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Why Diana Dumped The Muslim Doctor She Hoped To Marry

July 29th, the 36th wedding anniversary of Prince Charles and Diana’s 36th wedding anniversary. British tabloids fight with one and another in revealing Diana’s secret and not so secret life, The Daily Mail hired Richard Kay, the writer who knew Diana best, and his colleague Geoffrey Levy to tell the untold story of her love affair with playboy Dodi Fayed and why she dumped the Muslim doctor she hoped to marry for a billionaire’s son.

The small, silver picture frame was neither ornate nor particularly valuable, but wherever she was in the world, Princess Diana had it with her so she could put it on her bedside table. The first thing she saw in the morning, and the last thing at night, was the smiling face of Hasnat Khan.

In the two years that she had been seeing the Pakistan-born heart surgeon, he had become an indispensable part of her life. She spent evenings dipping into Gray’s Anatomy, the classic medical textbook, so she could talk to him knowledgeably about his work, and reading a book about understanding Islam that he had given her. And she treasured the tiger’s eye stone he gave her to protect her from evil spirits.

The year was 1997, and she and the Prince of Wales had been apart for nearly five years. As she moved into her mid-thirties and sought to make a new life for herself, Diana had matured beyond recognition from the gauche ingenue who had captured the hearts of the nation on her wedding day in 1981.

Richard Kay, the writer who knew Diana best, and his colleague Geoffrey Levy bring you the full untold story of her love affair with playboy Dodi Fayed. Pictured: Dodi and Diana in St Tropez just nine days before they died

There was a new independence about her pursuit of a real role as a semi-detached royal. But in one aspect she remained tentative and uncertain – romance. She freely admitted that when it came to men friends, she was ‘not a good picker’. Among them, Khan was the most unlikely. He smoked (which she hated) and, unusually for a Muslim, he drank. ‘You would too, if you had the pressure of his job,’ she would say, defending him.

She even went with him to the pub, where he liked a pint of Guinness – she herself scarcely drank. But then, she was in love with him. And, understandably for a young woman whose idealised dreams of happy marriage had failed so catastrophically the first time round, she saw the steady, attentive Hasnat as a potential husband.

Those hopes, however, of a second family and a new life with the physician whom she had met at the hospital bedside of a friend of hers he was treating, were melting away. She had come to realise, as Hasnat himself had told her, that the only chance they had of a normal life was to live in Pakistan, and that meant living apart from her beloved boys William and Harry.

So it is not entirely surprising that, before long, the silver frame of Hasnat was replaced on her bedside table by another silver frame given to her by a very different lover, playboy Dodi Fayed, eldest son of the then owner of Harrods, the highly controversial Mohamed al Fayed.

Dodi’s frame contained a poem that included the sentimental lines, ‘When I am not with you, I am alone, for there is no one else and there is nothing that comforts me but you.’ In his fervent anxiety to impress Diana, Dodi claimed to have composed it himself. The truth was he cribbed it from the wall of one of his former girlfriends, Frank Sinatra’s singer daughter, Tina.

So Diana had replaced the relatively impecunious doctor with the billionaire’s son. And as photographs were flashed around the world of her looking glamorous and happy in that last summer of her life on his father’s luxury 937-ton yacht, the Jonikal, and embracing divorcé Dodi, there were many who assumed that she was sending a personal message to Dr Khan.

Hasnat Khan (pictured) was seen as a potential husband by Princess Diana 

Even he thought she might be trying to make him jealous. She wasn’t. In fact, says her close friend, astrologer Debbie Frank, ‘Diana was sending a message to Charles and Camilla.’

After years of furtive meetings, the prince and his mistress had started to go public with their relationship – Charles had just given a lavish, highly publicised 50th birthday party for Camilla at Highgrove. Diana wanted them to know that she, too, now intended to be public about her relationships.

After several clandestine affairs, from polo-playing Guards officer James Hewitt and burly England rugby captain Will Carling to the quietly academic Dr Khan, Dodi was the first man she was openly displaying to the world.

