file photo dodi al fayed and diana, princess of wales

Inside the Superyacht Princess Diana and Dodi Al-Fayed Spent Their Final Vacation On

A look at the vessel that saw the beloved royal’s last vacation.

It was hot gossip, this adventure that the princess took abroad after having finalized her divorce from then Prince Charles less than a year before—something that was hinted at at the end of season 5 of The Crown as Queen Elizabeth is pressed to endorse a vacation a-sea with Fayed and her grandchildren, Prince Harry and Prince William. Diana was famously photographed sitting on the passerelle of this boat. Years later, in real life, Harry described the trip in his memoir, Spare , with fond recollection. “Everything about that trip to St. Tropez was heaven,” he wrote.

While the series was filmed on a lookalike super yacht in Mallorca , the real boat was equally lavish. The 208-foot ship was commissioned by Dodi’s father, former Harrods owner Mohamed Al-Fayed, who brought on naval architect Vincenzo Ruggiero to design it in the late 1980s. It was built by Italian shipyard Codecasa and launched in 1990. The steel and aluminum super yacht boasted nine staterooms that altogether accommodate up to 18 people, in addition to a crew of 26. Amenities included a Jacuzzi, swim platform, sun deck, formal dining room, a bar, and office space. Mohamed had named the yacht Jonikal (it has subsequently been called Sokar and is currently called Bash ) .

lady diana

Shortly after Diana’s and Dodi’s deaths, Mohamed gave the interior a redesign by H2 Yacht Design and a refit that included extending the hull. He attempted to sell the yacht on a number of occasions, ultimately parting with it in 2014 to an anonymous buyer. The new owner carried out further work, including machinery upgrades, a repaint, and fresh teak decks. In 2021, the yacht came into the hands of Bassim Haidar , the founder of Intercomm and GMT, who gave it a further $9.7 million refit after a reported bridge deck fire—and its current name Bash . It’s now back to turn-key condition after an 18-month remodel completed in April 2023 by marine engineering and management company Capax and boat interior company Bobic Yacht Interiors . It features a beauty salon, massage area, high-tech gym, and a spacious main salon.

lady diana

In May, Robb Report reported that Bash is available for charter in the Mediterranean starting at $278,000 per week, plus expenses. In June, Haidar listed Bash for $16.8 million, according to Boat International .

There was a second motor yacht named Cujo, which Diana and Fayed also took earlier that summer. It was built in Italy in 1972 for John von Neumann, who commissioned the Italian Baglietto shipyard to build the world's fastest motor yacht. She was given two 18-cylinder engines that allowed it to go as fast as 42 knots. Fayed had bought the boat from his cousin, Saudi businessman and arms dealer Adnan Khashoggi. In August, the Mediterranean Sea reclaimed Cujo, as the 62-foot artifact of Diana’s life hit an unidentified object off Beaulieu-sur-Mer on July 29 and sprang a leak, Vanity Fair reported. The seven people on board were rescued by teams from Antibes and safely returned to shore.

file photo dodi al fayed and diana, princess of wales

An imitation of Jonikal will feature in The Crown season 6, a set that was intended to visually illuminate the tension between Diana and the royal family. “Diana’s south of France adventure was bright and lovely pastel colors, and her world even in Kensington Palace is optimistic and warm, compared to the queen’s residence at Balmoral, which is very static, with gloomy light and drab colors,” set decorator Alison Harvey tells ELLE DECOR.

Filming on the yacht off the island of Mallorca (a St. Tropez stand-in) required many moving parts with few do-overs. “We brought in the drapes, the artwork, many furnishings,” Harvey explains. “Everything was set in the early ’90s, so we thought hard about the colors and textures that we brought in.” Harvey’s team had just half a day to dress the yacht, and then it was off to sea. “There was no getting on or off after that,” Harvey says, adding that they were “subsumed by the logistics of what we had to achieve and the time we had to do it.”

the crown dodi fayed yacht diana

However painstaking the process, the yacht scenes will offer an intriguing context—though largely fictitious—for the iconic photographs that exist of those final weeks leading up to Diana’s death.

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Rachel Silva, the Assistant Digital Editor at ELLE DECOR, covers design, architecture, trends, and anything to do with haute couture. She has previously written for Time, The Wall Street Journal, and Citywire.

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The Crown: The Sad, Strange Details of Princess Diana’s Last Vacation

diana dodi fayed yacht

By Julie Miller

The Crown The Sad Strange Details of Princess Dianas Last Vacation

Princess Diana and Dodi Fayed are lounging on the sundeck of a reportedly £15 million yacht in The Crown ’s season six episode “Two Photographs” when Dodi’s domineering father telephones an onboard employee with an urgent question.

“Are they sleeping together?” Mohamed Al Fayed demands to know. 

It’s an audacious question—but Mohamed really was checking in on the couple hourly during this August 1997 cruise, according to Tom Bower , who wrote an unauthorized biography of the billionaire called Fayed. The late princess was aware that these calls were coming in—so much so that she joked to Dodi, “God is calling,” when she heard a ring, according to Dodi’s spiritual healer, Myriah Daniels, who was onboard. In 2007, during the inquest into the 1997 crash that killed the princess, Dodi, and their driver, Henri Paul, Daniels said that this became one of Diana’s inside jokes with Dodi. “They’d both have a giggle,” she said. 

Diana had vacationed with Mohamed, as well as Prince William and Prince Harry, aboard the Jonikal earlier that summer. As depicted in The Crown ’s season six episode “Persona Non Grata,” that first Jonikal vacation featured Jet Skis and a flirtation between Diana and the flotilla of press nearby. 

“The young princes didn’t like [the trip] much,” Tina Brown writes in The Palace Papers. “The flash and excess of [Mohamed’s] hospitality—the groaning buffets and the palatial bathrooms—embarrassed William in particular.” Dodi, who was asked by his father to join the trip midway, did not help matters by making the “oddly flamboyant gesture of renting a disco for William and Harry to enjoy privately,” according to royal biographer Sally Bedell Smith in Diana in Search of Herself.

Mohamed was a controversial figure who long craved social acceptance by the British elite, and hoped a relationship between his son and the recently-divorced Diana would seal the deal. 

diana dodi fayed yacht

During the summer of 1997, the billionaire ordered Dodi to drop everything—including his model fiancée, Kelly Fisher —and romance the late princess. Speaking about Mohamed, Bedell Smith previously told Vanity Fair, “He was really the puppet master behind Dodi and Diana’s very brief, barely more than a month, romance…. Dodi basically did whatever his father told him to do.”

Diana’s association with Mohamed caused serious backlash in the press. “These days, Diana, you are no longer the Teflon Princess,” warned Andrew Morton , the biographer behind her bridge-burning tell-all, Diana: Her True Story, in The Sun. “You might have the run of a £20 million yacht, but your friends and fans see a woman who is drifting on the sea of life, seriously in danger of becoming shipwrecked.” Referring to Diana’s cat-and-mouse game with the paparazzi during that initial trip, columnist Judith Whelan wrote in The Sydney Morning Herald, “Diana has been erratic before. This time, however, she has done it while hosted by one of the most reviled men in Britain.”

Despite the press outrage over her association with Mohamed, Diana agreed to return to the Jonikal for the intimate trip reimagined in “Two Photographs.” “Alone in August and attracted to [Dodi], [a] sympathetic, unthreatening listener, she accepted the invitation for a second trip alone with Dodi to the Jonikal on 31 July,” wrote Bower in Fayed. “Over the next six days…the two frolicked on the sundecks, inside the sumptuous craft and in the sea.”

Dodi indulged Diana with her favorite meals—“which included carrot juice in the morning, fruit at lunch, and fish in the evening, as well as plenty of Champagne, caviar, and pâté de foie gras,” according to Diana in Search of Herself. The music was Diana’s selection as well: George Michael’s 1996 album, Older, the occasional Frank Sinatra tune, and the soundtrack of The English Patient. “Such a marvelous film,” Diana raved to Dodi’s butler, Rene Delorm, according to Fayed. “And you miss the music when you’re watching.”

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Mohamed’s staff was so attentive to Diana that the Jonikal ’s chief stewardess, Deborah Gribble, could remember the tiniest detail, like that some of Diana’s birth control packets were half-used. Speaking at the inquest, she also confirmed that Dodi and Diana “were clearly having a relationship and were a couple.”

Dodi lavished Diana with gifts during their six-week courtship, including a pearl bracelet, a diamond-studded wristwatch, a silver photo frame, and a gold-and-diamond ring. When the Jonikal docked in Sardinia’s Porto Cervo, according to Brown’s The Diana Chronicles, Diana and Dodi went shopping and returned with cashmere sweaters for the princess—one in every color. 

Mohamed, meanwhile, was busy behind the scenes calling press. News of the relationship between Diana and Dodi broke the first week of August, less than a month before Diana’s death. The Sun ran the news with the headline “Di’s Secret Hol With Harrods Hunk Dodi,” while Mohamed’s publicist touted the relationship as “the romance of the century.”

But by the end of the trip, according to those who knew Diana, she intended their fling to be just that. The late princess suspected that Dodi might propose to her, according to Brown, but she told a friend that an engagement ring would be “going firmly on the fourth finger of my right hand” should it be presented. As recreated in “Two Pictures,” there was “a chaotic evening ashore in Monte Carlo when Dodi suddenly decided to send for the tender and take the princess for a walk.” Rather than going for a romantic stroll, however, Dodi “got her lost after a long pant up a hill trying to evade the paparazzi,” Brown writes. 

diana dodi fayed yacht

It was so embarrassing, she continues, that Trevor Rees-Jones, a bodyguard on Mohamed’s payroll, “began to feel sorry for the princess; he believed she deserved better.”

