In the third episode of Netflix’s ‘The Crown’ Season 6, we follow Princess Diana and Dodi Fayed as they take a detour to Paris before Diana goes back to London. This change of plan becomes one of the focal points in the way things eventually turn out that night and claims the life of the people’s princess. As seen in the episode, the whole day had been chaotic for the couple, who drove around the city a lot, while Diana only wanted to go home to her children.
By the end of the night, the chaos claims so much of their usual living that Dodi Fayed decides to drop his regular chauffeur, Philippe Dourneau, in favor of Henri Paul. In hindsight, this was probably the worst decision of the entire day. Naturally, it makes one curious about Dourneau.
Where is Philippe Dourneau Today?
Philippe Dourneau lives an obscure life, completely removed from the media limelight. It is assumed that he lives somewhere in France, probably Paris. He had been an unknown figure before Diana and Dodi’s death in August 1997. His name found its way to the newspapers when an investigation ensued about what really happened that night. For the most part of the day, Dourneau was confirmed to have driven the couple around. But he was not in the car when the accident happened.
Philippe Dourneau had worked for Dodi Fayed for a while before the latter started dating the princess. “I ended up working exclusively for Mr Dodi Al Fayed. When he was in Paris, or more generally in continental Europe, it was me who drove him. When he was elsewhere, chiefly England, I still worked for him, this consisted of looking after the dogs, driving the butler, and running various errands or looking after the fiancée,” Dourneau said, explaining the nature of his work.
Dourneau was known by people around Dodi Fayed as a dependable driver. Myriah Daniels, Dodi Fayed’s holistic healer who had also been on the yacht with Diana and Dodi before they came to Paris, said: “I have driven with Philippe over the years. He drove fast, I drive fast, but you drive fast safely. You don’t tailgate, you watch cornering and stuff like that. Philippe was a good driver.” She said this in reference to the comparison with Henri Paul’s driving, whom she described as reckless. According to the Padget inquiry, Dourneau was said to have driven in “a manner that prevented the paparazzi from following them” while also keeping the couple safe.
On that August night in 1997, Dourneau would have driven the couple, who left the Ritz to go back to Fayed’s apartment. But the plan was changed. Reportedly, Fayed had been fed up with the media following them and was frustrated with the photographers. This is why, even though they had a reservation in Chez Benoît, Fayed changed it last minute, and Dourneau drove them back to the Ritz.
Later that evening, reportedly, Fayed decided that they should use the cars in which they arrived as dummies to lead the photographers away. Dourneau and the other driver were sent to the front of the hotel, where they attracted the attention of the photographers, making it look like the couple would be driving with them. Meanwhile, Dodi and Diana were to sneak away from the other exit, driven by Henri Paul. When the couple had departed the hotel, Dourneau and the other driver made their way to Fayed’s apartment, believing they would meet the couple there. They were unaware of the accident when they reached the apartment.
In the rare times Dourneau has spoken to the media, he has talked about how the paparazzi didn’t leave the couple alone for one minute. “[The photographers] were all around us, at the sides, in front, behind. They were everywhere. Some were scouts, going ahead of us to find out where we were going. I think that was what really made Dodi nervous,” he said, explaining the reason behind Fayed’s repeated change of plans that fateful night.