For decades, a grief-stricken Mohamed Al-Fayed had blamed the royal family for the deaths of his beloved son Dodi and Princess Diana.
But the former Harrods tycoon’s stance had softened in the years before his death, a former aide claimed.
Mr Al-Fayed died on Wednesday at the age of 94, on the eve of the 26th anniversary of the high-speed accident in the Pont de l’Alma tunnel in Paris, where Dodi, 42, and Diana, 36, were killed on August 31. 1997.
The Ritz’s security chief, Henri Paul, was driving the Mercedes 280S and was also found dead in the wreckage.
The former owner and chairman of Fulham has died after a long illness. He was buried in a room next to his son’s at the family mausoleum in Oxted, Surrey, after a Muslim funeral at London’s Central Mosque in Regent’s Park on Friday.
Mohamed Al-Fayed died at the age of 94, on the eve of the 26th anniversary of the high-speed accident in the Pont de l’Alma tunnel in Paris, where Dodi, 42, and Diana, 36 years old, were killed in 1997.
Dodi Al-Fayed with Diana in Saint-Tropez in August 1997. A little over a week later, the two men were dead. Mr Al-Fayed thought they were about to announce their engagement
Four permanently lit candles surround Dodi’s tomb. During his last years, his Egyptian father spent long hours in the shadow of the mausoleum, mourning his son.
“I come here every day, maybe for two or three hours, and memories come back to me when I’m sitting,” Mr. Al-Fayed once said.
“I say prayers and think of Dodi, but sometimes I do my work here or eat my breakfast.”
Mr Al-Fayed wrote to a member of the public in 2005 to tell him that “one day the truth will come out” about the deaths of Dodi and Diana.
He wrote: “I will continue to fight against the many injustices that have been done to ordinary citizens of this country, especially the murder of my son Dodi and Diana, Princess of Wales. One day the truth will come out.
The businessman had claimed his son and Diana were murdered in a series of documentaries and blamed the royal family for their deaths.
At an inquest in 2008, Mr Al-Fayed took the witness stand and sensationally claimed that Prince Philip and then-Prince Charles had conspired to murder the princess.
Lord Justice Scott Baker attacked his theories as “manifestly unfounded” and insisted that neither Philip nor MI6 were involved in his death.
A jury inquest ruled that Diana and Dodi were unlawfully killed in the accident due to the “gross negligence” of Mr Paul, who had been drinking. Lack of seat belts also contributed to their deaths.
Mr Al-Fayed’s claims led to the Harrods shop being stripped of its four royal warrants – the right to state that a business supplies goods by appointment to the royal family.
Mr Al-Fayed with Princess Diana attending a Harefield Cardiac Unit charity dinner held at Harrods, London in February 1996.
Mr. Al-Fayed with his son Dodi, photographed in 1988. Mr. Al-Fayed spent long hours in the mausoleum where his Dodi is buried, mourning his son.
But as his aging body began to weaken, former public relations officer and friend of the billionaire Chester Stern says Mr Al-Fayed’s tough stance began to soften.
He said sun sunday: ‘He backtracked on the fact that it was a direct conspiracy carried out by Prince Philip in recent years.
“It suggests that he was quietly beginning to accept that it was an accident.”
A source close to the family said The Telegraph the date of Mr Al-Fayed’s death was “poignant”.
“You have to wonder if kismet – or fate – played a role in all of this,” he said.
“His death on Wednesday and joining his son at the mausoleum on Friday marked the very day of the accident that dominated much of his life.”
The 18-foot-tall mausoleum of Mr. Al-Fayed, located across a stream a few minutes’ walk from the 17th-century family home, was built on what was once the polo ground of Dodi. One of Mr. Al-Fayed’s brothers is buried in another of the eight chambers.
For such a flamboyant billionaire, Mr Al-Fayed’s funeral was surprisingly low-key.
Besides Harrods, he also owned the Ritz in Paris and the Fulham Football Club and whose business interests spanned the globe.
He led a fleet of ships and built an empire of properties in London, Paris, New York, Geneva and Saint-Tropez.
Mr Al-Fayed was the 1,493rd richest person in the world, according to Forbes, with an estimated worth of $2bn (£1.59bn). He installed the Egyptian Room in his store in Knightsbridge, which housed several busts of himself, and he also created a memorial to Dodi and Diana, who were dating at the time of their deaths.
It is believed he thought the couple were hours away from announcing their engagement.
Mr Al-Fayed cultivated prime ministers, but there was not a single dignitary at his funeral, not even the Egyptian ambassador. Surprising the media, a hasty invitation was issued – photocopied notices pinned to the pillars of the mosque – asking worshipers to join the service after the jummah, or Friday noon prayers.
Mr Al-Fayed (right) with Prince Charles (back to camera) and Diana at a Harrods-sponsored polo match in 1987
Undertakers SM Funerals said it was deliberately low-key in accordance with the family’s wishes.
It is unclear whether Mr Al-Fayed, who suffered from dementia, died at home, although his body was recovered from a London hospital on Friday and brought to the mosque where a ritual bath was performed, after which he was was placed in the coffin.
Only about 30 mourners – family members and close friends – traveled with the hearse.
Mr Al-Fayed made his first application for British citizenship in 1995, but his application was refused. In 1999, a few weeks after this request had been granted to his brother Ali, he filed a new request. This time he was declared unfit to hold a British passport by then Home Secretary Jack Straw.
He appealed the decision, but three judges of the Court of Appeal rejected his request.