Mohamed al Fayed (far left) with Diana, William and Harry at his St Tropez villa Castle St Therese. It was here she had her first meeting with Dodi, having turned down two other offers of a holiday 

Diana and Harry on a jet ski in hot pursuit of William during their holiday to St. Tropez

Not an ideal choice for such a bold step, it must be said. For the sometime film producer was said to have dabbled in drugs and had a reputation as an energetic womaniser. As for his father, he had been exposed paying cash in ‘brown envelopes’ for questions to be asked in the House of Commons and had been turned down for a British passport. Surely Dodi, 42, was just the kind of man the mother of a future king would normally be expected to avoid?

And yet soon after being brought together by al Fayed Sr in his palatial St Tropez beachside villa, the Castle St Therese, they had become lovers and were poring over the details of an oceanside house in Malibu, California. This was the 7,500 sq ft property on five secluded acres overlooking the Pacific that had once been owned by Hollywood director Blake Edwards and his actress wife Julie Andrews.

Dodi had set about buying the six-bedroom house two months earlier and saw it as their dream home – he thought Diana would love it. He was also checking out apartments in Paris on the ritzy Avenue Foch. Friends wondered: was Diana really on the verge of transforming her life and perhaps even becoming Mohamed al Fayed’s daughter-in-law?

Starting today, on what would have been Charles and Diana’s 36th wedding anniversary, and over the next four weeks in this groundbreaking Weekend magazine series marking the 20th anniversary of her death, we’ll be shedding fresh light on the ever-fascinating story of Diana, drawing on interviews with her relatives, confidantes, friends and other close figures, many of whom have never spoken publicly before.

We shall reveal:

  • Charles’s astonishing reaction when Diana wore sexy lingerie for him.
  • The explosive full story of what really happened the night Diana confronted Camilla.
  • How William threatened to report his mother to Childline when Diana slapped him.
  • Charles’s birthday gift to Camilla that Diana described as ‘like a dagger to my heart’.
  • The fact-finding mission on which William and Harry have embarked to learn all they can about their mother.

When Diana accepted al Fayed’s invitation to take William and Harry to spend part of the summer at his home in France, she had no idea the Egyptian-born businessman was plotting to bring her and Dodi together in what he saw as a dream union. He had phrased the holiday invitation with cosy informality – ‘If you’re at a loose end, come down and see us.’

This was Diana’s first summer as a divorcée and she felt it was important to take the boys somewhere special so they would be in no doubt that, even without her royal status – the HRH title was sacrificed as part of the divorce settlement – she had absolutely no intention of letting her standards slip.

In fact, al Fayed’s was not the only holiday on offer to her that summer – there were two others. One was from American billionaire Teddy Forstmann (more about him on page 23) who offered her a house in The Hamptons, the exclusive Long Island resort favoured by affluent New Yorkers. The other was from electronics mogul Gulu Lalvani, who had invited her and the boys to join his family at their holiday home in Thailand.

How different the course of history would have been had she accepted either one of these. She chose to join the Fayeds for two reasons. The first was that the French Riviera was much closer to home and she avoided taking the young princes on long-haul flights. The second was that the Fayeds’ hospitality would mean a genuine family holiday, for the boys already knew Mohamed’s other four children by his Finnish second wife Heini – Jasmine, Karim, Camilla and Omar, who were then aged between nine and 16.

Diana knew the boys would have a great time and that, really, was all that mattered. Camilla Fayed, who was 12 at the time – just a few months younger than Harry – and is now a successful restaurateur, recalls that she and her siblings used to ‘hang out’ with the young princes, sometimes in the playroom at Kensington Palace where there were computer games and a wide-screen TV.

So it was clearly going to be a very different excursion from slipping out to the pub with Hasnat Khan, when a helicopter in the cream, green and gold livery of Harrods landed in Perks Field behind Kensington Palace. It was 11 July 1997, and the boys excitedly clambered aboard with their mother to be whisked to the Fayed home at Oxted, Surrey, for lunch.

From there it was on to Stansted where al Fayed’s private Gulfstream jet was waiting to fly them to Nice. Within minutes of touching down they were being ferried across the Bay of Angels to St Tropez and his eight-acre compound where tennis courts, pool, jet skis and other treats awaited them.

Diana larks around in a racy leopard print swimming costume while talking to the Press after a boat ride in St Tropez

Diana and Dodi share an intimate moment while enjoying a trip on a speedboat off St Tropez

So the extraordinary episode that was to end abruptly seven weeks later in tragedy had begun.

