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Princess Diana and Dodi Al Fayed’s relationship and how their experience of racism compares to Harry and Meghan

Prince Harry claims ‘history was repeating itself’ before he and Meghan Markle left UK

Chelsea Ritschel
New York
Friday 21 May 2021 17:02 BST
Prince Harry compares Meghan racism to Diana and Dodi

Prince Harry has opened up about his fear of history repeating itself after comparing his mother being “chased to her death while she was in a relationship with someone that wasn’t white”, to his relationship with Meghan Markle.

The Duke of Sussex spoke candidly of the paparazzi harassment that led up to the tragic accident that took the lives of both his mother, Princess Diana, and her boyfriend at the time, Dodi Al Fayed, while speaking with Oprah Winfrey for a new Apple TV+ docu-series The Me You Can’t See.

Speaking of the couple’s own experience being targeted by the media, Harry told Winfrey: “Within the first eight days of our relationship being made public was when they said: ‘Harry’s girl almost straight outta Compton.’ And that her exotic DNA will be thickening the royal blood. We would get followed, photographed, chased, harassed.”

The 36-year-old then compared the couple’s experience with racism to his mother’s, continuing: “History was repeating itself. My mother was chased to her death while she was in a relationship with someone that wasn’t white. And now look what’s happened. You wanna talk about history repeating itself, they’re not gonna stop until she dies.”

This is everything to know about Princess Diana and Al Fayed’s relationship and the racism that the couple allegedly encountered before their deaths on 31 August 1997.

Who was Al Fayed and how did he and Diana meet?

Diana, who divorced Prince Harry and Prince William’s father Prince Charles in 1996 after years of separation, first began dating Al Fayed, an Egyptian filmmaker, in July 1997.

Al Fayed, who was born in Alexandria, Egypt, was the son of billionaire Mohamed Al-Fayed, who owned the Ritz hotel in Paris and the London department store Harrods.

Growing up, Al Fayed, who was raised Muslim, lived a life of luxury and split his time between France and Egypt.

He went to school at Le Rosay school in Switzerland before attending the British military academy Sandhurst. From there, Al Fayed received a commission in the United Arab Emirates air force, which saw him stationed as a junior officer in London.

However, Al Fayed eventually moved into filmmaking, with reports noting that he dated numerous celebrities, including Brooke Shields, Cathy Lee Crosby and Joanne Whalley, developing a reputation as a playboy.

Al Fayed reportedly first met Princess Diana in 1986 during a polo match against Prince Charles at Windsor, but it wasn’t until 11 years later that the pair became close - when Al Fayed’s father invited the Princess of Wales and her children to be his guests in St Tropez.

Princess Diana vacationed with Al Fayed’s family (AFP via Getty Images)

Diana, who was 36 at the time, began spending more time with Al Fayed, with photos of the pair kissing making headlines around the world on 10 August 1997, after the pictures were reportedly sold for more than £1m.

In late August, the public couple, who were dating casually at this point, despite Al Fayed frequently purchasing the Princess of Wales lavish gifts, went on another vacation, travelling from the South of France to Sardinia on his father’s yacht.

On 30 August, Al Fayed and Diana stopped for a night in Paris, where they stayed at the Ritz, before they were pursued by paparazzi as they attempted to flee the photographers as passengers in their driver’s car, a chase that eventually ended in their deaths.

Did the couple experience racism because of their relationship?

During their brief relationship, the couple’s every move was documented by the media, with paparazzi chasing them nearly everywhere they went.

For the most part, the focus was on Diana - however, some headlines were critical of the wealthy bachelor, with one People magazine cover from August 1997 questioning whether Al Fayed was a “dreamboat or a deadbeat?”

However, according to Al Fayed’s father, Mohammed, their deaths were not an accident, but rather racially motivated “murder”.

After their deaths, Mohammed claimed that the crash was orchestrated by the British Secret Service to keep Princess Diana from “marrying a Muslim,” according to a 2001 ABC News report.

At the time, the outlet noted that Mohammed had “filed lawsuits to force a number of US agencies to release files he believes would prove this conspiracy”.

“I seek the support of the American people to bring pressure through the members of Congress to release the documents that will reveal the truth about the tragedy. I am in no doubt that the death was the result of a murder with racism at the core,” the billionaire owner of Harrods had said.

A memorial to the couple was placed inside Harrods (Getty Images)

In the years following the death of his son and Princess Diana, Mohammed continued to claim that the crash was orchestrated, with the Egyptian businessman alleging during a 2008 inquest into the deaths that the royal family wanted to “get rid” of Diana and accusing the late Prince Philip of being a “racist”.

In his written statement, Mohammed also expressed his belief that the Queen’s husband would not accept the idea of the mother of a future British king marrying “somebody who is naturally tanned, with curly hair,” according to The New York Times.

While Mohammed’s claims were unfounded, former Prime Minister Tony Blair revealed in his 2010 memoir that he had warned Princess Diana against her relationship with Al Fayed because he felt it was a “problem”.

However, according to the former prime minister, his concern did not stem from “the obvious reasons” of Al Fayed’s “nationality, religion or background”.

“This was not for the obvious reasons, which would have made some frown on him; his nationality, religion or background don’t matter a hoot to me. I had never met him ... so if you ask me, well, spit it out, what was wrong, I couldn’t frankly say, but I felt uneasy,” he wrote, according to The Guardian.

Reflecting on the media’s often racially charged treatment of Meghan during their time in the UK, and the impact it had on her mental health, Prince Harry has claimed that their experience at the centre of the intense scrutiny was not unlike his mother’s.

He also noted that his biggest regret was “not making more of a stance earlier on in my relationship with my wife and calling out the racism when I did”.

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