The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge have evoked the memory of Diana, Princess of Wales, by posing for a picture at the Taj Mahal.
Diana’s time at the monument to enduring love was tinged with sadness as she was photographed sitting alone on a marble bench signalling the gulf between her and the Prince of Wales.
William and Kate recreated the image but the relationship of the young couple, who will soon celebrate their fifth wedding anniversary, is a world away from the period when the Wales’ marriage was disintegrating.
Royal commentators are likely to see the Duke’s decision to sit on the bench as a significant milestone – an acknowledgement of his mother’s association with the stunning building but an attempt to forge new memories and move on.
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But a Kensington Palace spokesman said the Cambridges were just following a tradition that many tourists embrace by posing for a picture at that spot.
“They made the decision 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.”
Media gathered preparing for William and Kate appearance at the Taj Mahal. https://t.co/SZMIx1iR7R
— Keir Simmons (@KeirSimmons) April 16, 2016
In searing temperatures of 41 degrees Celsius the duke and duchess toured the grounds of the Taj and were given a guided tour of the mausoleum itself.
When the couple first arrived they stopped to admire the imposing building from its main gate. Before them were immaculate formal gardens and fountains and the building itself had three of its towers covered in scaffolding.
The impressive structure was built by the Mughal emperor Shah Jahan in the mid 17th century, a monument of love to his favourite wife, Mumtaz Mahal.
It took 22 years and 20,000 men to erect the building from white marble, transported from 320km away by elephant.
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Despite the extreme temperatures William wore a linen blazer, shirt and chinos, but Kate looked cool and comfortable in a dress by Indian designer Naeem Khan.
The photograph of Diana sitting alone became the defining image of the tour and by the end of the year it was announced the couple had agreed to separate.
But, in contrast, William and Kate took off their sunglasses and smiled for the photographers as they sat together.
Asked what he thought of the Taj Mahal, the Duke replied: “It’s a beautiful place, stunning designs in there.”
Kate said: “It’s been really incredible learning about the romance of the building, it’s a really beautiful building.”
Tour guide Rizwan Mohammed, 35, said the royal couple were fascinated “by the story of the king and the queen” and the love that made him build the monument to her. And Kate got “quite emotional” when she learned the queen died at the age of just 39, he said.