According to Gribble, Dodi also became impatient with the amount of press attention Diana was receiving.

“The tension was noticeable throughout the trip and increasing as time wore on,” Gribble revealed during the inquest. “By the time we went to Paris, there was real tension. It was incredible. It was all so tense.” 

Days before her fatal accident, Diana called her sister from the Jonikal, confiding that any love spell cast on her earlier had been broken. While she did not get into specifics, Sarah McCorquodale later told the court, “I just did not think the relationship had much longer to go.”

During that final trip on the Jonikal, Diana was photographed sitting alone on a diving board in an aqua swimsuit. The image remains so iconic that, 26 years after it was taken, Netflix recreated the visual in its promotional materials for The Crown ’s sixth season.

Contrary to what the photo showed, though, Diana was never really alone. By the end of the cruise, the princess suspected that Mohamed was doing more than periodically checking in with the Jonikal staff. As McCorquodale revealed during the inquest, “She thought the boat was being bugged by Mr. Al Fayed Senior.”

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The true story behind Princess Diana's iconic yacht photo

All you need to know about the iconic photo of the late princess of wales that went around the globe.

Princess Diana in a blue swimsuit sat on a diving board with the sea beneath her

Princess Diana was always a fashion icon , we can never forget her legendary 'revenge' dress , but one of her best-known looks was snapped when she holidayed on the Jonikal yacht with the al-Fayed family, scenes which were immortalised in the fifth and sixth seasons of The Crown .

The holiday that Diana enjoyed, alongside sons Prince William and Prince Harry , would be her last before she was tragically killed in a car accident in 1997. One of the most memorable photos saw the late Princess of Wales sat on the yacht's diving board looking out over the sea.

Even though the photo of Diana in the teal swimsuit is now one of the most poignant photos of the late royal, how much do you know of the story behind it? Read on to find out all you need to know…

Why was Diana on the yacht?

Princess Diana had become friends with the businessman Mohamed al-Fayed, with the pair reportedly meeting a polo match before becoming friends. Following her divorce from the then Prince Charles and the ending of her relationship with heart surgeon Dr. Hasnat Khan, Mohamed invited Diana to join him and his family on a trip to St Tropez, in southern France.

Ahead of the trip, Diana had been in Milan to attend the funeral of fashion designer and friend Gianna Versace, who had been murdered by Andrew Cunanan. The late royal later travelled to Sarajevo, in Bosnia, to highlight the issue of landmines in the country. During her time in the city, she met with people who had been injured by the mines.

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The trip would end up being Diana's first time meeting Dodi al-Fayed, and the filmmaker's then-girlfriend, Kelly Fisher, was allegedly on the trip.

Who took the photo?

On 10 August, paparazzi photos were published in the Sunday Mirror showing Princess Diana and Dodi sharing a kiss, which intensified media presence around the couple and their holiday. Paparazzi photographers began renting dinghies to try and get new photos of the royal, with some even going for prices up to £1million.

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It's ultimately unknown which photographer grabbed the photo of Diana on the side of the yacht, which was published on 24 August, a week before Diana died. The snap saw the Princess in her teal swimsuit sat at the end of the yacht's diving board, with a life ring floating in the water beneath her.

See below for more images of Diana on the Jonikal…

Princess Diana and Dodi al-Fayed embracing on the deck of a yacht

Diana and Dodi

Diana and Dodi grew close on the trip, and in this photo the pair shared an intimate moment as they relaxed in the sun together.

Princess Diana with Mohamed al-Fayed and Dodi al-Fayed on a yacht

Diana with the al-Fayed family

The late Princess of Wales had been invited on the trip by Mohamed al-Fayed, and she enjoyed the businessman's company during her time onboard.

Dodi al-Fayed and Princess Diana on a yacht

Diana in blue

Diana favoured the teal swimsuit during her time in St Tropez.

Princess Diana in a green and blue swimsuit on the deck of a yacht

Diana's paparazzi moment

The royal was aware of the media presence, and she light-heartedly teased photographers in this photo, mimicking a pair of binoculars with her hands.

Princess Diana stretching on the deck of a yacht

Diana stretches

The mum-of-two also brought this stunning green and blue one-piece with her on the trip, and in this photo she enjoyed some morning stretches on the yacht's deck.

Princess Diana on the phone with a young Prince Harry

Diana's family moment

Diana didn't go on the holiday alone, and she also enjoyed time with her sons Prince William and Prince Harry, and a young Harry can be seen here with his mum while she spoke to someone on the phone.

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See Inside the Superyacht Princess Diana Shared With Dodi Fayed

By Katherine McLaughlin

Princess Diana jumping on the deck of a yacht

Since her untimely death in August of 1997, Princess Diana’s last summer spent with Dodi Al-Fayed has been described in various ways: a passionate love affair, a fake publicity stunt, a temporary fling, a rouse to infuriate another suiter, or the beginning of a lifelong commitment. Although the stories change, the setting remains: a summer tour through the Mediterranean aboard a multi-million dollar superyacht. Later this year, nearly 25 years to the day, the 208-foot vessel will launch for sale again. 

Study and seating area in the super yacht

The yacht is full of glossy and dark wood paneling. 

Originally named Jonikal , then Sokar , and most recently Bash , the luxury vessel was first owned by Mohamed Al-Fayed, former owner of Harrods and father of Dodi Al-Fayed. During the fateful summer, Al-Fayed hosted Princess Di and her two sons aboard the Jonikal . After the couple’s tragic death, Mohamed Al-Fayed attempted to sell the yacht numerous times before it was finally bought in 2014. It was most recently purchased by Bassim Haidar in June of 2021, who is selling it just over a year later as he reportedly has plans to upgrade to a larger vessel. “She is in the yard being refitted, and will be launched for sale in September,” said John Wood, director at Seawood Yachts. 

Image of stateroom in yacht with large sectional and various seating areas

Coffered ceilings add a dramatic, yet timeless feel. 

Bash , as the yacht is currently named, was designed by navel architect Vincenzo Ruggiero in the 1980s and built by the superyacht building firm Codecasa before launching in 1990. The vessel can hold up to 18 people across nine staterooms in addition to rooms for 26 crew members. Among many notable features, Bash includes a jacuzzi, swim platform, sun deck, a formal dining room, main saloon, a bar, and office space. Full of dark wood paneling and coffered ceilings, the interiors are reminiscent of the Arts and Crafts style of the early 1900s. 

Photo of the bedroom aboard the yacht

The vessel includes nine staterooms in addition to plenty of space for the crew. 

Powered by Wärtsilä engines, the yacht has a cruising speed of 15 knots and top speeds of 20 knots. Even though an exact price hasn’t been advertised just yet, the last time the boat was sold, it was listed for $10,000,000. 

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Boat of the Week: Meet ‘Cujo,’ the 80-Foot Yacht Where Late Movie Producer Dodi Al-Fayed Once Wooed Princess Diana

The couple spent some of their final summer cruising around saint-tropez aboard this fast, military-looking yacht., howard walker, howard walker's most recent stories.

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Cujo is an 80 foot motoryacht that was owned by Dodi Al-Fayed and used by Princess Diana before their deaths in 1997.

For a few brief weeks back in the summer of 1997, Cujo was the most famous boat in the world.

Not because of her intimidating military lines, or blistering 40-knot performance. It’s because Diana, Princess of Wales, hung out aboard in Saint-Tropez with the boat’s owner, and romantic partner Dodi Al-Fayed.

Countless paparazzi shots show the once future Queen of England on Cujo‘s narrow sidedecks, soaking up the Mediterranean sun. By the end of August that year, both Diana and Dodi would be dead after that fatal car wreck in Paris.

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Diana, Princess of Wales and Dodi Fayed

Diana, Princess of Wales and Dodi Fayed spent some of their final summer cruising around Saint-Tropez aboard Cujo .  Courtesy Patrick Bar-Nice Matin/AP Images

Yet this rakish 80-footer was a headliner long before Diana stepped on board. Her first owner was Austrian Johnny Von Neumann, an entrepreneur, playboy and passionate sports-car racer who became the largest Porsche-VW distributor in the US.

In 1972, Von Neumann commissioned the Italian shipyard Baglietto to build him a boat with one goal: It had to go fast—faster than any other motoryacht on the water. To deliver, the shipyard installed twin 54-liter V-18 turbo diesels delivering a combined 2,700 horsepower.

Flat out, Cujo —said to be an ancient Indian word meaning “unstoppable force”—could easily top 40 knots, or 46 mph. Von Neumann blasted up and down the Cote d’Azur for a few years before ordering an even faster Baglietto—this time with jet turbine power. He sold Cujo to arms dealer Adnan Khashoggi who, at the time, was reckoned to be the richest man in the world.

Cujo is an 80 foot motoryacht that was owned by Dodi Al-Fayed and used by Princess Diana before their deaths in 1997.

The fast, military exterior gives way to an almost old-fashioned cockpit with wood cabinets and leather seats.  Courtesy Simon Kidston

Khashoggi eventually passed the boat on to his nephew Dodi Al-Fayed, who immediately sent her to the CARM shipyard in Lavagna, Italy, for a full refit.

Back in Saint-Tropez, and moored in her reserved spot on the town’s main quay outside the famed Le Sénéquier restaurant, Fayed would invite many of his Hollywood friends for a cruise. During the summers, everyone from Clint Eastwood, Tony Curtis, Bruce Willis and one-time girlfriend, Brooke Shields, were seen aboard.

