Sunday 23 October 2016

The picture carefully posed to say 'we're so in love'

The photos of the royal couple at the Taj Mahal were replete with symbolism

Gordon Rayner

Published 17/04/2016 | 02:30

A MONUMENT STEEPED IN LOVE: Top, the late Princess Diana poses at the Taj Mahal in Agra in 1992. Above, Prince William and Kate pose during their visit to the Taj Mahal yesterday. Photos: Prakash Singh and Adnan Abidi
A MONUMENT STEEPED IN LOVE: Top, the late Princess Diana poses at the Taj Mahal in Agra in 1992. Above, Prince William and Kate pose during their visit to the Taj Mahal yesterday. Photos: Prakash Singh and Adnan Abidi

The location, the pose and even the ring on her finger were direct links to Diana, Princess of Wales, but as the Duchess of Cambridge sat in front of the Taj Mahal yesterday the message being conveyed could not have been more different.

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Princess Diana sat utterly alone in front of the world's most romantic building in 1992 to signal to the world that she was in a loveless marriage.

Sitting on the very same marble bench yesterday, however, the Duchess had her husband by her side, and the Duke of Cambridge used the hugely anticipated moment to show his marriage is strong and that he will not repeat the mistakes of his father.

William described the visit as "overwhelming", while Kate said it had been the perfect way to celebrate their fifth wedding anniversary, which falls on April 29.

The royal couple's entire week-long tour of India and Bhutan had seemed like a prelude to this one moment, and ever since their visit to the Taj Mahal was announced in February, the question of whether they would have the confidence to sit on 'Lady Di's chair' dominated the build-up.

They had made their final decision only yesterday morning that they would sit on the bench and when the moment came, they did not need to be prompted.

Sitting with knees touching, the couple spent around 30 seconds posing for photographs on the bench, which had been washed down to cool it and had a clean white cloth on the seat.

After taking their sunglasses off, the Duke joked to photographers: "I hope you've got your symmetry right!" as his wife arranged herself in an uncannily identical pose to that of Diana.

Few royal photo opportunities are as heavily laden with symbolism as this one.

The photographs of Princess Diana at the same spot were perhaps the loneliest pictures of a member of the Royal family ever taken.

With her husband 1,200 miles away at a business conference in Bangalore, she visited the Taj Mahal alone.

She told journalists that her visit had been a "healing" experience and when she was asked what that meant, said: "Work it out for yourself." She and the Prince of Wales separated later the same year.

For the Duke of Cambridge too, this was a healing experience, as well as something of a pilgrimage. It was a chance to heal some of the scars from his parents' divorce and an opportunity to "create new memories" for his family at the Taj, his spokesman said.

At 34, the Duchess of Cambridge is three years older than Diana was when she visited and just two years younger than Diana was when she died.

The couple's 15-year relationship, including five years of marriage, has already outlasted the Prince and Princess of Wales's marriage and during their week-long tour of Asia it has been clear that the Duke and Duchess remain very much in love.

From Kate's squeeze of her husband's thigh when they set off on safari in Assam to their hand-holding trek to the Tiger's Nest monastery in Bhutan, the couple have shared plenty of romantic moments, despite the somewhat chaotic nature of royal tours.

They were even happy to be photographed with their arms around each other as they took in the beauty of the Himalayas, regardless of their dislike of the prying eyes of cameras.

The tour finished with the most romantic moment of all, as the couple were taken inside the Taj Mahal for a 15-minute private tour without any members of the press or public present.

The marble mausoleum 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.

Tour guide Rizwan Mohammed, 35, who showed the couple around, 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: "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."

Mr Mohammed told the couple which bench Diana had sat on and told them "she was beloved so much in the whole of India" but the Duke did not say anything about his mother, preferring to let the pictures speak for themselves.

The Duchess, who had arrived in Agra wearing a white Alexander McQueen dress and a necklace given to her by the Queen of Bhutan, had changed into a white dress with a royal blue embroidered motif by Indian designer Naeem Khan, with nude high-heel shoes.

She was also wearing a pair of £5 ear-rings she bought in a craft market after the couple had trekked to the Tiger's Nest on Friday

The Duke was asked what the visit had meant to him. "It's a beautiful place, stunning designs in there," he said, again avoiding mention of his mother. He later added: "It's overwhelming."

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 its really beautiful architecture."

The couple had intended to spend two hours at the UNESCO World Heritage Site but the 41C (106F) heat was so oppressive that they stayed less than an hour.

The Taj stayed open to the public during the Duke and Duchess's visit, though visitors were shepherded to one side of the site when the royal couple arrived and new arrivals were held back.

But armed Indian guards almost prevented the picture of the day being taken, as they tried to usher the press pack away from a pre-agreed spot in front of the bench.

As an argument broke out, the royal couple's communications secretary, Jason Knauf, had tell 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."

As the couple left the Taj, they signed the visitors' book, adding their signatures below Diana's on the same page.

© Telegraph

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