Princess Diana celebrated her 36th birthday at a gala event

By Stephanie Petit
July 01, 2020 08:30 AM
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Princess Diana
Justin GoffUK Press via Getty Images

Just two months before a tragic car accident took Princess Diana's life, she spent her final birthday at a gala — but not without taking some time to meet her greatest admirers.

The late royal celebrated her 36th birthday on July 1, 1997 in style, attending a gala held in honor of the Tate Gallery's Centenary in London. Princess Diana stunned in a beaded black gown that she received as a birthday gift from her friend designer Jacques Azagury, accessorizing with a sparkling choker necklace featuring green stones and matching drop earrings.

Diana also made it clear why she was coined "The People's Princess," taking time to greet fans who had gathered outside. They showered her with birthday presents, including cards, flowers and a small pink balloon featuring a cartoon bear.

Princess Diana
Princess Diana

"Diana had a genius for people," her younger brother, Charles, 9th Earl Spencer, previously told PEOPLE. "She could make any person, whether they were the grandest or the most humble feel totally at ease in her company."

Princess Diana

Princess Diana's final summer was marked by a trip to the U.S., where she gave a speech at a Red Cross-hosted gala for victims of land mines and met Hillary Clinton, and a visit to Bosnia to work with the Land Mine Campaign. She also vacationed in St. Tropez with her boyfriend Dodi Al Fayed and her two sons, Prince William and Prince Harry.

After spending nine days with Al Fayed vacationing in the French and Italian Rivera, the couple arrived in Paris on August 30. Just a few hours later, both Diana and Dodi were killed in a car crash in the Pont de l'Alma road tunnel, driving from the Hotel Ritz Paris to another apartment in the city.

Princess Diana and Dodi Al Fayed
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Diana's legacy has lived on in her sons, from their charity work to their efforts to keep her memory alive.

"All I want to do is make my mother incredibly proud," Harry told PEOPLE in a May 2016 cover story ahead of the Invictus Games in Orlando. "That's all I've ever wanted to do."