diana's belongings were gathered up and shipped back to Surrey with Dodi's. Even as Al Fayed's helicopter whisked Dodi's body off to be buried before sunset in accordance with Islamic law, Diana, whose son would someday head the Church of England, was given the last rites by the only cleric on duty at the hospital--a Roman Catholic priest.

In another odd twist, British Consul-General Keith Moss would give the nod for Diana's body to be "partially embalmed" -- preserved from the waist up. The process was ostensibly done for cosmetic purposes. Given the lack of adequate air-conditioning inside the hospital and the nature of the Princess's injuries, French embalmer Jean Monceau told Moss that the body would soon be in no condition for viewing by the family unless action was taken. "It seemed," Moss later said, "the right thing to do under the circumstances."

Charles had, in fact, taken a keen interest in his ex-wife's appearance even before he left for Paris. At one point, he called Nurse Humbert at Pitié-Salpêtrière Hospital to tell her the Princess "would want to look her best" for the dignitaries coming to pay their respects that day. Whether or not Charles's intentions were entirely innocent, the go-ahead for a partial embalming -- made with the full approval of St. James's Palace -- would add fuel to the conspiracy bonfires. The procedure makes a full autopsy impossible, since the formaldehyde used in embalming corrupts many toxicological tests. Specifically, it would be impossible to determine if, as was widely rumored, Diana may have been pregnant at the time of her death.

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