On July 1, Lady Diana would have celebrated her 60th birthday. Father Yves-Marie Clochard-Bossuet gives us an amazing account leading up to the state in which he found her in hospital after the fatal car accident in 1997, and of the surprising events that followed.
Newsdesk(01/07/2021 09:00, Gaudium Press) There are people who possess a special charisma, something which attracts us to them – they are like lamps, carrying an ‘inner light’, leading many to seek their company, and in whose presence we find a source of comfort – people who have such an irresistible nature that we are unable to deny the requests they make of us. These bearers of light are truly a gift from God – which we are drawn to recognize – for everything good comes from Him.
Saint John Bosco and Mrs. Jacqueline Kennedy carried this beautiful interior light, to name two. So did Lady Diana Spencer.
Of course, unfortunately, this lovely, natural gift can coexist with shadows, as we also have a fallen nature.
It is likely that many of our readers clearly remember the story of Lady Diana’s tragic car accident in a Paris tunnel, fleeing the paparazzi and counting upon a driver who, as we now know, was under the influence of alcohol. The mourning and sense of loss of the late Princess was worldwide, and effectively forced the British Crown into holding a state funeral for her.
A priest and also a leading character in this story
Less known is the fact that the cleric who ministered to her in the hour of her death was a Catholic priest by the name of Fr. Yves-Marie Clochard-Bossuet. This story was revealed by the Daily Mail and republished by several other media outlets, including Religion en Libertad.
Father Yves lived near the Pitié-Salpêtrière Hospital, in Paris, and volunteered as an on-call chaplain to the hospital on weekends. On August 31, 1997, at 2 a.m., the priest’s phone rang; the caller was the hospital manager asking the priest for the address of an Anglican pastor. Fr Yves simply told him that he did not have the address, for which he apologized, and then hung up the phone.
Three minutes later the phone rang again; it was the manager calling a second time. “Can you come in place of the Anglican priest?”, he asked. “Yes, I can”, Fr. Yves said, “But why?” “I am not able to tell you”, came the puzzling reply to his question.
In response, Fr Yves replied, “I find it strange that you cannot give me more details, since you are asking me to attend to someone at two o’clock in the morning. I would like to know who this person is.” By this time the priest had begun to think that the manager was drunk. He told him, “If you cannot tell me the name of the person or the reason I am being asked to go to the hospital, it being two in the morning, I have to think that you are not being serious.”
At this point, the manager gave an explanation which truly convinced the priest that the caller was indeed drunk: that Lady Diana had been involved in an accident and that the priest’s presence was urgently requested. The priest, having become quite irritated at this point, simply hung up the phone.
Incredibly, the manager phoned Fr. Yves a third time and again insisted, “Father, I am sorry to continue to bother you, but what I have told you is the truth”, he declared in a voice filled with anguish. He also told the priest that the British ambassador was waiting for him, and to please come urgently as the situation was extremely serious. Father Yves was finally convinced that this was a real and dire situation and rushed to the hospital. When he arrived, the activity and commotion outside the hospital confirmed the veracity of the unfolding situation.
At 3:30 a.m. he was taken to the surgical department. The UK ambassador greeted him and asked him to pray and wait patiently. At 4:20, nearly an hour later, a nurse took him to the first floor, where he encountered the French Interior Minister, Mr. Jean-Pierre Chevènement, along with the British Ambassador.
Finally, Fr. Yves was led to the room where Lady Diana was lying and was asked to remain with her until an Anglican pastor would arrive. It was at 4:41 a.m. when he was ushered to the side of the lifeless body of Lady Diana Spencer, with whom he remained for the next 10 hours.
Fr. Yves’ impressions of Lady Diana’s lifeless body
“This was my first time to see her”, recalls Fr Yves. “Her body was completely intact, without marks, stains, or make-up; very beautiful. Her appearance was completely natural and I almost had the sense that I could talk to her,” he stated.
Until this fateful night, Fr. Yves had not held what one would consider a high opinion of Princess Diana. “All of these pictures and reports, lovers… of a woman who was the mother of a future king. I felt that she was not behaving in a manner befitting her position,” he recalled. However, upon finding himself called to the side of her lifeless body, his disposition softened.
To Father Yves’ mind there came the thought of her young children, who had not yet learned the devastating news of their mother’s death. He continued to pray for her and to entrust her soul to the mercy of the Eternal Judge.
A letter written
This experience had a deep and powerful effect on Father Yves, and so he requested that his Superiors grant him their permission to take some time, to spend a few weeks in prayer. Before this, however, he wrote a letter to the mother of the Princess, Ms. Frances Shand Kydd. He related, “I have an English cousin and he was the one who told me that Diana’s mother was a Catholic convert with a strong faith. He suggested that I write to her, and so I did.”
“I wrote a very formal letter, giving her all the details of the end of her daughter’s life. I wanted to tell her that the nurses who had cared for Diana had been thorough and professional; she lacked for nothing there, even though she was in a hospital room and not at Buckingham Palace. And I told her that I had prayed and stayed with her daughter until Prince Charles had arrived.” The priest did not think for a moment that he would receive a reply from the mother of Lady Diana.
“However, just a few days later, I received a very touching letter. Ms Shand Kydd thanked me for being the first one to give her any direct information concerning her daughter. She told me that no one else had communicated with her, and that she was happy and grateful that a Catholic priest had accompanied her daughter in her departure from this life.”
Ms. Frances Shand Kydd also made another request of the priest: she asked him if he could celebrate a private Mass at the hospital where Princess Diana had died.
Lady Diana’s mother arrived in Paris three weeks later. “I picked her up at the Charles de Gaulle Airport in my little car. I recognized her immediately, for she resembled her daughter very much: she was tall and blonde, and she watched me as I approached her.” Fr. Yves had worn a raincoat to cover his priestly collar, out of fear that reporters would see them together. “She came to me and opened the top of my coat to see my collar and to confirm that I was a priest. This certainly broke the ice very quickly!” he recounted.
“It was difficult to celebrate a private Mass without anyone knowing, but I managed to do so by inviting other people who shared her situation, people who had also lost children in accidents. There were about five or six families in attendance who had also been through similar, difficult experiences”, Fr. Yves explained.
The special Mass was celebrated the next day, and a friendship grew between the mother of Lady Diana Spencer and the priest who journeyed with her daughter in the final hours of her life upon earth. (SMC)
Compiled by Sandra Chisholm