Following Dodi and Diana’s death, Cujo quickly fell into disrepair. Decommissioned in 1999, she was hauled out at the CARM yard and spent several years in storage.

Cujo is an 80 foot motoryacht that was owned by Dodi Al-Fayed and used by Princess Diana before their deaths in 1997.

The main salon is smaller than many contemporary 80-foot motoryachts, but few other boats its size have the same 40-knots-plus top end.  Courtesy Simon Kidston

The boat was eventually rescued by Dodi’s cousin Moody Al-Fayed, who spent over $1 million bringing her back to life. Part of the work included uprating those massive diesels to deliver 1,650 hp each.

Now fast forward to February last year. After two summers of cruising Cujo around Sardinia and Italy’s Amalfi coast, Moody decided to sell. Strangely, he entered the boat in the Retromobile classic car auction in Paris.

That’s where well-known British car collector, buyer, seller and restorer Simon Kidston appeared. Kidston had spied Cujo in the Retromobile auction catalog, read that it was being sold by his old school-friend Fayed, and decided to bid.

Cujo is an 80 foot motoryacht that was owned by Dodi Al-Fayed and used by Princess Diana before their deaths in 1997.

The 1972 Baglietto has innovative features like the amidships helm and social area, and two sunbeds on the foredeck.  Courtesy Simon Kidston

“On the day of the auction, I was tied up with clients so asked a colleague to go down and take a look. I told him that if it was going cheaply, put in a bid for a bit of fun,” Kidston tells Robb Report .

“The bidding opened at just 150,000 Euros—that’s around $165,000. My colleague bid 160,000 Euros,” says Kidston. “Trouble was, no one else bid. The hammer went down and I had bought a boat. The feeling was a mix of excitement, tinged with terror.”

Unfortunately, just as Simon took delivery of Cujo at Lavagna, where she was moored, Europe was starting to lock down with the coronavirus pandemic.

Cujo is an 80 foot motoryacht that was owned by Dodi Al-Fayed and used by Princess Diana before their deaths in 1997.

The internal helm station is outfitted with modern electronics, but in a nod to its historic past, the wheel is definitely old school.  Courtesy Simon Kidston

But he did get to take her out during a video shoot in and around Portofino  for his YouTube channel Kidston Productions, where the boat meets up with Simon’s own ’70s Lamborghini Miura supercar. Entitled A Portofino Affair, the footage of Cujo at speed is breathtaking.

“She has immense presence,” said Kidston. “No boat of its size commands that kind of attention when she comes into a harbor.” Especially an Italian harbor when nervous local boat owners think she’s with the financial police.

“As you’d expect, those engines have tons and tons of performance,” Kidston adds. “We’ve seen 41 knots. But they have a very different sound than I was expecting; instead of a roar from the exhausts, there’s this amazing whistle from the turbos.”

Cujo is an 80 foot motoryacht that was owned by Dodi Al-Fayed and used by Princess Diana before their deaths in 1997.

The diesel engines were upgraded from the original 2,700 to 3,300 horsepower.  Courtesy Simon Kidston

While Kidston and his family had planned to cruise the Med this summer, the car enthusiast received an offer he couldn’t refuse.

“A young member of a prominent Italian business family—he’s 30 years old—had seen Cujo in Lavagna, fallen in love with her and asked if she was for sale,” he says. “He took delivery last week, just in time for his birthday.”

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Inside The Yacht Princess Diana and Dodi Al Fayed Toured the Mediterranean On

The princess and her paramour vacationed on the yacht shortly before their tragic deaths in 1997.

preview for Princess Diana’s Best Style Moments

Just a month before their passing, Diana and Dodi—joined for part of the trip by her sons, Prince William and Prince Harry—traveled the South of France aboard a superyacht. Then named the Jonikal (it has subsequently been called the Sokar , and the Bash ), the yacht was owned by Dodi's father, former Harrods owner Mohamed Al Fayed , when Diana traveled on it. Following the 1997 car crash that led to the couple's deaths, Mohamed attempted to sell the yacht on a number of occasions before ultimately parting with it in 2014.

lady diana

In 2022, it was announced that the 208-foot yacht, which saw the beloved royal's last vacation, would be going up for sale. According to Boat International , the vessel sold in June of 2023 following a €9 million refit.

The ship, which was first launched in 1990, reportedly has nine staterooms to hold up to 12 guests with amenities including a jacuzzi, swim platform, sun deck, formal dining room, a bar, and office space. Though the ultimate sale price for the vessel has not been revealed, the asking price was reportedly €15,500,000.

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Lauren Hubbard is a freelance writer and Town & Country contributor who covers beauty, shopping, entertainment, travel, home decor, wine, and cocktails.

@media(min-width: 40.625rem){.css-1jdielu:before{margin:0.625rem 0.625rem 0;width:3.5rem;-webkit-filter:invert(17%) sepia(72%) saturate(710%) hue-rotate(181deg) brightness(97%) contrast(97%);filter:invert(17%) sepia(72%) saturate(710%) hue-rotate(181deg) brightness(97%) contrast(97%);height:1.5rem;content:'';display:inline-block;-webkit-transform:scale(-1, 1);-moz-transform:scale(-1, 1);-ms-transform:scale(-1, 1);transform:scale(-1, 1);background-repeat:no-repeat;}.loaded .css-1jdielu:before{background-image:url(/_assets/design-tokens/townandcountrymag/static/images/diamond-header-design-element.80fb60e.svg);}}@media(min-width: 64rem){.css-1jdielu:before{margin:0 0.625rem 0.25rem;}} Royal Family News @media(min-width: 40.625rem){.css-128xfoy:before{margin:0.625rem 0.625rem 0;width:3.5rem;-webkit-filter:invert(17%) sepia(72%) saturate(710%) hue-rotate(181deg) brightness(97%) contrast(97%);filter:invert(17%) sepia(72%) saturate(710%) hue-rotate(181deg) brightness(97%) contrast(97%);height:1.5rem;content:'';display:inline-block;background-repeat:no-repeat;}.loaded .css-128xfoy:before{background-image:url(/_assets/design-tokens/townandcountrymag/static/images/diamond-header-design-element.80fb60e.svg);}}@media(min-width: 64rem){.css-128xfoy:before{margin:0 0.625rem 0.25rem;}}

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Yacht used by Princess Diana and lover Dodi Fayed on final summer holiday sinks

Seven people on board were rescued following the accident off the coast of france, article bookmarked.

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The world-famous celebrity yacht used by Princess Diana on her final summer holiday in France has sunk to the bottom of the sea.

Cujo, once also a favourite of Hollywood superstars, disappeared below the Mediterranean waves after hitting an unidentified object off Beaulieu-sur-Mer, on the French Riviera, on Saturday.

Seven people on board were rescued following the accident, but the boat ended up at a depth of almost 2500m around 18 nautical miles off the coast.

“The skipper of the Cujo issued a Mayday,” said one officer. “His ship was sinking due to a leak.

Cujo, once also a favourite of Hollywood superstars, disappeared below the Mediterranean waves

“Rescue boats were sent from Antibes, and, after making sure everyone was safe, gendarmes detected a significant water leak at the level of the starboard front hull.

“Her owner had activated the pumps and kept the engines running, but this didn’t stop the boat sinking.”

Reports about Cujo dominated the media in August 1997, when it was owned by Diana’s boyfriend, Dodi Al-Fayed

All of those on board, including the Cujo‘s Italian owner, were placed in a rescue boat, and taken back to shore uninjured.

Reports about Cujo - an Indian word that means ‘Unstoppable Force’ - dominated the media in August 1997, when it was owned by Diana’s boyfriend, Dodi Al-Fayed.

Salvage launches arrived, but could not save the boat sinking

The multi-millionaire film producer had spent some £1m refitting the boat, and wooed Diana on board, as the world’s media looked on.

This was shortly before the couple died in a car crash in central Paris caused by their drunk driver.

All of those on board, including the Cujo‘s Italian owner, were placed in a rescue boat

That summer, Diana was also photographed on Sokar, the yacht then owned by Al-Fayed’s father, retail billionaire Mohamed Al-Fayed.

Cujo was built in Italy in 1972 for businessman John von Neumann after he told Italy’s Baglietto shipyard that he wanted the world’s fastest motor yacht.

She was fitted with two 18-cylinder engines that ensured she had a top speed of 42 knots.

Van Neumann then sold the boat to the son of Adnan Khashoggi, the world’s richest arms dealer, and he sold her on to his cousin, Dodi Al-Fayed.

The memorial to Princess Diana and Dodi Fayad is seen in Harrods department store, December 2003

Cujo was frequently moored off St Tropez, the most famous celebrity hotspot on the Riviera, with celebrity guests including Clint Eastwood, Tony Curtis and Bruce Willis on board.

Following the death of Princess Diana and Mr Al-Fayed, Cujo fell into disrepair.

She was decommissioned in 1999, and spent years in storage, before being restored by new owners.

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What Really Happened During Princess Diana and Dodi Fayed’s Vacation?

The Crown depicts her jaunts on Mohamed Al-Fayed’s yacht, the Jonikal, where her romance with Dodi kicked off.

lady diana

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Diana was invited by Mohamed, a friend and businessman, to vacation in Saint-Tropez with her sons in July 1997. The Harrods owner would also goad his own son to join, too. The invitation came at a good time, after a few rough blows for Diana: Prince Charles was throwing a lavish birthday party for Camilla Parker Bowles at Highgrove, the house he and Diana once shared. And she had just broken up with surgeon Hasnat Khan, due to the media frenzy around their relationship. It was the month before William and Harry would be at Balmoral with their father and the rest of the royals, who no longer accepted her. So off she went, straight to the $20 million yacht that Fayed bought just before the trip to impress her—Tina Brown writes in The Diana Chronicles .

