British RoyalsHistory

20 years on – how the newspapers announced the death of Diana, Princess of Wales

It has been twenty years since the news that shocked the world was announced: Diana, Princess of Wales had been killed in a Paris car crash in the early morning of 31 August 1997 alongside her partner, Dodi Al Fayed.

The headline of the Sunday Mirror on this day 20 years ago. Photo: Royal Central

It was breaking news all across the world and the headline story in the majority of papers. Historic Newspapers has published an edition of their newspaper history series about Diana called Princess Diana Book – 20th Anniversary Edition. In it, the cover of the Sunday Mirror is shown from 31 August, as well as the subsequent pages about the crash in France.

The book shows five pages from the Midday Edition with the headline “Diana Dead.” It then speaks about how the paparazzi were to blame, mentioning the seven motorbike chasers that were arrested that night. The Princess’s car, driven by Henri Paul, was believed to have been travelling up to 120mph to escape the paparazzi that had been chasing them since they left the Ritz Hotel. An inquest would later say it was not the fault of the paparazzi but of Paul who lost control of the car while driving drunk.

Pages 2 and 3 of the Sunday Mirror speaking about the crash. Photo: Royal Central

Pictures from the accident are scattered on the pages with images of Diana and Dodi on holiday earlier on 30 August as they were preparing to travel to Paris before their shocking deaths just a few hours later.

As I was a child when the Princess was killed in the tragic crash, I never paid attention to the newspaper headlines. I do remember the breaking news on the television as my family was in our camper at the lake. I still remember my mother gasping and saying, “No, no. Those poor boys.” For me at the time, Diana was the fairytale princess from a movie, and then, being so young, I had trouble understanding how a fairytale princess could be killed in a car crash.

A page in the commemorative book showing pages 4 and 5 of the Sunday Mirror on 31 August 1997. Photo: Royal Central

Looking back on the headlines as an adult, it is certainly a new perspective. It brings back a sadness and sympathy for two young boys who had just lost their beloved mother so suddenly who then, due to their status, had to face the public in their grief. No one can forget the images of seeing a young William and Harry walking behind their mother’s coffin on the way to Westminster Abbey. Such a heavy burden for them to carry.

Princess Diana Book – 20th Anniversary Edition, which comes in a gift box with your name engraved on the front and a quote of your choice inside, features photographs and newspaper front pages beginning in 1980.

The book can be purchased here. Historic Newspapers will donate £5 from every sale to The Diana Award.

About author

Brittani is from Tennessee, USA. She is a political scientist and historian after graduating with a degree in the topics from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, in December 2014. She also holds a master's degree from Northeastern University. She enjoys reading and researching all things regarding the royals of the world. Her love of royals began in middle school, and she's been researching, reading, and writing on royalty for over a decade. She became Europe Editor in October 2016, and then Deputy Editor in January 2019, and has been featured on several podcasts, radio shows, news broadcasts and websites.