Twenty years after her death, those who loved and adored Princess Diana can’t help but wonder how life would have played out for her had she not succumb to injuries sustained in the fatal Paris car crash on August 31, 1997.
It was a day when people all over the world listened in disbelief to radio and television reports announcing the death of the 36-year-old People’s Princess, leaving them to mourn the woman who captured their hearts.
Now, a new novel, Imagining Diana, published by Metabook, offers readers an account of Diana’s storied past, and her imagined future as an icon, lover, and mother of a future king.
‘I’ve always found Diana to be a fascinating figure. She was such a complex person who so many people thought they knew, but who was ultimately a mystery at the time of her death,’ says the book’s New York Times bestselling author, Diane Clehane.
What if: Imagining Diana reveals the life that could have been for the People Princess if she had survived the horrific car crash that took her life on August 31, 1997
The People’s Princess: The book creates a parallel universe in which the princess continues her life as an icon and philanthropist
Lady Di, who became the most photographed person in the world, would have to go through life bearing her scars from the crash on her face, according to the book’s author, Diane Clehane
Clehane, a New York Times best-selling author who has written other works on the princess, came up with the idea to create an imagined life for the British royal after having lunch with Diana’s brother, Charles Spencer, two years ago.
‘After our meeting, I found it hard to stop thinking about the Princess and everything I remembered about her came flooding back. I realized we knew almost everything there was to know about Diana, but the one thing we didn’t know was what would have, or could have been, had she lived.’
The novel provides an alternate reality that begins with the Princess of Wales having survived the wreckage, but with her famous face – the most photographed in the world – forever changed.
She now had a ‘bright pink scar that ran down the side of her face from her ear to her jawline,’ Clehane writes.
Dodi Fayed on the other hand, doesn’t fare as well.
Still reeling from the accident and trying to get back to normal life after awaking from a coma, Diana would spend her days after the accident blaming herself for Dodi’s death.
Fateful night: Diana and Dodi Fayed along with their driver were killed in a crash while trying to escape the paparazzi in the Pont de l’Alma road tunnel in Paris
In an alternate universe: Diana lives through the horrific crash and is comatose for a week. She is forced to live life bearing her scars, and she blames herself for the death of Dodi
‘Now, because of me, Dodi is dead and his father has lost his only son,’ she’d tell Charles.
She would have believed her decision to go to Paris, instead of taking her sons to America how she had planned, would mean the tragedy was her fault.
As she moved on, Future Diana had pared down and simplified her look, which sent a message that she was free of the restrictions she had endured for so long.
Her makeup was simpler and her hair was ‘straighter, longer and blonder,’ Clehane writes.
The story goes on to explore her future place in royal life and her complicated relationships with Charles, Camilla, the Queen, Prince Philip and her sons.
It also exposes Diana’s true feelings for her former lover and soulmate, Pakistani heart surgeon Dr. Hasnat Khan, and her failed efforts to reunite with him.
Pictures of Diana and Dodi Al Fayed vacationing in St Tropez went public month after she had ended her relationship with Hasnat Khan
The book explores the possibility of Diana wishing to reconcile with ex-lover Hasnat Khan (left) and regretting her ill-fated attempt to make him jealous with Dodi (right)
The princess would realize she regretted her ill-fated attempt to make Khan jealous.
‘Diana was angrier with herself than at anyone else. Her plan to try and make Hasnat jealous by helping that photographer get pictures of her and Dodi kissing on the Jonikal had backfired, just like Hasnat’s friend had warned her it would.
‘Only she knew just how dire the consequences of her actions had been. Hearing the photographer was shopping his story, Diana worried that Hasnat – along with the world – would eventually find out she had orchestrated those photos on the Jonikal and set off the feeding frenzy in Paris.’
Months before her death, Diana had ended her two-year relationship with Hasnat, who she had described as ‘Mr Wonderful,’ and had begun dating Dodi in July 1997.
Mohamed al Fayed, had maintained Diana and his son were murdered by the Royal Family because they did not want her to marry a Muslim
But the book explores the potential possibility of Diana wanting to reconcile with Hasnat, much to his reluctance.
‘Now you are not only the most famous woman in the world, but you are the sainted figure who was nearly killed by the press,’ he’d tell her.
‘You are more famous than ever.’
‘The photographers don’t want me now. Not like this,’ she tells him.
Hasnat’s hesitation to resume their relationship stemmed from rumors that she was going to marry Dodi.
Diana would eventually have to go meet with Mohamed Al Fayed, who had been talking to the press since the crash, about the tragic love story of her and his son.
‘He continued to harp on his claim that the Establishment did not want Diana to marry a Muslim.’
During a face-to-face meeting between Diana and Mohamed in the British Countryside, she’d insist he stop telling the public she and Dodi were to marry, because the lie is hurting her boys.
Al Fayed refuses to believe the romance between Diana and Dodi wasn’t real.
The book reveals: ‘Mohamed was already there by the time Diana pulled up with Paul in her BMW. He was sitting in the back of his Rolls Royce staring absentmindedly out the window. In that unguarded moment, Diana saw incredible sadness in his eyes.
Clehane goes on to explore Diana’s relationship with her adult sons, the arrival of Kate Middleton on the scene. She would have initially found the her daughter-in-law to be ‘formidable’
‘She felt for him and didn’t want to add to his unhappiness, but the stories of Dodi and Diana planning to marry, and Mohamed’s claims that MI6, working for the royal family, was responsible for the crash, were making her life hell. When Mohamed began talking to whoever would listen about Diana and Dodi and their supposed wedding plans, he upset William and Harry greatly.
‘They were still coming to terms with their parents being divorced. Diana had to explain to them that she never had any intention of marrying Dodi, and the news came as a great relief to William who, didn’t approve of Dodi’s jet-setting lifestyle.’
Clehane goes on to explore Diana’s relationship with her adult sons, the arrival of Kate Middleton on the scene.
Imagining Diana, will be released August 29, 2017, two days before the 20th anniversary of the princess’s death
She would have initially found the her daughter-in-law to be ‘formidable,’ and even felt ‘twinges of envy’ when pictures of Kate’s unmarred, youthful beauty were splashed across the tabloids day after day.
Eventually, Diana would want to take the Duchess of Cambridge under her wing.
The novel also sees a new man in Diana’s life after she makes the decision to move to America. She’d develop a romance with a wealthy, older American financier who asks for her hand in marriage.
‘I absolutely loved the process of creating a world in which Diana lived on,’ says Clehane. ‘And I didn’t want it to be cheesy or tawdry.
‘Although I know there is only the most remote chance that Diana’s family might read the book, I wanted them to know I took great pains to depict Diana as honestly as I could based on my extensive research and reporting. And that I did so with great respect. I admired Diana tremendously. I know she would have played an important role in her sons’ lives and accomplished great things as a global, humanitarian figure had she lived.
‘I hope should her friends and family read the book, they come away feeling good about the kind of journey she takes in the novel; a journey that could have been if only she lived.’