At that moment, the last thing on Diana’s mind was romance. She had no idea that her diminutive host was urgently summoning his good-looking son to join the family gathering. Nor when Dodi arrived on the conveniently berthed Jonikal three days later on Bastille Day (14 July) was Diana aware that he had installed his longtime girlfriend, the former Calvin Klein underwear model Kelly Fisher, on another of the family yachts anchored nearby.

More than ten years later, when the inquest into the deaths of Diana and Dodi was finally held in London, a transcript was read out to the jury of a telephone conversation between Ms Fisher and Dodi, to whom she claimed she had been engaged until the princess entered his life.

In the call, which Ms Fisher recorded, she rages: ‘You even flew me down to St Tropez, to sit on a boat while you seduced Diana all day and f***** me all night. You left me abandoned on the boat for two days… Why are you doing this when all I did was love you?’

Dodi and Diana on the Jonikal in St Tropez just days before their deaths

Debbie Gribble, chief stewardess on Dodi’s yacht the Jonikal, found it rather embarrassing walking onto the deck to find them ‘draped all over each other, their legs entwined, or just holding hands’

The couple photographed enjoying their final days together aboard a boat in Sardinia

Diana, it must be said, was completely innocent of the fact that she was, now, the ‘third person’ in a relationship. But she, too, had a secret – she had spent the night before she and the boys flew out to St Tropez with Hasnat Khan, for what would turn out to be their very last night together.

But now two things were happening to her: she was enjoying Dodi’s attention, and she found herself happily immersed in the Fayed family atmosphere of adults and children all playing and laughing together, something she had craved for 30 years, ever since, as a six-year-old, her parents’ marriage had split up.

‘The Fayed family set-up was a big draw for her,’ says Debbie Frank. ‘She longed to be part of a family which did things together so naturally, all mucking in. It was so relaxed.’

This was, of course, all that she had ever wanted with Charles – an uncomplicated family life and the deeply ingrained contentment of being wanted and loved.

Had Diana been alive today she would undoubtedly, in so many ways, have recognised, and adored, the same easy informality that William and Kate have created with their children George and Charlotte, and which also embraces Kate’s parents Michael and Carole Middleton as well as Pippa and James.

Diana and the boys returned to Kensington Palace after ten days in the South of France and were barely unpacked before the phone was ringing. It was Dodi inviting her out to dinner… in Paris. They stayed the night at the Ritz, owned today, as then, by his father and decided to holiday alone on the Jonikal a week later at the end of the month when the boys were due to join their father in Scotland.

The love affair was by now rapidly escalating. When Hasnat called her, she didn’t ask him to Kensington Palace but went to meet him in Battersea Park, the place where they used to rendezvous away from prying cameras. He found her not her normal self, constantly checking her mobile phone. In fact soon after this they met again, for the last time. As Khan was to tell Scotland Yard officers investigating her death a decade later, she said it was all over between them.

In fact what she told him was: ‘It’s time to move on. Charles has moved on and so must I.’

As a close Fayed family friend now reveals, she and Dodi had been spending practically every moment together in his Park Lane apartment, eating takeaways from Harry’s Bar, the Mayfair private members dining club, while sitting on the floor watching videos. Nothing was too much trouble. When Diana said she’d love to see a new film release Dodi instantly fixed it.

‘He hired a preview theatre around the corner from his flat and the two of them watched The English Patient [it was one of Diana’s favourite films of the year] in their own private cinema,’ says the friend. But was it love?

At around this time, according to a senior Fayed executive, it most certainly was. ‘I was summoned into Mohamed’s office at Harrods one day and there was Dodi standing beside him looking rather sheepish like a naughty schoolboy,’ says the figure. Mohamed said, ‘Dodi has something to say to you’ and his son then said, ‘The princess and I are together now. There will never be another girl for me, never.’

Days later the first picture of the two embracing on the deck of the Jonikal seemed to suggest that it was love. Diana’s openness was surprising. Until that moment she had never allowed herself to be photographed with another man.

For Hasnat Khan, who had felt until this point that his life was still inextricably linked with Diana, the news that she was involved with the son of Mohamed al Fayed was a shock. He was, he later told a friend, ‘mad, mad as hell’.

Since that last meeting in the park he was convinced she had met someone while with the Fayeds but, as Khan later told police investigators, ‘I had no idea who it could be. As far as I knew it could have been a bodyguard or anyone. I just knew she had changed since she’d been away.’

