When did Princess Diana die and how old was she?

This year is the 25th anniversary of the death of the Princess of Wales

Close up of Princess Diana wearing a white and red hat
(Image credit: Getty Images)

As we near the 25th anniversary of her death, many are wondering when did Princess Diana die and how old was she?

The death of the Princess of Wales was an event that shocked and saddened millions across the globe, and many people can remember where they were when they first heard the heartbreaking news. Though Diana was born (opens in new tab) a non-royal, the princess came to be one of the most iconic figures of the institution shortly after her wedding to Prince Charles (opens in new tab). Earning a place in the nation's hearts for her compassion and commitment to promoting charitable causes, it's no wonder people are curious to know where Princess Diana is buried (opens in new tab) in order to pay their respects years on from her death.

Whilst her life was tragically cut short, her influence and legacy lives on in her two sons today, Prince William and Prince Harry. We look back at the tall Princess Diana (opens in new tab), her untimely passing and the current memorials that pay tribute to the royal trailblazer. 

When did Princess Diana die and how old was she?

Diana, Princess of Wales died at 4:57 am on 31 August 1997. The mum-of-two was 36-years-old at the time of her death, and she passed away from internal bleeding and other injuries sustained during a car crash in Paris.

Diana was travelling with her boyfriend Dodi Fayed, the son of billionaire business man Mohamed Al Fayed (opens in new tab) in a Mercedes Benz W140 driven by Henri Paul. The couple had left a late dinner at the Ritz Hotel and were heading back to Dodi's Paris residence.

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Just after midnight, their car crashed inside the Pont de l'Alma tunnel in the French capital. It is understood that the vehicle was being chased by paparazzi at the time.

Dodi and driver Henri were pronounced dead at the scene, whilst Diana was said to still be alive and was taken to the Pitie Salpetriere Hospital for immediate treatment. Sadly, the princess was never able to regain consciousness and died a few hours later.

The only surviving member of the incident was Diana's bodyguard Trevor Rees-Jones (opens in new tab) who was the only passenger wearing a seat belt.

An inquest into the incident was conducted in London in 2008. It found that Diana had been unlawfully killed and blamed the crash on the grossly negligent driving of the driver Paul and the paparazzi who were chasing the car.

In a recent interview with The Sun (opens in new tab), Lee Sansum - who was another of Princess Diana’s bodyguards - revealed that he and other security guards drew straws to decide who would accompany Rees-Jones on the night of the crash. Sansum said “It could have been me in that car. We drew straws to see who would be accompanying Trevor that weekend. I pulled a match and it was a long one.”

He added “When I learned they were not wearing seatbelts in the crash I understood why they didn’t survive. That shouldn’t have happened. It was standard practice for the family to wear seatbelts. It was an order sent down from the boss, Dodi’s dad Mohamed Fayed. Dodi, in particular, hated wearing seatbelts and I always insisted on it.”

How old were Prince William and Prince Harry when Diana died?

Prince William was 15-years-old when Diana died. Prince Harry was 12, and the car crash took place just 15 days before his 13th birthday.

At the time of their mother's death, the two princes were on holiday with the Queen and their father at Balmoral Castle, the Royal Family's Scottish residence.

Both William and Harry have openly discussed the pain and difficulties they've experienced growing up without a mother.

Prince Harry most recently penned his feelings in an emotional forward for a children's book (opens in new tab) intended for bereaved children.

"When I was a young boy I lost my mum. At the time I didn’t want to believe it or accept it, and it left a huge hole inside of me," he wrote. "I know how you feel, and I want to assure you that over time that hole will be filled with so much love and support.

"We all cope with loss in a different way, but when a parent goes to heaven, I was told their spirit, their love and the memories of them do not. They are always with you and you can hold onto them forever. I find this to be true."

It’s expected the Duke of Sussex may shed further light on that period of time in his life in his memoir (opens in new tab), which is expected to be published later in 2022.

Prince William (left) and Prince Harry (right) with their head bowed at their mother's funeral

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Prince William also opened up on his immediate feelings after learning of his mother's death:

"I remember just feeling completely numb, disorientated, dizzy," he told the BBC in a 2017 documentary. "You feel very, very confused. And you keep asking yourself, 'Why me?' All the time, 'Why? What have I done? Why? Why has this happened to us?'"

The Duke of Cambridge said that he was only thankful that at the time "there were no smartphones" which allowed the brothers to have "the privacy to mourn and collect our thoughts". 

"We had no idea that the reaction to her death would be quite so huge," he added.

When was Princess Diana's funeral?

Princess Diana's funeral took place on Saturday 6 September, 1997 at Westminster Abbey.

Her coffin was transported from Kensington Palace to the Abbey. Following behind in the procession were her two boys, Prince Charles, Diana's brother Earl Spencer and Prince Philip.

Opening up in his new mental health series with Oprah, Prince Harry recalled his 'out of body' experience (opens in new tab) at his mother's funeral.