Prince Harry has looked back fondly at that trip, mostly because of the quality time they spent with their mom. “Actually, we’d been with Mummy weeks earlier when she first met him [Dodi], in St. Tropez,” he writes in her memoir Spare , per Today . “We were having a grand time, just the three of us, staying at some old gent’s villa.

“There was much laughter, horseplay, the norm whenever Mummy and Willy and I were together, though even more so on that holiday. Everything about that trip to St. Tropez was heaven. The weather was sublime, the food was tasty, Mummy was smiling.”

But the cameras followed her, like they always did. The Crown depicts photographers sailing out toward the Jonikal to snap images of the princess sunbathing and swimming in her one-piece. It also shows her approaching the boats filled with paparazzi to forge a deal: She’ll pose for them for a few shots if they’ll leave her and her kids alone.

princess diana, elizabeth debicki, poses for photographers in the crown season 6, part 1

Part of this is true. The New York Times reported in 1997 that Diana was quite cooperative with the press, at least during the first trip in July: “Three times, on separate occasions, she went out to the sea front and jumped off a small pier into the water, with photographers around her. Then, after leaving for 10 days with Mr. Fayed on the boat trip during which the photographs of the embracing couple were taken, she returned.”

“It was clear enough to all of us that she wanted to show the British establishment she was free,” Frederic Garcia, who photographed Diana on the trip, told the paper at the time. But her and the Al-Fayeds’ exasperation with the media grew after helicopters flew over the boat, according to the NYT .

Perhaps her openness to being photographed was her response to Camilla’s birthday party. “She just wanted to make the people at Balmoral as angry as possible,” her friend, art collector Lord Palumbo, told Brown. Now it wasn’t just a revenge dress; it was a revenge photo shoot with revenge swimsuits on a revenge vacation.

Brown even writes that the biggest photos from the trip, of the princess kissing a shirtless Dodi on the boat, “were the direct result of tips from Diana herself.” After they were published, she called photographer Jason Fraser, who “was in cahoots” with Mario Brenna, who shot the images, to ask why the pictures were so grainy. But she wasn’t the only one working with the press. Mohamed also had a publicist tip gossip columns on her and Dodi’s whereabouts and frame their getaway as a sensational romance, according to Brown.

thecrown220922ep601stillsdanielescale0559arw

Meanwhile, Dodi was juggling this burgeoning love story with another one. He was already engaged when he first joined Diana on the boat at his father’s behest in July. His fiancée was Kelly Fisher , an American actress and model, and their wedding was scheduled for the following month, on August 9, 1997. He had even left Fisher in Paris to board the Jonikal in St. Tropez. She joined later but, just as it’s shown in The Crown , she was relegated to a different Al-Fayed boat, where Dodi would visit her at night, Brown writes. Fisher soon caught on. In August, she sued Dodi for breach of contract, and was represented by high-profile lawyer Gloria Allred. But she withdrew the suit after his death.

In Spare , Harry remembered thinking Dodi was “cheeky” but overall was content with the relationship: “As long as Mummy’s happy, I told Willy, who said, he felt the same.” But Brown reported in her 2007 book that Prince William grew concerned. He told friends it was weird that they were on vacation with what seemed like a “substitute family.” When photos of Diana and Dodi on the boat were published, William complained to her that the boys at school would mock him for it.

After doing significant charity work in Bosnia with land mine victims, Diana reconvened with Dodi on the Jonikal in August. “The fact that she came back for a second visit so soon really shows her loneliness more than it does a passion for Dodi,” Dominick Dunne reported for Vanity Fair in 2008. But the privacy—or whatever amount of it that they had—might have appealed to her. “A splendid yacht. A helicopter. A private plane. Guards to keep the paparazzi at bay. She probably knew that she was being used by a social climber for his and his son’s advancement in London society, but in high society it was a fair deal. Each benefited.”

Dodi and Diana’s romance would be short-lived, but he showered her with gifts during their six-week relationship, including a pearl bracelet and diamond wristwatch, according to Vanity Fair . With him, the princess felt “so taken care of,” her confidant Lady Elsa Bowker told Brown. And on top of that, he was a “sympathetic, unthreatening listener,” wrote Tom Bower, author of Mohamed Al-Fayed’s unauthorized biography.

thecrown221007ep603stillsdanielescale0042arw

But their relationship probably wasn’t going to be a lasting one. According to Brown, Diana suspected Dodi might propose to her, but told a friend that the ring would go “firmly on the fourth finger of my right hand,” meaning she would not have accepted. Her sister Sarah McCorquodale later testified, “I just did not think the relationship had much longer to go.”

It’s been believed that the romance was even orchestrated by Mohamed himself. According to Bower, the older Al-Fayed would check in on Dodi and Diana during the trip (which is also portrayed in The Crown this season). McCorquodale also told the court that Diana “thought the boat was being bugged by Mr Al-Fayed Senior.”

On that second trip in August, Diana and Dodi were photographed together in the South of France and Sardinia, before heading to Paris for their tragic final days. There, they would be chased by cameras again for the last time.

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Yacht that Princess Diana spent last summer on with Dodi Al-Fayed sinks to bottom of Mediterranean

Cujo, which made front-page news around the world back in the summer of 1997 when Diana was entertained on board a year after her divorce from Prince Charles, went down in 2500m (8200ft) of water.

Thursday 3 August 2023 17:00, UK

Pic: Gendarmerie des Alpes-Maritimes

A motor yacht used by Princess Diana and her boyfriend Dodi Al-Fayed on their final summer holiday in the South of France before they died in a Paris car crash has sunk.

The 19m (62ft) Cujo went down 21 miles (35km) off Beaulieu-sur-Mer after sending out a mayday call last Saturday.

The seven people on board the luxury vessel, which was taking on water, were rescued by teams from Antibes before it sank to the bottom of the Mediterranean at a depth of 2500m (8200ft).

Pic: AP

They were safely returned to shore.

The area was monitored for pollution as the boat sank with 7,000 litres of diesel in its tanks.

Cujo made front page news around the world back in the summer of 1997 when Al-Fayed entertained Diana onboard, a year after her divorce from Prince Charles, which was finalised in August 1996.

That summer, Diana was also photographed on Sokar, the yacht then owned by al Fayed's billionaire father Mohamed.

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It had previously been named Jonikal.

Cujo was built in Italy in 1972 for businessman John von Neumann who told the Italian Baglietto shipyard that he wanted the world's fastest motor yacht.

She was fitted with two 18-cylinder engines giving her a top speed of 42 knots.

Pic: Gendarmerie des Alpes-Maritimes

Van Neumann then sold the boat to the son of Saudi businessman and arms dealer Adnan Khashoggi and he sold her on to his cousin, al Fayed.

Cujo was frequently moored off St Tropez, a famous celebrity hangout on the French Riviera, with guests including Clint Eastwood, Tony Curtis and Bruce Willis.

Following the death of Diana and Al-Fayed in central Paris on 31 August 1997, Cujo fell into disrepair.

She was decommissioned in 1999, and spent years in storage, before being restored by new owners.

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Yacht Princess Diana and Dodi Fayed Vacationed on Right Before Their Deaths Sinks in Mediterranean Sea

Princess Diana

Seven people were on board at the time of the incident.

A yacht that Princess Diana spent some of her final days on in 1997 recently sank in the Mediterranean Sea. The boat, named Cujo, sunk off the coast of France, The Independent reports. 

The site reports that the boat hit an unidentified object and experienced a leak while sailing near the French Riviera. The seven people on board at the time, including the unidentified current owner of the boat, were rescued, but the boat sunk to the depths of the sea. 

The Gendarmerie des Alpes Maritimes posted photos of the sinking ship on its Facebook page, showing some of the boat's furniture and the guests' belongings that were recovered. It notes that the incident took place on July 29. 

Cujo was previously owned by Princess Diana's boyfriend, Dodi Al-Fayed. The Egyptian film producer was killed in the 1997 car crash that also took Diana's life. The couple were seen vacationing together on the yacht days before their untimely deaths. 

The Independent reports that Cujo has hosted celebrity guests in the past, including Clint Eastwood, Bruce Willis, and Tony Curtis. 

Diana and Dodi's romance following her split from Prince Charles was documented on the most recent season of The Crown . The Netflix royal drama followed the late Princess of Wales' life ahead of her sudden death. It even showed scenes of Diana vacationing with her sons, Prince William and Prince Harry, on a boat with the Al-Fayeds, though it did not specify whether that boat was Cujo. 

Back in January, Prince Harry admitted during an appearance on The Late Show With Stephen Colbert that he has watched the royal drama. At the time, the fifth in line to the British royal throne was promoting his tell-all memoir,  Spare.

"The older stuff and the more recent stuff," Harry confirmed. "Yes I do [fact check it], actually, which, by the way, another reason why it's so important that history has it right."

Harry has spoken about  The Crown  before, telling James Corden in 2021, "They don't pretend to be news, it's fictional. But it's loosely based on the truth. Of course it's not strictly accurate, but loosely. It gives you a rough idea about what the lifestyle, what the pressures of putting duty and service above family and everything else, what can come from that."

