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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Final Romance Linked Royalty With Outsider

LONDON -- On Sunday, on the day he died, News of the World, Britain's largest-circulation weekly, declared that the Egyptian-born millionaire Emad Mohamed Al Fayed, known as Dodi, was unfit to marry into Britain's royalty.


The article asserted that the Princess of Wales' 15-year-old son, William, was "horrified" at the notion that a two-month-old romance between his mother and Fayed might be headed toward matrimony.


Close friends of the couple said, though, that nothing could be further from the truth. The Fayed family offered Diana and her sons a welcome escape from the cold, remote world that enshrines a declining British aristocracy.


The woman who said she wanted to be "a queen of people's hearts" strove to envelop her children in the warmer and more family-based world that Fayed inhabited.


Such have been the undercurrents of a love story that flushed out the contradictions of British society. The new order pits an ascending service economy, in which accomplishment matters more than pedigree, against a discredited empire that has fought to hold down its immigrants.


Some of those immigrants have made this country's institutions better. Among those institutions is Harrod's department store, now owned by Fayed's father, Mohamed, who has had a contentious relationship with the British government over its refusal to grant citizenship to him and his family.


With this tragedy, Britain has begun to examine the moral of this story and is likely to focus attention on some of the issues about Britain's changing society that the relationship between Diana and Fayed represented.


"He told me last night he was going to marry her," Hassan Yassin, a Saudi businessman who is a cousin of Fayed's late mother, Samira, said Sunday.


The romance appears to have begun only a few weeks ago, when Fayed's father invited the princess and her sons to spend some time at his luxurious home on the French Riviera and on one of his yachts. Fayed was there too.


Friends and relatives of Fayed asserted Sunday that the warmth of the Fayeds contrasted with the way Britain's royal family shunned the princess after her divorce.


Britain has shunned the Fayeds too. Mohamed Fayed bought Harrod's 12 years ago and tripled its value, to nearly $5 billion. His other properties include the legendary Ritz hotel in Paris, Punch magazine and a soccer team.


But they have been outsiders, tolerated but not embraced.


There were similarities between the princess and Dodi, a 41-year-old playboy. He attended the French La Salle high school in his native Alexandria, Egypt, before moving to Swiss private schools, but he did not excel as a student. He did a two-year stint at Sandhurst, the British military academy.


His mother was the sister of the Saudi billionaire arms dealer Adnan Khashoggi.


Fayed never went to work for Harrod's. He took part in financing several films, including the 1981 Oscar-winning "Chariots of Fire."


Otherwise, he spent his time giving lavish parties, smoking expensive cigars and dating beautiful women.