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The Glory of Taj! William and Kate pay loving tribute to Lady Diana as visited the monument of love

By FnF Desk | PUBLISHED: 16, Apr 2016, 19:18 pm IST | UPDATED: 16, Apr 2016, 19:18 pm IST

The Glory of Taj! William and Kate pay loving tribute to Lady Diana as visited the monument of love

New Delhi/ London: The Duke Prince William and Duchess of Cambridge Kate Middleton wrap-up their India tour with a visits to the Taj Mahal.

Duke and Duchess evoked the memory of Lady Diana, Princess of Wales, when they sat on the Taj Mahal bench that became a symbol of her broken marriage.

Diana was famously photographed alone on the marble bench but the image of William and Kate, sat together, will forge new memories of the iconic building for the couple.

With the 41C (106F) heat reflecting up from the marble bench, workers kept dousing the bench in cold water in order to keep it as cool as possible for the couple. A clean white cloth had been placed on it for the couple to sit on.

As they took their sunglasses off to pose for pictures, the Duke told photographers: "I hope you've got the symmetry right!"

The Duchess was wearing a white dress with a royal blue embroidered motif by Indian designer Naeem Khan and nude patent high heels.

They sat smiling together for 25 seconds before being given a "thumbs up" by their director of communications Jason Knauf, signalling that the photoshoot was over.

Aides had tried to play down the significance of the bench, saying the couple only wanted to pose on the bench because "it is what all visitors to the Taj Mahal do - they sit on the bench with the perfect symmetry of the building behind them.

"They got a brief glimpse of the Taj from their hotel earlier and were visibly excited. They couldn't wait to get down here and experience it for themselves.

"Like everyone visiting this magical and beautiful place, they want to have a unique experience to remember forever."

Half an hour before the royal couple arrived at 1530 local time, police moved tourists to one side of the site so that photographers could get a clear shot.

There was a last minute drama when the fountains in front of the bench seemingly could not be turned off, prompting a man to take off his trousers, roll up his underpants and jump into the water feature to turn the central fountain off manually.

Then security guards tried to remove the small press pack - consisting of five UK photographers, five Indian Photographers, and two reporters - from the bench opposite after they had been pre-positioned to capture the moment.

American Mr Knauf, 34, had to step in and negotiate with armed security guards before tensions threatened to boil over. He told the Taj's head of security and head of police: "This is what the Duke and Duchess want. They want the press to be here and they want the photograph to be taken."

The Duke described the visit as "overwhelming".

The couple were shown around by tour guide Rizwan Mohammed, 35, who said the Duchess had described the visit as the perfect way to celebrate the couple's fifth wedding anniversary, which falls on April 29.

Mr Mohammed said: "I wished them a happy anniversary, they were shocked that I knew about it, but then the Duchess said  this is the perfect thing to do before their wedding anniversary. She was quite happy about it."

Asked if it was a romantic day for them, he said "absolutely."

He said the couple were fascinated by the love story behind the building of the Taj, and the Duchess got "quite emotional when she came to know that the Queen died at the very young age of 39".

He added: "She said 'she really deserves this kind of building as they were madly in love with each other.' The prince was laughing.

"They were down to earth, very casual. They were so, so easy to talk with. For me, I was quite nervous but they were very normal, down to earth. Specifically the duchess, she was very enthusiastic about how this was built."

Mr Mohammed, who was selected by the British High Commission, has worked there for 15 years.

He said he had told the couple which bench Princess Diana had sat on, but the Duke did not say anything about his mother.

Mr Mohammed told the couple: "She was beloved so much in the whole of India."

The couple only decided on Saturday morning that they would sit on the bench.

Summing up the tour, their spokesman said: "I think it's a huge success. They had very clear objectives when this tour was being planned and they have achieved all of those.

"They wanted to establish a real enduring relationship with India and its people. They had an incredible introduction to the top of government in prime minister Modi. The got to shine a light on issues they care about. They had a serious day focusing on conservation."

He added: "They have fallen in love with India and Bhutan and I am sure they will be back."

The couple had been given a guided tour of the mausoleum itself. After spending 15 minutes inside, the Duke was asked what the visit had meant to him. "It's a beautiful place, stunning designs in there," he said.

Asked how it had been visiting the most romantic building in the world, the Duchess said: "It's been really incredible to learn about the romance of the building and it's really beautiful architecture."

A royal source said of the visit: "They wanted to come to the Taj because it is one of the wonders of the world.

"It's a very good way to finish the tour  by promoting one of India's greatest sights.

"The Duke is completely aware of the history of this place with his family and he appreciates that a lot of people who come here have his mother in mind.

"But this is about the future for them, it's about looking forward and creating new memories."

The Duke has said he wants to “create new memories” for the Royal family.

They have posed for pictures on the bench where the Duke’s mother Diana, Princess of Wales, sat alone in 1992, presaging the end of her marriage.

On the final day if the couple’s week-long tour of India and Bhutan, the Duke and Duchess were greeted at the Taj Mahal by Atul Bhargava, the government’s chief archaeologist.

He will invite the couple to sign their names on the same page of the visitors’ book that Princess Diana signed 24 years ago.

But it will be the image of the couple at “Lady Di’s chair” that will define their visit.

A spokesman for the couple said before their arrival: “The Duke of Cambridge is of course aware of the huge esteem in which his mother, the late Princess of Wales is held in India and he appreciates the iconic status of the images that exist of The Princess at the Taj.

“He feels incredibly lucky to visit a place where his mother’s memory is kept alive by so many who travel there.

“Twenty-four years on from her visit to the Taj, The Duke and The Duchess are looking forward to seeing this beautiful place for themselves and creating some new memories as they say thank you to the people of India at the conclusion of this tour.”

When Princess Diana visited the Taj, she told reporters it had been a “healing” experience, and when asked what she meant added: “Work it out for yourself.”

The Prince of Wales was attending a business conference 1,200 miles away in Bangalore at the time.

Later in the tour the Princess humiliated her husband when he tried to kiss her after a polo match, turning away so that he ended up planting a clumsy kiss near her ear. They separated later that year.

The marble mausoleum in Agra was built in 1648 by the Mughal ruler Shah Jahan as the last resting place of his beloved wife Mumtaz Mahal, who died in childbirth in 1631.

It is remaining open to the public during the Duke and Duchess’s visit, though a moving security cordon kept tourists away from them.

The Duke and Duchess are the third consecutive generation of the royal family to visit the Taj, following the Queen’s visit in 1961 and separate visits by the Prince of Wales and Princess Diana.

The Duke and Duchess, neither of whom had been to India before, had made it clear they wanted to visit the Taj as part of their itinerary.

Their spokesman had said they could not wait “to see it with their own eyes”, describing it as “a fitting location for The Duke and Duchess to say thank you for the generosity and warmth that has been extended to them on the tour”.
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