On the anniversary of Princess Diana’s tragic death on August 31, 1997, we look back at the private visit of Great Britain’s “Queen of Hearts” to Greece just a year before her death.
On September 18, 1996, Diana, the Princess of Wales, made a surprise trip to the Greek island of Evia to pay her last respects to her “dear friend” who had died several days earlier.
She had developed a close friendship with twenty-seven-year-old Giannis Kaliviotis, who had been hospitalized for months in London’s Royal Brompton Hospital.
He had suffered his entire life from cystic fibrosis, a progressive, genetic disease which causes persistent lung infections and limits the ability to breathe over time.
Giannis, a practicing lawyer in Chalkida, Evia’s largest city, was transferred to London in 1995 where he received treatment for almost eighteen months.
Princess Diana met him at Brompton during one of her many visits to London hospitals. It is said that she was extremely moved by his absolute determination to battle the disease.
She developed a close friendship with Giannis and even invited him to dinner at Buckingham Palace.
Princess Diana flies to Greece
Once she learned of his death, she boarded a private jet offered to her by a Greek billionaire and flew to Athens. She then traveled by car to Giannis’ hometown, Limni, on Evia.
Diana paid her respects to the Kaliviotis family and visited Giannis’ house. She then walked to the local church just like all the other mourners for his funeral ceremony.
Throughout this emotional day, she was escorted by the local Metropolitan, Pavlos Ioannou.
Ioannou told the congregation during the funeral ceremony that “God sent her in this difficult time to give courage to Giannis’ family.”
At the time of her visit to Greece, Diana was the object of increased worldwide media scrutiny since her marriage had just ended in divorce one month prior on August 28, 1996. After she married Prince Charles, the eldest of Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip‘s four children, in July of 1981, Diana’s entire life became tabloid fodder—from marital intrigue to their divorce and its aftermath.
Diana died almost exactly one year after her visit to Greece in a car crash in a Paris tunnel on August 31, 1997.
Fatal car accident in Paris
On Saturday, August 30, 1997, Diana and her rumored boyfriend, Egyptian billionaire Emad “Dodi” Fayed, arrived in Paris following a ten-day getaway on the French Riviera. They dined at the private salon at the Ritz Hotel in Paris. Coincidentally, Fayed’s father, Mohammed Al-Fayed, owned the hotel at the time—along with Harrods, a department store, in London.
A few minutes past midnight on Sunday, Diana and Fayed left the hotel and got into the Mercedes Benz that was awaiting them—likely to travel to Fayed’s private Parisian estate.
Though the posted speed limit was thirty miles per hour, the driver, Henri Paul, reportedly approached the entrance of a road tunnel at Paris’s Pont de l’Alma with a speed of approximately seventy miles per hour. According to reports, Paul lost control of the car and collided into a pillar in the middle of the highway.
Paul and Fayed were pronounced dead at the scene, and Diana—still alive—was rushed to the Pitie-Salpetriere Hospital. Early reports said Diana was suffering from a concussion, broken arm, and lacerated thigh. However, the princess had also suffered massive chest injuries. Operating for two hours, doctors tried and failed to get Diana’s heart beating properly again.
She never regained consciousness. Diana passed away due to internal bleeding at 4:53 a.m. on the morning of August 31, 1997.