"I'm way more comfortable with  The Crown  than I am seeing the stories written about my family, or my wife, or myself," he told Corden. "Because it's the difference between, [ The Crown ] is obviously fiction, take it how you will, but [the tabloid stories] are being reported on as fact, because you're supposedly news. I have a real issue with that."

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  • Princess Diana

Princess Diana and Dodi Fayed's iconic love boat is now at the bottom of the Mediterranean Sea

  • The yacht on which Princess Diana holidayed with Dodi Fayed is now at the bottom of the sea, per The Times .
  • The boat, named Cujo, sank after it collided with an unidentified object off the French Riviera.
  • Cujo has changed hands multiple times in recent years and was most recently owned by a wealthy Italian family.

Insider Today

The yacht where Princess Diana spent part of her last summer with Dodi Fayed has sunk to the bottom of the Mediterranean Sea.

The boat, named Cujo, sank on July 29 after colliding with an unidentified object off Beaulieu-sur-Mer on the French Riviera, The Times reported.

The Gendarmerie des Alpes-Maritimes uploaded a statement onto their Facebook page confirming that they responded to a distress call from a boat that was in trouble about 35 kilometers, or 22 miles, off the coast.

By the time the coast guards arrived at the scene, the yacht was already partially submerged.

"The distressed yacht is already starting to sink from the front and the 7 shipwrecked are just next to it in a life raft," the statement said. "The cabins of the yacht are already flooded, only a few suitcases located in the kitchen and on the deck can be retrieved."

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The Gendarmerie des Alpes-Maritimes added that they would remain in the area to monitor pollution because the yacht sank with almost 7,000 liters of diesel in its tanks.

When Insider reached out to the Gendarmerie des Alpes-Maritimes for direct confirmation of the boat's identity, the organization told Insider "to search via Google."

Cujo made international headlines in 1997 when Princess Diana was photographed onboard with its then-owner Fayed, per Robb Report .

That summer, Princess Diana was also photographed onboard another yacht owned by Fayed's father, the Jonikal — which was subsequently renamed Sokar, per The Times.

Mere weeks later, the two of them died in a car crash in Paris while trying to escape the paparazzi.

Following their deaths, Cujo fell into disrepair and was decommissioned in 1999, per Robb Report. After a few years in storage, Fayed's cousin, Moody Al-Fayed, spent over $1 million restoring the boat before he sold it to a British car collector Simon Kidston for €160,000, or $175,400.

Kidston subsequently sold the boat to its current owner in 2021, he told Robb Report.

"A young member of a prominent Italian business family—he's 30 years old—had seen Cujoin Lavagna, fallen in love with her and asked if she was for sale," Kidston told Robb Report.

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diana dodi fayed yacht

  • Main content

Diana's last day: Dodi's yacht, a Ritz suite, a diamond ring and relentless photographers

Diana, divorced from Prince Charles after he cheated on her, was the mother of the future king of England and the most photographed woman in the world

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Article content

By Michael S. Rosenwald

The last day of Princess Diana’s life began on the top deck of her lover’s yacht, with croissants and fresh jams.

Diana and her beau, Dodi Al Fayed, sipped their coffee marveling at the breathtaking Emerald Coast in Sardinia. Diana took hers with milk. Fayed took his black. There were kiwis, too.

“They were in a good mood,” his butler remembered later. “They were always laughing, holding hands.”

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Their romance was a whirlwind — passionate, thrilling, scandalous. Fayed, the son of Harrod’s department store owner Mohamed Al-Fayed, was a rich playboy. Diana, divorced from Prince Charles after he cheated on her, was the mother of the future king of England and the most photographed woman in the world.

That Saturday — Aug. 30, 1997 — promised to be a moment of change. The princess knew it. She snuck a call to Richard Kay, a friend who covered the Royals for the Daily Mail, and told him, as he later wrote, “she had decided to radically change her life.”

“She was going to complete her obligations to her charities,” Kay continued, “and then, around November, would completely withdraw from her formal public life.” Diana had not told Kay why, but he had a hunch: “They were, to use an old but priceless cliche, blissfully happy. I cannot say for certain that they would have married, but in my view it was likely.”

In the 20 years since she’s been gone, there have been countless revisions to this love story. Her friends and relatives: They weren’t in love! His friends and relatives: They were in love!

Get a dash of perspective along with the trending news of the day in a very readable format.

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Last week, in the Daily Mail, Kay published an article with this headline: “Was Diana about to dump Dodi?” In it, he quoted Diana’s private secretary saying she’d planned to return home after becoming bored with Fayed.

“It’s very much a personal view,” the secretary said, “but I don’t think she would have seen Dodi again once she got back.”

Whatever the case, Fayed wanted to propose that fateful night. It was summer. As they were on holiday, Britain announced plans to invite the Irish Republican Army for peace talks. Conspiracies theories about the suicide of Vincent Foster, President Bill Clinton’s lawyer, were spreading. Israel and Lebanon were sparring with one another.

Fayed’s primary concern was the six-figure diamond ring waiting in Paris. People close to Fayed said the couple picked it out a week earlier even though they had been dating less than a month.

The danger of their relationship wasn’t its brevity. To royal watchers, to Buckingham Palace, and no doubt to the British tabloids whose photographers were hounding them, the threat was something the couple apparently had not yet considered, even as rumours swirled that Diana was already pregnant.

“For the mother of the future king of England to bear the child of a Muslim Arab, a child who would be the half sibling of the heir to the throne, would be embarrassing in the eyes of the royal family and the ruling Establishment,” former Time magazine reporters Tom Sancton and Scott MacLeod wrote in their book, Death of a Princess .

Fayed’s calendar that day had just one entry — at 6:30 p.m., he was to pick up the ring at a store near his father’s hotel in Paris, The Ritz. They left the boat for Fayed’s plane around 11:30 a.m., taking along the butler and a masseuse for Fayed’s painful back.

As soon as they landed in Paris, Fayed saw the paparazzi out his window.

“Dodi did not want this special occasion ruined by a bunch of a shutter-happy cowboys trying to corral them on motorcycles and shoving lenses in their faces,” the ex-Time reporters wrote. “As soon as the door opened, cameras started clicking.”

The aggressiveness of the photographers — and their sheer numbers — would increase as the day progressed.

Diana and Fayed arrived at The Ritz in the late afternoon. She went to the salon for a hair appointment. He went to the jeweler. The couple then rested in the hotel’s Imperial Suite before going to Fayed’s apartment to get dressed for dinner. She checked in with her children, who were in Scotland with Prince Charles and the queen.

“On that Saturday evening, Diana was as happy as I have ever known her,” her friend Kay wrote in the Daily Mail. “For the first time in years, all was well with her world.”

They left for Fayed’s apartment around 7 p.m., trailed by photographers. More were waiting at the building’s front door when they arrived. Fayed fumed. There was an ugly shoving match.

Once inside, Fayed pulled his butler aside, telling him about his plan to propose that night.

“The ring was on the nightstand in his bedroom,” author Christopher Anderson wrote in “The Day Diana Died.” “Dodi had checked to make sure they had several bottles of Dom Pérignon on ice for the big moment.”

But dinner was a bust.

The first restaurant they tried — Chez Benoit, a cozy, casual bistro not far from the city centre – was quickly overrun by photographers. They split and headed for The Ritz, ducking into the dining room hoping to be left alone.

The princess ordered vegetable tempura. Fayed ordered grilled turbot.

“No sooner had they ordered,” the ex-Time reporters wrote, “they began to feel the indiscreet stares of other diners.”

The couple left and had the food delivered to the Imperial Suite. Fayed’s plan was in shambles. They had to get back to the apartment. But how? The hotel was swarming with photographers.

Fayed devised a plan: The couple’s driver and bodyguards would make a big show out front, appearing to get their caravan of Mercedes sedans ready to leave. Meanwhile, the Princess and Fayed would slip out the back door, in a borrowed car driven by a hotel security officer.

What happened next was the subject of lengthy investigations and conspiracy theories that live on today. The couple did get away. But the driver, it turned out, was drunk.

As the couple sped off, the photographers out front got tipped off about the escape, quickly catching up on their motorcycles. Their driver darted in and out of traffic, wrecking spectacularly inside the Pont de l’Alma tunnel near the Eiffel Tower.

Fayed died instantly. Diana died at the hospital.

Her death startled the world.

An up-and-coming anchor named Brian Williams broke into regular coverage on MSNBC to announce the news to Americans in the early morning hours of Aug. 31.

“I’ve just been handed from the Reuters news service what has been marked ‘bulletin,'” Williams said, speaking slowly. “It says, ‘Princess Diana has died.'”

She was 36.

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Inside the £13m 208ft ‘love boat’ yacht where Princess Diana & Dodi Fayed had their romantic fling which is on The Crown

  • Becky Pemberton
  • Published : 12:36, 16 Nov 2023
  • Updated : 12:36, 16 Nov 2023

THE famous £13million superyacht where Princess Diana and Dodi Fayed enjoyed their romantic fling is featured on the new season of The Crown.

The glamorous royal and her wealthy boyfriend were famously pictured kissing on the luxury “love boat” Jonikal, which is now called Bash, before their tragic deaths in 1997.

Princess Diana and Dodi Fayed on their romantic Mediterranean break on his family yacht, Jonikal

Photos of the couple’s Mediterranean getaway circulated around the world, with The Sunday Mirror paying £250,000 for first rights to the collection.

The fall out of the photos was depicted on the sixth and final season of Netflix’s The Crown, with the Queen , played by Imelda Staunton , seen viewing the multi-page spread back home.

