This final season of The Crown charts Princess Diana’s final summer, and episode three finds her fleeing the crowds with her paramour, Dodi Fayed, in Monaco. The couple, played by Elizabeth Debicki and Khalid Abdalla in Peter Morgan’s runaway Netflix hit, ultimately seeks refuge in a jewellery boutique. Surrounded by glittering wares, Dodi looks around and casually asks, “Is there anything here you like? Anything at all?” “That’s quite nice,” Diana replies, turning her gaze towards an advert with the slogan “Dis-moi Oui!” (“tell me yes”), showcasing a domed cocktail ring set with a central emerald-cut diamond sided by four smaller, triangle-shaped stones.
Upon learning that the ring on display in the poster is in Paris, Dodi whisks his lover to The Ritz, where he stages a romantic dinner and, to the soundtrack of Julio Iglesias’s “When You Tell Me That You Love Me”, asks the Princess to marry him. But did it actually happen?
“At no time did they tell me that it was an engagement ring,” Alberto Repossi, from the Italian jewellery house, said in two interviews – one for The Washington Post and the other for the French newspaper Le Figaro—that were published in September 1997, a month after Diana and Dodi were tragically killed in a car accident on 31 August 1997.
According to Mr Repossi’s original account, Dodi and Diana walked into his boutique at the Hôtel Hermitage in Monaco on 10 August that summer, having already decided to buy a ring from the Dis-moi Oui collection, which the couple had seen in the French magazine L’Officiel. The ad showed a black and white picture of a woman and an enlarged image of the ring, with the slogan, “Tell me yes!”, and the words: “A little yes for the most beautiful day of her life. It was worth waiting for!”
The couple met with Mr Repossi a second time when he suggested working on a bespoke piece with a different setting, and the conversation turned to creating a custom-made series of jewellery, including a bracelet. Further appointments were arranged and the jeweller left two rings with Dodi: the commissioned one, and another one to use as a model for the future pieces to co-design.
After the accident, one of the two rings was returned to Repossi. Still, another one remained unpaid, forcing the jeweller to make an insurance claim that catapulted the maison’s name into the tabloids. “My employees were offered money to share secrets, and we were offered a lot of money for the boutique’s video surveillance,” Mr Repossi was quoted as saying in Le Figaro. “To stop this hysteria, I had the drawings and models of the jewellery destroyed in the workshop, and I stopped the ‘Dis-moi Oui!’ jewellery campaign as well as the production of this model.”
On screen in The Crown, Princess Diana politely declines the proposal, and Dodi jokes that the ring should be renamed “Dis-moi Non!”—or Tell me no!—suggesting that marriage was not, in fact on the cards. And yet an article published by the BBC in 2007 around the inquiry into the fatal car accident quoted Mr Repossi contradicting his 1997 position, by implying that an engagement was in the offing. “I received a call from Dodi who told me that he needed this ring for the end of August because, as at the beginning of September, their engagement would be announced,” said Mr Repossi. As Richard Horwell QC, representing the Metropolitan Police, challenged Mr Repossi on the statements he made in 1997, the jeweller replied: “I understand that it’s a problem for you that they have chosen an engagement ring, but it’s not my concern.”
The reality, of course, is that we will never know the truth about the “secret engagement”, if indeed there was one – and that fans of The Crown, which is a drama, and not a documentary, should not look to the show for anything approaching a history lesson.
This article was originally published on British Vogue.