When did Princess Diana die and how old was she?

Her death is set to be covered in the final season of The Crown

Princess Diana smiling and wearing a white hat
(Image credit: Richard Pelham/Globe Photos/ZUMAPRESS.com/Alamy)

As The Crown dramatises her death, many are wondering when did Princess Diana die and how old she was at the time of her passing.

For those alive when the announcement of the Princess of Wales' untimely passing was announced, it's most likely you'll remember exactly where you were. As a collective wave of shock and sadness subsequently swept the globe, you're also likely to recall the outpouring of grief as tributes were paid to the iconic figure. Although Diana was born a non-royal, the princess came to be one of the most popular members of the institution, with her grace and empathy captured by the talented actors portraying her in The Crown

She firmly remains in the nation's hearts for her compassion and commitment to promoting charitable causes. Even though 26 years have now passed since her death, it's anniversary still has the public curious to know where Princess Diana is buried in order to pay their respects. 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 People's Princess' and her tragic passing, and the current memorials paying 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 August 31, 1997 - she was 36-years-old at the time of her death. She suffered 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 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. Early reports suggested Diana had suffered from concussion, a broken arm and cuts. She had also suffered serious chest injuries, and following surgery she didn't regain consciousness before passing away.

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 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 an interview with The Sun, 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 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."

The Duke of Sussex spoke in more detail about his mother's death in his memoir, Spare. Speaking to Anderson Cooper about it in their 60 Minutes interview, Harry details how his father broke the news, saying "They tried, darling boy. I'm afraid she didn't make it." 

When asked if he cried at the news, Harry replied "No. No. Never shed a single tear at that point. I was in shock, you know? Twelve years old. Sort of - 7, 7:30 in the morning, early. Your father comes in, sits on your bed, puts his hand on your knee and tells you, 'There's been an accident.' I couldn't believe."

When asked what he remembered most from his mother's funeral, Harry replied "How quiet it was. I remember, the occasional wail and screaming of someone. I remember the horse hooves on the road. The bridles of the horses, the gun carriage, the wheels, the occasional gravel stone underneath your shoe. But mainly the— the silence."

"Once my mother's coffin actually went into the ground, that was the first time that I actually cried," Harry concluded. "There was never another time."

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 September 6, 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 at his mother's funeral. Expanding on what else he recalled from the funeral, Harry said "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 appeared in the documentary, showing the grief-stricken 12-year-old as he walked behind Diana's coffin. 

Though not a state funeral, 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.

When Queen Elizabeth sadly passed away, The Telegraph reported that William engaged with gathered crowds the day after her funeral, to tell how difficult the experience was for him. One mourner reported "He said how difficult it was yesterday and how it reminded him of his mum's funeral." They added "Catherine said it's just been such a difficult time for all of them, for the whole family."

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 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 and memorial walk 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 is found in Hyde Park. It was opened by Queen Elizabeth II in July 2004 and marked the first time the Windsors and Spencers (Diana's family) had come together in seven years. The website states the design of the fountain aims to reflect Diana's life, as "Water flows from the highest point in two directions as it cascades, swirls and bubbles before meeting in a calm pool at the bottom." 

The symbolism also refers to Diana's "Quality and openness." With three bridges reaching the heart of the fountain, the website adds "We hope visitors will feel at home when they visit this special place."

 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 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 statue depicts Princess Diana standing with three children. They don't represent particular children, instead depicting Diana’s caring nature and unique bond with children she came into contact with. 

The palace said in a statement "The figure of Diana, Princess of Wales, is surrounded by three children, who represent the universality and generational impact of the princess’s work."

Princess Diana statue

(Image credit: Amanda Rose/Alamy)

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 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 helpline, which supports those struggling with their mental health. Shout was developed by The Royal Foundation, 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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Emily Stedman
Features Editor

Emily Stedman is the former Features Editor for GoodTo covering all things TV, entertainment, royal, lifestyle, health and wellbeing. Boasting an encyclopaedic knowledge on all things TV, celebrity and royals, career highlights include working at HELLO! Magazine and as a royal researcher to Diana biographer Andrew Morton on his book Meghan: A Hollywood Princess. In her spare time, Emily can be found eating her way around London, swimming at her local Lido or curled up on the sofa binging the next best Netflix show.