Fact-Checking 'The Crown': Did Dodi Really Propose to Diana?

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It’s hard to engineer many truly surprising twists in a series based on historical events, but the writers of The Crown pulled it off in the third episode of Season 6, "Dis-Moi-Oui." That installment focuses heavily on Princess Diana and Dodi Fayed’s last night together in Paris, leading up to the car crash that killed them both in the early hours of Aug. 31, 1997. Many of the events of that night have been widely documented—especially the couple’s doomed efforts to evade the rabid mob of paparazzi hounding them through the city—but writer Peter Morgan also incorporates some more speculative scenes, including one in which Dodi gets down on one knee to propose to a horrified Diana.

Related: How to Watch 'The Crown' Season 6

Did Dodi really propose to Diana in Paris?

As is depicted in the show, Diana and Dodi abandoned their original plan to dine at the Michelin star bistro Chez Benoit, because of the relentless pursuit of the paparazzi. They initially relocated to the restaurant at the Ritz hotel (which was owned by Dodi’s father, Mohamed Al-Fayed), but even there, there were too many eyes on them. Ultimately, they moved up to a private suite for their final meal. Since nobody else was present, it’s impossible to know what was said during that dinner, but there’s nothing in the public record to suggest that Dodi proposed to Diana that night.

On screen, Diana immediately shuts Dodi down, echoing most viewers’ thoughts when she tells him, “No, no, this is madness, get up.” She then gently points out that they’re both newly out of very serious relationships. Diana had recently split from heart surgeon Hasnat Khan after a two-year romance, while Dodi was reportedly engaged to model Kelly Fisher at the time he began seeing Diana. But despite how new their relationship was, speculation about an engagement had been running rampant for weeks, which was partly why there was such feverish demand for paparazzi photographs of the couple.

The fact that the world is waiting for them to get engaged is not a good reason to do it, Diana points out, before laying down the most brutal truth of all: “I can’t make your father love you more by becoming your wife.” On that note…

<p>Daniel Escale/Netflix</p>

Daniel Escale/Netflix

Did Mohamed Al-Fayed engineer Diana and Dodi’s relationship?

The Crown shows Dodi’s father, Mohamed Al-Fayed, playing matchmaker, deliberately orchestrating an opportunity for the couple to meet on board a luxury yacht. But that’s just the tip of the iceberg—he becomes increasingly Machiavellian in his desperation to “sell” Diana and Dodi’s romance to the press, seemingly as a way to curry favor with the British royal family for himself. He’s shown monitoring their movements from afar, asking invasive questions about their sleeping arrangements, and even leaking information to the paparazzi behind their backs.

A former spokesperson for Al-Fayed, who died in August of this year, denies that this ever happened. “Netflix and the production company describe The Crown as ‘dramatized fiction’ and I am not going to disagree with that characterization. That means it is made up,” he told Deadline. “Mohamed was a remarkable man in many ways. He was delighted that his eldest son and his family’s dear friend Diana were together. But making two people fall in love with each other? That was beyond even his great talents.”

In one key scene, Al-Fayed is shown tipping off the Italian paparazzo Mario Brenna about the couple’s location, allowing him to take candid photographs of Diana and Dodi kissing on board the yacht. In real life, there are conflicting reports as to how Brenna got those pictures. In one version of events, he just got lucky, while journalist and royal biographer Tina Brown claimed in her book The Palace Papers that Diana tipped off Brenna herself.

However, even if Al-Fayed wasn’t the puppetmaster, The Crown makes him out to be, he has repeatedly insisted that Diana and Dodi’s relationship was serious. At an inquest in 2008, he told the court that the couple had called him to announce the news on the night they died. According to The Guardian, though, his account was muddled and he later seemed unclear on “whether he had been told his son was about to propose, or that Dodi had done so and Diana had accepted.”

Al-Fayed made a number of other much more far-fetched allegations during his testimony, accusing the royal family of having Diana and Dodi “murdered” in a plot that also involved then-British prime minister Tony Blair. He claimed that the reason for this murder plot was that Diana was pregnant with Dodi’s baby. "Diana told me on the telephone that she was pregnant," Al-Fayed told the court. "I was the only person that they told." Diana was not pregnant at the time of her death, a coroner confirmed.

Related: How Did Princess Diana Die? The Truth About the Heartbreaking Crash That Took the Life of the People's Princess

Did Dodi Fayed buy an engagement ring for Diana?

In the series, Dodi is inspired to propose to Diana when the couple hide from the paparazzi inside a Monte Carlo jewelry store. After she offhandedly admires a ring, he later purchases it in secret and proposes to her with it in Paris.

This is largely true. Dodi really did purchase an engagement ring for Diana shortly before they both died. CCTV footage showed Dodi visiting a jewelry store opposite the Ritz on the afternoon of Aug. 30, spending a while perusing different options before ultimately settling on a diamond and gold ring, which cost £11,600. He had it inscribed with the phrase "Dis-moi Oui," meaning “Tell me yes” in French (hence the name of the third episode). The ring was later recovered from Dodi’s apartment in Paris, and there was no indication that he had given it to Diana before the crash.

Related: The True Story Behind Princess Diana's Famous Yacht Photo Featured In The Crown

Did Diana reject Dodi’s marriage proposal?

Again, there’s no evidence to suggest that a proposal ever took place. But hypothetically, according to Diana’s friends and family, she would have been unlikely to accept if Dodi had proposed. Diana’s sister, Sarah McCorquodale, said during the inquest that she spoke to her sister on Aug. 29, two days before her death. Her impression from that conversation tallies with The Crown’s depiction of the romance as fun, but ultimately fleeting. Sarah testified that she “just did not think the relationship had much longer to go.”

Lady Anabel Goldsmith, a friend of Diana’s, told the inquest that she had raised the possibility of marriage with her in a conversation that summer. According to The Express, Anabel recalled asking Diana, “You’re not going to do anything silly like rushing off and eloping or getting married?” In response, Diana reportedly said she needed marriage about as much as she needed “a rash on her face.” Asked what she believed Diana meant by this, Lady Anabel said, “I took it to mean that she was not serious about marriage to Dodi.”

Diana’s former butler Paul Burrell shared a similar story in his memoir, The Way We Were: Remembering Diana. “Her precise words to me were, 'I want another marriage like I want a bad rash,'" he wrote, before concluding that Al-Fayed “must accept the Princess and Dodi had no more than a summer fling. The world must stop believing that Diana and Dodi were due to get married, because that simply isn't true."

Next, What Was Mohamed Al-Fayed's Net Worth?