“The thing I remember most was the sound of the horses’ hooves going along the Mall. By this point both of us [him and William] were in shock," he said. “It was like I was outside of my body, I’m just walking along, doing what was expected of me, showing one tenth of the emotion that everyone was showing.”

A clip of Princess Diana's funeral (opens in new tab) appeared in the new documentary, showing the grief-stricken 12-year-old as he walked behind Diana's coffin.

Though not a state funeral (opens in new tab), Diana's funeral was aired on British television, attracting an audience of 32.1million viewers. In the days surrounding her death thousands of flowers and memorials were laid outside Buckingham Palace honouring the late princess.

Where are the official Princess Diana memorials in the UK?

There are four official Princess Diana memorials in London: the Sunken Garden, a memorial fountain, a memorial walk and a memorial playground. They are all open to the public and free to visit.

In 2017, Harry and the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge officially opened the Sunken Garden (opens in new tab) in Kensington Palace.

The garden, constructed in 1908, was completely redesigned to honour Diana on the 20th anniversary of her death. It is filled with white flowers, including Diana's favourite forget-me-nots. The chosen colour was inspired by Princess Diana's most iconic dresses and the famous Mario Testino photos of her. 

The sunken garden at Kensington Palace which honours Princess Diana's death 20 years on

The Sunken Garden, a memorial for Diana, was unveiled in 2017 at Kensington Palace (Credit: Getty)

Prior to the redesign of the garden was the Diana memorial playground (opens in new tab) and memorial walk (opens in new tab) which opened in 2000. The £1.7 million playground is situated in Kensington Gardens, near Kensington Palace where the princess used to live, while the memorial walk is a 7-mile walking trail in central London dedicated to Diana and the places she was associated with when alive. The five sites include Kensington Palace, Buckingham Palace, Clarence House, St James's Palace and Spencer House.

The Princess of Wales memorial fountain (opens in new tab) is found in Hyde Park. It was opened by Queen Elizabeth II (opens in new tab) in July 2004 and marked the first time the Windsors and Spencers (Diana's family) had come together in seven years. 

 Princess Diana statue location 

A new Princess Diana statue in the Sunken Garden at Kensington Palace was unveiled by Prince William and Prince Harry on 1 July 2021.

Harry and William announced their plans for a specially commissioned statue in 2017 and approved the final statue designs (opens in new tab) in April 2021.

In a statement about the statue, the brothers said that the memorial would be unveiled this July "on what would have been her 60th Birthday."

They also revealed that Ian Rank-Broadley was the chosen sculptor to design the feature.

"Ian is an extremely gifted sculptor and we know that he will create a fitting and lasting tribute to our mother," the princes said. "We look forward to unveiling the statue, which will allow all those who visit Kensington Palace to remember and celebrate her life and legacy."

The anniversary of Princess Diana's death has brought up questions about what will happen when the Queen dies (opens in new tab), given that Prince Charles is next in line for the throne. The Prince of Wales is likely to take up the position, however, after a few years he could well defer to his son Prince William.

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Why was Princess Diana so loved?

Princess Diana has always been held in such high regard because of her fashion sense, her reputation as a hands on mother, but most of all for her charity work. The Princess of Wales used her status to raise awareness for a number of causes, from leprosy to domestic violence to mental health.

In 1987, Princess  Diana made headlines when she intentionally touched the hand of a person with AIDS, which helped dispel the myth that the virus could be spread by touch. Ian Green, chief executive of the HIV charity the Terrence Higgins Trust said in an interview in 1997, “Princess Diana was a true champion of HIV awareness. She brought passion to the cause, and did things which were truly remarkable. She was the first person of profile who was prepared to shake hands and touch people with HIV, which at the time was seen as a risk. This statement publicly challenged the notion that HIV was passed from person to person by touch.”

Princess Diana shaking the hand of a patient with AIDS

(Image credit: Getty Images)

In a now controversial interview with Martin Bashir (opens in new tab) in 1995, Princess Diana said “Nothing brings me more happiness than trying to help the most vulnerable people in society. It is a goal and an essential part of my life, a kind of destiny.”

And her legacy of empathy, kindness and charity work is carried on by her sons. In 2016, Prince Harry took a live HIV test to show how easy it is and encourage other people to get tested, while Prince William has previously volunteered for the Shout (opens in new tab) helpline, which supports those struggling with their mental health. Shout was developed by The Royal Foundation (opens in new tab), which is led by The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge.

Following her death, Princess Diana became known as ‘the People’s Princess’, a term coined by Tony Blair. In a speech paying tribute to the Princess of Wales, he said “She was a wonderful, and a warm, human being. Though her own life was often sadly touched by tragedy, she touched the lives of so many others, in Britain (and) throughout the world, with joy and with comfort ... She was the people's princess, and that's how she will stay, how she will remain in our hearts and in our memories, forever."

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