WASHINGTON (THE WASHINGTON POST) – In the first episode of the sixth and final season of “The Crown,” Diana, Princess of Wales, newly divorced and stripped of her “HRH” title, takes refuge on the yacht of billionaire Mohamed al-Fayed, which is docked in Saint-Tropez near a Fayed-owned villa.
Although the towering blonde and the short, greying Egyptian might seem odd friends at first, the two have much common: Both are rich, friendly, insecure, a little flashy – and utter outcasts, rejected by the British royal family despite desperate, years-long bids for acceptance.
Soon, we find out that Fayed has more than just a relaxing vacation planned for Diana. He calls his son Dodi and insists his son drop whatever he’s doing and come to woo the princess. There’s one problem, Dodi tries to explain to his dad: He’s getting married to another woman in three weeks.
Later in the new episodes – Netflix released the first four episodes of the season Thursday; the final six will follow on December 14 – Dodi spends his days romancing Diana on the huge yacht and his nights visiting his American fiancée on a smaller yacht nearby.
So, did that really happen? Was Dodi really engaged to an American the summer before his and Diana’s tragic deaths in a car crash in Paris? And did he really keep the two beautiful women on adjacent yachts?
Yes, according to the journalist Martyn Gregory in his 2004 book “Diana: The Last Days.”
Dodi met Kelly Fisher in July 1996; by February 1997, he had proposed. The Kentucky-born model had been to the Fayed family home in London, and Dodi’s father bought a mansion in Malibu for them to live in after they were married, according to Gregory.
Fisher had set a date of August 9 for the wedding, although it’s questionable how serious that was; invitations never went out. Still, in July, they visited the Fayed-owned Villa Windsor property in Paris – once the home of the Duke of Windsor and his American wife, Wallis Simpson – and picked up some antique furniture for their new house.
They even got a pet together, a dog named Bear.
Fisher also got a clear view of the hold Mohamed al-Fayed had over his son and how Dodi felt pressured to do whatever his father asked. When Fayed ordered Dodi to leave Fisher and join the yacht trip, Fisher was annoyed but not suspicious. She couldn’t go because of a modelling commitment but expected to join them the next week.
When she arrived, however, instead of being taken by Fayed’s staff to the villa or the main yacht, she was instead taken to a smaller yacht docked nearby, where, except for the crew and brief visits from Dodi, she was alone.
In “The Crown,” Fisher immediately suspects she’s being cheated on, but in real life, she claimed she had no idea. She was “livid” about being confined to the little yacht, and as the days went on, it became clearer that she and Dodi weren’t going to get married on August 9, but, she told Gregory, “I just thought maybe they didn’t want a commoner around the princess.”
Eventually, Fisher left the boat and went back to work, but she was still talking on the phone frequently with Dodi, Gregory wrote. Then, on August 10 – the day after she had once thought she would be getting married – a friend in London called with some surprising news: A British tabloid had published a photo of Dodi and Diana on the big yacht, kissing.
Fisher did what a lot of spurned women in the 1990s did: She hired the feminist lawyer Gloria Allred. In an August 14 news conference with a stunned Fisher at her side, Allred called Dodi a “frog in prince’s clothing” and announced that Fisher was suing him for breach of contract.
The day after the tragic Paris car crash, Allred announced that Fisher would drop the lawsuit “out of respect for the tragedy and tremendous loss the Fayed family has suffered.”
Mohamed al-Fayed, who died this year, long denied Fisher’s claims of having a serious relationship with Dodi, and in a 2008 inquest into Diana and Dodi’s deaths, he called her “a hooker and a gold digger.”
Fisher testified at the same inquest. Her story had not changed, and a phone call she taped between herself and Dodi was read into evidence. In the call, she shouted at him, “You even flew me down to Saint-Tropez to sit on a boat while you seduced Diana all day and [expletive] me all night.”
As of 2014, Fisher, now Kelly Movshina, had traded the jet-set life for the wealthy enclave of Aiken, SC, where she settled with her husband – a Russian pilot she met in the Central African Republic – and their daughter. In a spread for Aiken Woman magazine, which doesn’t mention Dodi or Diana, she said, “We have truly fallen in love with small town life.” – GILLIAN BROCKELL