01/12/2004 at 01:00 AM EST
Recycling rumors has never been beyond the bounds of the British tabloids, especially regarding Princess Diana. But when an old claim—that she was pregnant at the time of her Aug. 31, 1997, death—resurfaced on page one of a credible newspaper, it caught the interest of even gossip-fatigued royal watchers and sent the tabloids into a renewed frenzy. There was "a cover-up of sorts," an unnamed senior French police official, who claimed to have seen the medical records of the princess's death, told the Independent on Sunday on Dec. 21. "I can tell you that she was pregnant."
Diana's friends have denied the story ever since it first emerged, soon after Diana and her lover Dodi Fayed were killed in the Paris car crash. Her alternative therapist even reported that she'd treated Diana for PMS just 10 days before her death. As for the latest claim, Diana's former butler Paul Burrell denounced it in the Daily Mirror as "more tiresome speculation" based on "nothing more than the canteen banter from a French police station."
The last word on any pregnancy—and all the other conspiracy theories that have percolated over the past six years—could come from a long-awaited official inquest due to begin Jan. 6. Royal Coroner Michael Burgess, whose work was delayed by a lengthy French judicial inquiry, will sift through 6,000 pages of legal documents, including medical and police reports, and take witness testimony before delivering his report, probably next fall. Perhaps then the princess might once and for all rest in peace.