The stunning 208ft yacht can hold up to 18 people across nine staterooms, along with 26 crew members.

It also offers a range of impressive amenities including a jacuzzi, swim platform, sun deck, formal dining room, a bar, and office space.

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The yacht belonged to Dodi’s multi-millionaire father Mohamed Al-Fayed .

The billionaire former Harrods owner amassed his astonishing fortune running several high-profile business ventures and a Premier League football club prior to the announcement of his death in August 2023.

The ship was first launched in 1990, and has had a number of owners over the years.

According to Boat International, it was sold earlier this year, and although the sum hasn’t been disclosed, the asking price was €15,500,000 (£13million).

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Diana’s final month included two cruises on The Jonikal.

The holidays sparked unfounded rumours that Diana was pregnant and about to announce plans to marry Dodi .

Dodi died aged 42 in a Paris car crash with Diana 26 years ago.

The pair first met at a polo match in 1989, but they did not get together until Dodi invited the princess to stay at his father's 30-bedroom villa in St Tropez in July 1997.

Much of Dodi's fortune was spent on impressing a string of beautiful models and actresses.

The playboy was linked to Blue Lagoon actress Brooke Shields, Val Kilmer’s ex-wife Joanne Whalley, Stranger Things star Winona Ryder and Frank Sinatra’s daughter Tina.

Following the 1997 car crash that led to the couple's deaths, Mohamed attempted to sell the yacht on a number of occasions before ultimately parting with it in 2014.

It was most recently purchased by Bassim Haidar in June of 2021, who sold it just over a year later with plans to upgrade to a larger vessel.

Photos of Diana sitting on the yacht circulated around the world

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‘The Crown’: Behind the Photo of an Embrace That Changed Princess Diana’s Life

In the show, Mohamed al-Fayed sends the photographer Mario Brenna to capture shots of Diana and al-Fayed’s son, Dodi, on vacation. The portrayal is inaccurate, Brenna says.

In a blurry photo from 1997, a woman in a pink swimsuit is seen from behind, embracing a topless man wearing sunglasses.

By Alex Marshall

Reporting from London

It’s summer 1997, and Princess Diana is flirting with Dodi Fayed, a globe-trotting playboy, on the Jonikal, a yacht floating on sparkling Mediterranean waters.

Diana, teasingly, says that she likes men who have lips that are “just the right temperature.”

“Are mine the right temperature?” Dodi replies.

“I don’t know,” Diana says: “Need to check.” Then, the couple kiss, blissfully unaware that just a few meters away, Mario Brenna, a slick Italian photographer, is on a boat, with a long-lens camera trained on the couple.

A few days later, Brenna’s shots of the princess and her new beau are on the front pages of newspapers worldwide.

This is a central scene in the sixth and final season of Netflix’s royal drama “The Crown” — the first batch of episodes premiered on Thursday — and a moment that signaled the start of a tabloid frenzy around the couple that many blame for their deaths on Aug. 31, 1997, in a car crash in Paris as they were chased by photographers.

Yet the depiction is far from accurate, according to Brenna, speaking in what he said was his first interview with an English-language newspaper.

For a start, “The Crown” has Mohamed al-Fayed — Dodi’s father, and a retail and hotel tycoon who died this year — appearing to hire Brenna to take the shots, in an effort to push Diana and Dodi’s relationship into the public eye, and cajole the pair to marry.

In an email, Annie Sulzberger, the head of research for the show — she is also the sister of The Times’s publisher, A.G. Sulzberger — said that “there are a few theories about how Brenna managed to find the Jonikal moored somewhere in the Mediterranean Sea,” but the one the team found most credible was that one of al-Fayed’s employees leaked the boat’s location to Brenna.

But Brenna said the idea that al-Fayed hired him was “absurd and completely invented,” and that no one leaked information about the yacht’s whereabouts to him. Every summer at that time, he was in Sardinia so he could take paparazzi shots of famous people, he said, and coming across Diana and Dodi was simply a “great stroke of luck.”

On Aug. 1, 1997, Brenna said he approached Diana’s yacht on a fast moving inflatable boat after mistaking a blonde woman making a telephone call on its upper deck for an old acquaintance. As he got closer, he was stunned to realize it was the princess.

Bruno Malka, Brenna’s agent at the time who helped sell the images to Paris Match magazine, said in an email that he thought Brenna was familiar with the yacht, “without knowing it was Diana and Dodi” onboard that day. Brenna was successful, Malka added, because he had spent so many years working in the region.

After spotting the couple, Brenna said he spent the next few days stalking the boat, including climbing a cliff to get a better view. From that elevated position, about 400 meters away from Diana, he took several photos of Diana and Dodi in an embrace. The shots were almost blurred, Brenna said, because the heat haze meant he struggled to get the pair in focus.

Still, he knew immediately he’d secured “a historic photo.” He’d also captured an image that “solved my personal and family problems,” he said, at a time when he had recently divorced and so “was not swimming in wealth.”

He unloaded the rolls of film from the camera, then buried them to make sure they didn’t get exposed to the sun as he tried to take more images, and also as he feared a competitor might have seen him at work and try to steal his camera and so obtain the images every other photographer in the Mediterranean had been hoping to get first.

On Aug. 10, the Sunday Mirror, a British tabloid, splashed Brenna’s image on its front page . “The Kiss,” the headline read. Soon, Brenna said, he was selling the pictures worldwide. In the following six-to-eight months, he said, he made about 1.7 million pounds, or $2.1 million, from his photos of the couple.

Brenna’s pictures — and the prices news outlets paid for them — sparked a frenzy. In 2013, Jason Fraser, a British photographer who helped Brenna sell his images, told The Daily Mail that after they were published, over 2,000 photographers arrived in the Mediterranean hoping to get their own snaps of Diana and Dodi. “I felt the whole thing was spinning out of control,” Fraser said. Weeks later, the couple died.

In “The Crown,” Brenna (portrayed by Enzo Cilenti) explains his methods to camera. To capture celebrities misbehaving, the fictional Brenna says, you have to take risks. Paparazzi also have to act like “hunters … killers.”

Brenna said in the email interview that he did not share this opinion of his work (“I do not identify with the term ‘killer,’”) and that he was never contacted by anyone from “The Crown” to learn about his experiences (Netflix did not respond to a request for comment).

After Diana and Dodi’s death, al-Fayed sued Fraser, the British photographer, for taking photos of Diana and Dodi on a boat, saying it was an invasion of privacy. Brenna said he did not face any such action, adding his images were legal as they “were taken outdoors, in a public place.” And he regretted the privacy crackdown that happened since, with governments and stars trying to stop the paparazzi from taking photos: “There is still the right to report,” he said.

Today, Brenna lives near Lake Como, in Italy, where he said he’s photographed celebrities including George Clooney, Miley Cyrus and Beyoncé, even as the dawn of social media had impacted his profession significantly, including its financial rewards.

Brenna said he and his family enjoyed the success of the photos throughout August 1997. But then, Diana died. When he heard the news, Brenna said, he “couldn’t believe it” and cried, not least because he had two children himself and so could understand what her death would mean for Diana’s boys. He made a decision “not to speak or disclose anything about the incident until William and Harry reached adulthood.”

The mere thought that his images “could have contributed to fueling the hunt for Diana and Dodi obviously saddens me,” Brenna said. But he did not think his work added significantly to the furor around the princess.

“If it hadn’t been me,” he added, “someone else would certainly have captured those images.”

Alex Marshall is a European culture reporter, based in London. More about Alex Marshall

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Princess Diana’s Former Yacht That She Vacationed on with Boyfriend Dodi Fayed Sinks in France

All seven passengers were rescued after the superyacht, dubbed Cujo, sank beneath the Mediterranean Sea on July 29

Natalia Senanayake is an Editorial Assistant, Lifestyle at PEOPLE. She covers all things travel and home, from celebrities' luxury mansions to breaking travel news.

diana dodi fayed yacht

Best Image/BACKGRID; Gendarmerie des Alpes-Maritimes

Princess Diana ’s former yacht that she enjoyed her last summer vacation on before her death has sunk off the coast of France, according to The Independent . 

The boat, dubbed Cujo , was frequented by the late princess and her boyfriend at the time, Dodi Fayed , in the summer of 1997 before they both died in a car crash in late August that year. 

All seven passengers on board were rescued in time before the vessel sank below the Mediterranean Sea on Saturday, July 29. An officer said that the “ship was sinking due to a leak” after it allegedly hit an unidentified object on the French Riviera, The Independent reports. 

Gendarmerie des Alpes-Maritimes

Gendarmerie des Alpes-Maritimes, a branch of the French military, released a statement addressing the incident on their official Facebook page . They state the Antibes Nautical Brigade first responded to a distress call at 12:30 p.m. local time for a yacht located 35 kilometers off the coast of Beaulieu-sur-Mer, France. 

When they arrived at the scene 45 minutes later, the ship was already sinking and the cabins had begun to flood. The seven passengers were already transferred to a life raft and examined for injuries before being taken back to shore. 

Princess Diana and Fayed enjoyed spending time together aboard the 20-meter superyacht that first launched in 1972, especially around the Italian Riviera, according to Boat International . 

The pair first met at a polo match in 1986 in which Fayed was playing against Diana’s then-husband, Prince Charles . Diana and Fayed didn’t connect romantically until nearly 10 years later when Fayed’s father, Mohamed al Fayed, invited her and her two sons, Prince William and Prince Harry , to vacation at their villa in St. Tropez, France.  

