It's sort of staggering to realize we're approaching the 25th anniversary of Princess Diana's death on August 31, 1997. That may be the reason it caught us off guard when our social media feeds were suddenly populated with a striking—and poignant—image of Diana, snapped exactly one week before she passed away, following a car crash in the Pont de l'Alma tunnel in Paris.
This Old Photo of Princess Diana Is Going Viral—and the Reason Is Particularly Poignant
The image shows Diana, sitting on a diving board attached to the edge of Mohamed Al Fayed's private yacht called the 'Jonikal' while on vacation with her new beau, Dodi Al Fayed, in the South of France.
Her feet are dangling over the edge as a lone seagull swoops overhead—the only sign of life around the Princess of Wales as she sits solo, taking in the view.
For royal watchers, many compared the image to another iconic shot where Diana was pictured looking contemplative and seated alone. In 1992, mere months before she and Prince Charles were to formally announce their separation, the pair traveled to India on a royal tour. But while Charles was away at another meeting, Diana appeared in front of the Taj Mahal—an eternal monument of a husband's love—all by herself.
Back to the Jonikal: What stands out about that shot, beyond the context of what was to come in a week's time, is Diana's serenity. She appears to have a look of inner calm. In those final days, had Diana, a woman tortured by the tabloids and pictured here in a rare moment of solitude—ironically, caught by a camera—found her bliss?
A picture is worth a thousand words, of course, and we'll never know what Diana was thinking out there on the diving board. What we do know is that she was fresh off a visit from her two sons, Prince William and Prince Harry, and approaching the one-year anniversary of her divorce from Prince Charles.
But that's what makes one of the final photos of the Princess of Wales so breathtaking and, ultimately, haunting. A brand-new future was before her and we—the royal voyeurs—can't help but feel contemplative as we stare at this shot. "What could have been?," we will forever wonder.