The People’s Princess
Paris. The city of lights, or is it the city of love?
The hall was a treat to the eye. Any normal person, if present, would be mesmerized beyond words by the glitz and glamour offered by the Ritz. It was a known fact that every single soul in that building was a somebody. Politicians, Film stars, Business tycoons and what not. Amidst all this display of luxury and style, one fine lady stood out. An epitome of beauty and grace. One couldn’t help notice her flair and the best part was, she never had to try. People were simply drawn to her irresistible beauty. She clung on to a well built man beside her. He seemed to be very protective of her. A man in a tuxedo came over to them and whispered something into his ear. Something seemed to frighten the two of them, or rather annoy them. They turned their back made their way together, slowly, towards the rear exit.
Earlier that day:
Henri Paul sat at his desk, reading the Le Monde. Nothing interesting he mused. The phone beside started to ring. He answered it without a change of expression. Only two words came out of his mouth.
He sprung into action and dressed up and started for the Ritz. He drove the car as fast as he could. He was aware though that he had been drinking a little since it was his day off, but not enough to hamper his driving. He parked his convertible in the parking lot and made his way to the familiar parking spot number 301. Instead of the usual one, a 1994 Mercedes Benz S280 stood there, gleaming in the low light. Henri stopped, puzzled, when he saw a familiar face besides the car, dangling a pair of keys.
The big burly man handed over the keys to Henri and spoke to him in a low tone.
“They are over at the rear entrance. Hurry!”
Henri got into the hired car and made his way towards the rear entrance. There was a flurry of activity out there. Several news reporters, on their mopeds, stood waiting, as if they anticipated this from a long time. As soon as he stopped his vehicle in front of the door, four people ran out of the building, two of them on either side, protecting the two in the middle. The lady and the man who accompanied her got into the vehicle, and Henri pressed his foot down on the throttle with all the energy he could muster.
The car leapt forward with a sudden burst and made its way out of the crowd. The mopeds followed.
“Gosh! I hate this paparazzi!. Why do they have to hound us all the time? “ The lady murmured.
Henri looked back through the rear view mirror. The mopeds were gaining on him. He shifted gears and the S280 responded obediently. She lifted up her skirts and sped off at a hair raising 130km/h. Henri looked ahead and decided to take the embankment road parallel to river Seine. He could see the Place de l'Alma under pass at a distance. The time was 12:23 am. He made his way towards the under pass.
The road had been banked a little in-order to provide a better grip to vehicles. Henri realized that he had to slow down to clear the curve, but it was too late for that. He swung the steering wheel and tried with all his might to keep the car in control. The huge hulk of the S280 swerved to the left of the two-lane carriageway before colliding head-on with the 13th pillar supporting the roof at a speed of nearly 105 km/h. The car then spun and hit the stone wall of the tunnel backwards, finally coming to a stop.
She opened her eyes and looked around. She couldn’t breathe properly. It felt as if there was a huge stone on her chest. She tilted her head towards the right, only to see 6-7 photographers shooting away to glory.
“Oh my God! Leave me alone!”
She kept repeating these words to no avail. She slowly turned her head towards the left and checked on her companion. He was not moving. Nor was Henri. She felt completely paralyzed. Suddenly, everything became a blur. She could hear voices around her. Someone said something about getting help. She could feel something cold dripping down her face and through her ears. It was almost like someone had poured a mug of cold water on top of her head. Then everything went black.
Half an hour had passed since the car lost control and finally a few helping hands came around. They managed to pull her out of the wreck. That’s when they noticed that she had a cardiac arrest. They medics provided external cardiopulmonary resuscitation, and her heart got back to ticking again.
They finally got her to Pitié-Salpêtrière Hospital at 2:06 am, a good 1 hour and 40 minutes after the disaster. Henri was declared dead when he was taken out of the wreckage. The doctors got to work as soon as she was taken in. She kept falling in and out of consciousness, though she didn’t utter a word to anybody. Her companion was pronounced dead at 1:32 am.
She could hear the faint voices of people around her. She could see a lot of movement around her. A light seemed to flicker at a distance. Memories from years ago flooded her mind. She knew many people, some blood relations included, would never shed a tear for her, but on the other hand, there was a vast majority that she was sure, would vouch for her. Happy faces of her children whirled around in front of her eyes. Would they miss her? She doubted it.
At 4:00am, the People’s Princess, Diana, Princess of Wales breathed her last.
Several days later:
A little child made her way towards the entrance of Kensington palace and laid down a bouquet of Blossoms. One among the thousands of flowers in memory of their beloved princess. She turned back and joined the thousands who had gathered around to pay tribute.
Dedicated to Princess Diana