Before Diana’s romance with the film producer began to develop, the Prince and Princess of Wales had finalized their divorce in August 1996. Diana announced that she agreed to her husband's request for divorce earlier that year in February. 

A representative of the princess released a statement at the time: "The Princess of Wales has agreed to Prince Charles's request for a divorce. The Princess will continue to be involved in all decisions relating to the children and will remain at Kensington Palace with offices in St. James's Palace . The Princess of Wales will retain the title and be known as Diana, Princess of Wales."

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Diana died at the age of 36 after going into cardiac arrest from internal injuries she sustained during a high-speed car crash in Paris, France . Dodi and the car’s driver, Henri Paul, were killed instantly in the fatal accident. 

Reports indicate the car was traveling at 121 mph in a narrow tunnel along the Seine River in an effort to escape paparazzi tailing them on motorcycles. It was also reported that Paul was legally drunk when the crash occurred.

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Princess Diana and Dodi Fayed's South of France superyacht is up for sale

By Dora Davies-Evitt

Image may contain Clothing Apparel Human Person Shorts Water Sport Sports and Swimwear

Diana, Princess Of Wales is seen in St Tropez in the summer of 1997

Since her death in August 1997, the late Diana, Princess of Wales's last months have been described as some of her happiest. During the weeks before the tragic car accident that would kill them both, the princess took a blissful tour through the Mediterranean aboard a superyacht with her boyfriend, Dodi Fayed. At the time, a photograph of the pair kissing atop the vessel's sun deck made headlines around the world. Now, 25 years on, the multi-million-pound boat, which is loaded with memories of the princess's final summer, is up for sale. 

The luxury vessel was bought by Mohamed Al-Fayed, former owner of Harrods and father of Fayed. Following the death of his son, Al-Fayed attempted to sell the yacht several times before it was finally purchased in 2014. Most recently the boat was owned by billionaire entrepreneur Bassim Haidar, who apparently has a ‘great affection for the ocean’. With reported plans to upgrade to a larger vessel, Haidar is parting with the 64m boat just a year after its purchase. The superyacht does not presently have an advertised price, although it was last sold for $10,000,000 (approximately £8,186,300). 

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Currently named Bash , the vessel has previously been called Jonikal , then Sokar. According to House and Garden , the yacht was designed by naval architect Vincenzo Ruggiero in the 1980s and built by the superyacht building firm Codecasa before launching in 1990. Lined with wood panelling and coffered ceilings, the interiors are suggestive of the Arts and Crafts style of the fin de siècle. With features such as a jacuzzi, swim platform, a formal dining room, main saloon, a bar, and office space, the boat is far from lacking in luxury spaces.

Fayed and Diana first met at a polo match in Windsor in 1986, while the royal was still married to Prince Charles. A year following Diana's divorce, the couple enjoyed a fleeting and jet-set romance, spending time in the South of France and Sardinia before they flew to Paris in August 1997. It was during their visit to the French capital that the pair were both devastatingly killed in a traffic collision, following their brief stay at the Hôtel Ritz. 

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Insiders reveal the truth about Princess Diana and Dodi Fayed's relationship

New documentary highlights the last few weeks of princess diana and dodi fayed’s lives.

A paparazzi photo of Princess Diana and Dodi Fayed in a boat appears in a camera lens, with the title "Diana and Dodi: The Princess and the Playboy" positioned to the side.

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During the summer of 1997, photos of Princess Diana and Dodi Fayed filled the tabloids as paparazzi photographers scrambled to snap shots of their apparent love affair.

In the new documentary Diana & Dodi: The Princess and the Playboy , members of Diana and Fayed's inner circle remember what they witnessed that summer — which would ultimately be the couple's last. 

She was a former member of the British Royal Family, he was a filmmaker and the son of a wealthy businessman who wanted to be included by the British elite. 

Featuring interviews with close friends, former employees and even Fayed's ex-girlfriends, Diana & Dodi: The Princess and the Playboy uncovers how the two met — and how Fayed's father appears to have orchestrated it all. 

diana dodi fayed yacht

Insiders reveal the truth about Princess Diana and Dodi Fayed's relationship | Diana & Dodi: The Princess and the Playboy

The film also documents how their relationship came under intense scrutiny by the press. Images of the pair together could fetch over one million euros, and they had to find elaborate ways of avoiding photographers. At the same time, a former girlfriend of Fayed's — who says they were engaged when he met Diana — was suing him, claiming he had promised her money to abandon her career. 

Was it true love? Former friends of Diana have said it was just a fling, a rebound from her very public divorce. But in the documentary, Fayed's former butler reveals that the filmmaker was planning to propose in Paris on the night of their deaths. 

  • In Depth Expert investigation reveals the truth about Princess Diana's death 25 years ago

Diana & Dodi: The Princess and the Playboy tells the untold story of Dodi Fayed and the truth about his relationship with Princess Diana, featuring unprecedented access and new, revelation-packed stories.

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diana dodi fayed yacht

Cujo yacht sinks: Infamous 80-foot boat used by Princess Diana and Dodi Fayed in final holiday before their deaths goes down after 'hitting object' in the French Riviera

  • Luxury vessel has plunged 8,200ft to the bottom of the Mediterranean
  • Cujo sank some 18 miles off Beaulieu-sur-Mer, near Nice, on Saturday
  • It was once owned by Prince Diana's millionaire boyfriend, Dodi Fayed

By Peter Allen and Perkin Amalaraj

Published: 05:30 EDT, 3 August 2023 | Updated: 10:16 EDT, 3 August 2023

View comments

The luxury motor-yacht enjoyed by Princess Diana and her boyfriend Dodi Fayed on their final summer holiday in the South of France days before their deaths in August 1997 has sunk to the bottom of the sea. 

Cujo, once a favourite of Hollywood superstars, disappeared below the waves of the Mediterranean after hitting an unidentified object some 18 miles off Beaulieu-sur-Mer, on the French Riviera, on Saturday.

Seven people on board were rescued following the accident, but the boat ended up at a depth of almost 8,200ft (2,500m), local police said.

'The skipper of the Cujo issued a Mayday,' said one officer. 'His ship was sinking due to a leak.

'Rescue boats were sent from Antibes and, after making sure everyone was safe, gendarmes detected a significant water leak at the level of the starboard front hull.

'Her owner had activated the pumps and kept the engines running, but this didn't stop the boat sinking.'

Salvage launches also arrived, but could not save the boat.

Cujo, a yacht once owned by Princess Diana's millionaire boyfriend Dodi Fayed, is seen sinking off Beaulieu-sur-Mer near Nice

Cujo, a yacht once owned by Princess Diana's millionaire boyfriend Dodi Fayed, is seen sinking off Beaulieu-sur-Mer near Nice

Princess Diana on Cujo's deck as it comes into port in St Tropez in August 1997

Princess Diana on Cujo's deck as it comes into port in St Tropez in August 1997

The Princess on Cujo, where she spent her final summer holiday before she was killed in a car crash in Paris

The Princess on Cujo, where she spent her final summer holiday before she was killed in a car crash in Paris

Diana with Dodi Fayed during their holiday in the Mediterranean off the South of France

Diana with Dodi Fayed during their holiday in the Mediterranean off the South of France

The boat disappears below the waves before coming to rest 8.200ft below the surface

The boat disappears below the waves before coming to rest 8.200ft below the surface

Millionaire Dodi Fayed reportedly spent £1million to refit the boat after he bought it

Millionaire Dodi Fayed reportedly spent £1million to refit the boat after he bought it

Cujo disappeared below the waves of the Mediterranean on Saturday after hitting an unidentified object some 18 miles off Beaulieu-sur-Mer on the French Riviera

Cujo disappeared below the waves of the Mediterranean on Saturday after hitting an unidentified object some 18 miles off Beaulieu-sur-Mer on the French Riviera

All those on board, including Cujo's Italian owner, were placed in a rescue boat, and taken back to shore without injury.

Reports about Cujo – an Indian word that means 'Unstoppable Force' – dominated the media in August 1997, when it was owned by Diana's boyfriend, Dodi Fayed.

The multi-millionaire film producer had spent some £1million refitting the boat, and wooed Diana on board as the world's media looked on.

Just days later the couple were killed in a car crash in central Paris caused by their drunk driver.

That summer, Diana was also photographed on Sokar, the yacht then owned by Dodi's father, retail billionaire Mohamed al-Fayed, which was previously named Jonikal.

The pair were seen kissing and embracing on the deck less than a year after Diana and Prince Charles agreed their divorce. 

Diana, Princess of Wales, right, and her companion Dodi Fayed, walk on a pontoon in the French Riviera resort of St Tropez having just disembarked from Cujo on August 22, 1997

Diana, Princess of Wales, right, and her companion Dodi Fayed, walk on a pontoon in the French Riviera resort of St Tropez having just disembarked from Cujo on August 22, 1997

Princess Diana on Jonikal, which was owned by Dodi's father, Mohamed al-Fayed

Princess Diana on Jonikal, which was owned by Dodi's father, Mohamed al-Fayed

The Princess on board Jonikal, which was later renamed Sokar

The Princess on board Jonikal, which was later renamed Sokar

Diana, then 36, was spotted strutting on the deck, making the most of the Mediterranean sun and her new romance.

A snap of the royal gazing into the distance from the yacht's diving board was one of the last pictures ever taken of Diana.

Cujo was built in Italy in 1972 for businessman John von Neumann after he told Italy's Baglietto shipyard that he wanted the world's fastest motor yacht.