But he recognised, of course, that Dodi could take care of the princess in a very special way. ‘I think Diana finally realised that Dodi could give her all the things I could not,’ he said. ‘He had money and could provide the necessary security for her.’

To her close cousin, ex-Guards officer Robert Spencer, now 85 and living in Florida, whom she grew up knowing as ‘Uncle Bobbie’, this comes as no surprise. ‘Don’t forget, Diana loved a little bit of the high life and she loved somebody who would spend a lot of money on her,’ he says. Even so, Uncle Bobbie’s view then, and now, was that the romance was nothing more than ‘a bit of a fling’. As flings go, however, this one went very deep. Throughout the month of August they took two Mediterranean cruises together, and each time the affair became more intense. From being in separate cabins on their first excursion together – he in the main stateroom, she just along the corridor in the principal guest suite – they gravitated to one suite, his.

The chief stewardess, Debbie Gribble, noticed Diana’s bed looked as though it had been deliberately ruffled up but not slept in. Dodi’s, she later revealed, ‘looked like a tidal wave had gone through it’.

The days were devoted to sunbathing and swimming, sipping iced Perrier water. At times Debbie said she found it rather embarrassing walking onto the deck to find them ‘draped all over each other, their legs entwined, or just holding hands’.

Towards the end of their final cruise, Diana telephoned her friend, Rosa Monckton, who asked her, ‘Just tell me, is it bliss?’ Diana replied, ‘Yes, it’s bliss.’ The first anniversary of Diana’s decree absolute from Prince Charles fell as she and Dodi were cruising away from Sardinia. It was 28 August. Three days later the princess and her lover would be dead.

Twenty years on two intriguing questions remain about Dodi and Diana. The first concerns Diana’s sacrifice of her HRH – something, incidentally, she regretted. Would she really have behaved with such abandon had she still been styled ‘Her Royal Highness’, with its implications of respectability?

The second concerns their lost future. Were she and Dodi moving towards marriage? After all these years of speculation, both questions remain unanswered.

She certainly wrote love letters to him beginning ‘Darling Dodi’. But then, rejected by Charles, she had written in similar terms to other men.


JAMES GILBEY – MADE HER LONELY PALACE LIFE TOLERABLE 

The former executive with Lotus sports cars, pictured at 36 in 1993 just after the Squidgy tape came to light and now aged 60. He had known Diana since she was 17 and became close to her in 1989. He married interior designer Lavinia Hadsley-Chaplin three years ago and is stepfather to her five children. He’s still involved in motorsport and runs a property company in London

JAMES HEWITT – A HERO IN WAR BUT NOT IN LOVE

The former executive with Lotus sports cars, pictured at 36 in 1993 just after the Squidgy tape came to light and now aged 60. He had known Diana since she was 17 and became close to her in 1989. He married interior designer Lavinia Hadsley-Chaplin three years ago and is stepfather to her five children. He’s still involved in motorsport and runs a property company in London

OLIVER HOARE – SHE DREAMED OF LIVING IN ITALY WITH HIM 

There was an extra frisson for Diana in her liaison with the darkly handsome and married dealer in Persian artefacts – he was also a close friend of Prince Charles. He’s pictured aged 49 in 1994 when reports of the silent phone calls Diana was said to have bombarded his home with emerged. Diana daydreamed of living in Italy with old Etonian Hoare, a father of three. Now 72 he remains married to his French-born wife Diane and still deals successfully in rare Islamic art

HASNAT KHAN – MARRIAGE WAS UNDOUBTEDLY ON HER MIND

The heart surgeon and Diana enjoyed a near two-year relationship before she met Dodi Fayed in 1997, and even considered moving to his native Pakistan together. Pictured at 36 and now 58, he’s a consultant in cardiothoracic surgery at Basildon University Hospital, Essex. The man Diana called ‘Mr Wonderful’ was briefly married but is now single

WILL CARLING- HIS WIFE JULIA TOLD DIANA TO BACK OFF

Former England rugby captain Carling was newly married when he met Diana while working out at her Chelsea gym in 1994. His wife Julia felt compelled to publicly warn the princess off, but their marriage did not last. Pictured aged 29 in 1994 and now at 51, he has two children with second wife Lisa and runs a corporate hospitality company

Photo: The Dailymail

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