With Season 4 of The Crown featuring the messy love triangle of Prince Charles, Princess Diana, and his mistress Camilla Parker Bowles, her celebrated and tragic life is being revisited with fresh eyes.
Now a photography site, Shotkit, is revealing the most expensive paparazzi photo ever sold, and of course, it’s of Princess Diana and her boyfriend, Dodi Fayed. The $6 million photo was taken in July 1997, just a month before both of them would perish in a high-speed car crash in Paris. Knowing this timeline makes the fleeting moment of two lovers leaning in to kiss each other that much more heartbreaking.
The couple is seen on Fayed’s superyacht, Cujo, when the prying paparazzi lens caught them in an intimate moment. Princess Diana has on a stylish turquoise one-piece bathing suit while Fayed sported yellow swimming trunks. They both look like they didn’t have a care in the world as they spent a final lavish vacation in St. Tropez.
The picture was such a big deal that Paris Match dubbed it ”the image of the summer of 1997.” Prince Charles and Princess Diana had been using photographers to outshine each other in the media. Their contentious divorce played out with the future King of England throwing a lavish 50th birthday party for Parker Bowles. Diana decided that two can play at that game and she flaunted her romance with Fayed in public.
“It was clear enough to all of us that she wanted to show the British establishment she was free,” said Frederic Garcia, a photographer for the Angeli agency to the New York Times in 1997. ”She knew we were there, and she did not avoid us. We were the means she chose to make her union with Dodi official.”
Diana knew her role as the “People’s Princess” was an important one. Her charitable work meant the world to her and it was crucial to get her message across, and she noted that “being permanently in the public eye gives me a special responsibility.” Her continued presence irked the Royal Family since she was no longer married to Prince Charles, but Diana pressed on “using the impact of photographs to get a message across, a message about an important cause or certain values,” per her last interview with Le Monde. She considered herself “a messenger.”
That message of kindness, tragedy, love, and hope still carries on over two decades later.
Before you go, check out the 100 best photos of the royal family from the past 20 years.