She was fitted with two 18-cylinder engines that ensured she had a top speed of 42 knots.

Van Neumann then sold the boat to the son of Adnan Khashoggi, the world's richest arms dealer, and he sold her on to his cousin, Dodi Fayed.

Dodi Fayed and Diana are seen together aboard Dodi's father's yacht in St Tropez less than a year after Diana and Prince Charles had settled their divorce

Dodi Fayed and Diana are seen together aboard Dodi's father's yacht in St Tropez less than a year after Diana and Prince Charles had settled their divorce

The couple being ferried in a speedboat in the waters off St Tropez in July 1997

The couple being ferried in a speedboat in the waters off St Tropez in July 1997

Cujo was frequently moored off St Tropez, the most famous celebrity hotspot on the Riviera, with guests including Clint Eastwood, Tony Curtis and Bruce Willis on board.

Following the death of Princes Diana and Dodi, Cujo fell into disrepair.

It was decommissioned in 1999, and spent years in storage, before being restored by new owners.

The boat was bought for a song in 2020 by luxury vehicle dealer Simon Kidston. The Mail reported that he paid just £138,000

He claimed to have bought the yacht by accident, telling the luxury magazine Robb Report :  'On the day of the auction, I was tied up with clients so asked a colleague to go down and take a look. I told him that if it was going cheaply, put in a bid for a bit of fun.

The boat was reportedly sold in 2020 to an Italian socialite who had fallen in love with it

The boat was reportedly sold in 2020 to an Italian socialite who had fallen in love with it

Luxury car dealer Simon Kidston claims to have bought it at auction for just £138,000

Luxury car dealer Simon Kidston claims to have bought it at auction for just £138,000

Simon claimed to have bought the boat for a laugh, telling the Robb Report he bid 'for a bit of fun'

Simon claimed to have bought the boat for a laugh, telling the Robb Report he bid 'for a bit of fun'

'The bidding opened at just 150,000 euros [£129,500].  My colleague bid 160,000 euros.

'Trouble was, no one else bid. The hammer went down and I had bought a boat. The feeling was a mix of excitement tinged with terror.'

He told the magazine that he sold the historic boat to a young Italian socialist in time for his birthday.

'A young member of a prominent Italian business family - he's 30 years old - had seen Cujo, fallen in love with her and asked if she was for sale. He took delivery just in time for his birthday.'

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  1. The luxurious yacht that Princess Diana once shared with Dodi Fayed is

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  2. The Crown: Who are Mohamed and Dodi al-Fayed?

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  3. Inside The Yacht Princess Diana and Dodi Fayed Toured the Mediterranean On

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  4. Princess Diana and Dodi Al-Fayed leave hotel on night they died

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  5. See Inside the Superyacht Princess Diana Shared With Dodi Fayed

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  6. Princess Diana and Dodi Al-Fayed leave hotel on night they died

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COMMENTS

  1. See Photos of Princess Diana on Mohamed Al Fayed's Yacht in Saint

    Here, some of the most memorable photos of Princess Diana with her sons and the Fayeds on the Jonikal in July 1997. Princess Diana on board the Jonikal yacht, where she first got to know Dodi ...

  2. Inside the Yacht Princess Diana Vacationed on With Dodi Fayed

    Inside the Superyacht Princess Diana and Dodi Al-Fayed Spent Their Final Vacation On. A look at the vessel that saw the beloved royal's last vacation. The Crown's sixth season debuts this week on Netflix, chronicling the final weeks before Princess Diana's untimely death in a car crash in Paris in August 1997.

  3. The Crown: The Sad, Strange Details of Princess Diana's Last Vacation

    November 16, 2023. From API/Gamma Rapho/Getty Images. Princess Diana and Dodi Fayed are lounging on the sundeck of a reportedly £15 million yacht in The Crown 's season six episode "Two ...

  4. The true story behind Princess Diana's iconic yacht photo

    Princess Diana was always a fashion icon, we can never forget her legendary 'revenge' dress, but one of her best-known looks was snapped when she holidayed on the Jonikal yacht with the al-Fayed ...

  5. Princess Diana's Yacht Saga: Boats Used During Relationship With Dodi

    Jonikal, now known as Isabell Princess of the Sea. The sensationalized couple most famously spent time on Jonikal, a 208-foot superyacht. At the time, Mohamed Al-Fayed, Dodi's father, owned the ...

  6. True Story Behind the Iconic Yacht Photo in 'The Crown'

    The yacht was owned by business mogul Mohamed Al Fayed (Salim Dau), and at the time, Diana was in a whirlwind romance with his son, Dodi Fayed (Khalid Abdalla); the pair began seeing each other in ...

  7. See Inside the Superyacht Princess Diana Shared With Dodi Fayed

    Princess Diana and Dodi Al-Fayed sailed around the south of France during the summer after her divorce. ... Mohamed Al-Fayed attempted to sell the yacht numerous times before it was finally bought ...

  8. Meet 'Cujo,' the 80-Ft. Yacht Dodi Al-Fayed Used to Woo Princess Diana

    The boat was eventually rescued by Dodi's cousin Moody Al-Fayed, who spent over $1 million bringing her back to life. Part of the work included uprating those massive diesels to deliver 1,650 hp ...

  9. Inside The Yacht Princess Diana and Dodi Al Fayed Toured the

    Then named the Jonikal (it has subsequently been called the Sokar, and the Bash), the yacht was owned by Dodi's father, former Harrods owner Mohamed Al Fayed, when Diana traveled on it. Following ...

  10. Yacht used by Princess Diana and Dodi Fayed on final summer holiday

    Yacht used by Princess Diana and lover Dodi Fayed on holiday sinks Reports about Cujo dominated the media in August 1997, when it was owned by Diana's boyfriend, Dodi Al-Fayed PA

  11. 'The Crown': The True Story of Diana and Dodi Fayed's Vacation

    The Crown depicts her jaunts on Mohamed Al-Fayed's yacht, the Jonikal, where her romance with Dodi kicked off. By Erica Gonzales Published: Nov 19, 2023 3:00 PM EST Save Article

  12. Yacht that Princess Diana spent last summer on with Dodi Al-Fayed sinks

    Following the death of Diana and Al-Fayed in central Paris on 31 August 1997, Cujo fell into disrepair. She was decommissioned in 1999, and spent years in storage, before being restored by new owners.

  13. Yacht Princess Diana and Dodi Fayed Vacationed on Sinks

    A yacht that Princess Diana spent some of her final days on in 1997 recently sank in the Mediterranean Sea. ... Cujo was previously owned by Princess Diana's boyfriend, Dodi Al-Fayed. The Egyptian ...

  14. Princess Diana and Dodi Fayed's Yacht Sank in the Mediterranean

    The yacht where Princess Diana spent part of her last summer with Dodi Fayed has sunk to the bottom of the Mediterranean Sea. The boat, named Cujo, sank on July 29 after colliding with an ...

  15. Diana's last day: Dodi's yacht, a Ritz suite, a diamond ring and

    The last day of Princess Diana's life began on the top deck of her lover's yacht, with croissants and fresh jams. Diana and her beau, Dodi Al Fayed, sipped their coffee marveling at the ...

  16. Inside the £13m 208ft 'love boat' yacht where Princess Diana & Dodi

    The final days of Dodi Fayed and Diana are depicted in the new mini-series Credit: Daniel Escale/Netflix 14 The superyacht was recently sold and was listed for £13million Credit: Courtesy Of ...

  17. Princess Diana and Dodi Fayed's Yacht Sinks

    The People's Princess's favorite yacht went under. Princess Diana and Dodi Fayed were famously photographed on a yacht in summer 1997 with Prince William and Prince Harry —and now that ship has ...

  18. Diana and Dodi Scene in 'The Crown' Is Inaccurate, Mario Brenna Says

    Mario Brenna's photograph of Princess Diana and Dodi Fayed on a yacht in the Mediterranean Sea plays a prominent role in Season 6 of "The Crown.". Mario Brenna. It's summer 1997, and ...

  19. Princess Diana's Former Yacht Sinks in France

    Princess Diana's Former Yacht That She Vacationed on with Boyfriend Dodi Fayed Sinks in France. All seven passengers were rescued after the superyacht, dubbed Cujo, sank beneath the ...

  20. Princess Diana and Dodi Fayed's South of France superyacht is ...

    Now, 25 years on, the multi-million-pound boat, which is loaded with memories of the princess's final summer, is up for sale. The luxury vessel was bought by Mohamed Al-Fayed, former owner of Harrods and father of Fayed. Following the death of his son, Al-Fayed attempted to sell the yacht several times before it was finally purchased in 2014.

  21. Insiders reveal the truth about Princess Diana and Dodi Fayed's

    Former friends of Diana have said it was just a fling, a rebound from her very public divorce. But in the documentary, Fayed's former butler reveals that the filmmaker was planning to propose in ...

  22. Dodi Fayed

    Emad El-Din Mohamed Abdel Mena'em Fayed (/ ˈ f aɪ. ɛ d /; 15 April 1955 - 31 August 1997), commonly known as Dodi Fayed, was an Egyptian film producer and the eldest child of the businessman Mohamed Al-Fayed.He was romantically involved with Diana, Princess of Wales, when they both died in a car crash in Paris on 31 August 1997.

  23. Cujo yacht sinks: Infamous boat used by Princess Diana and Dodi Fayed

    The luxury motor-yacht enjoyed by Princess Diana and her boyfriend Dodi Fayed on their final summer holiday in the South of France days before their deaths in August 1997 has sunk to the bottom of ...