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William and Kate follow in Diana's footsteps posing for picture at Taj Mahal

Published 16/04/2016

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.

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.

He said: "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."

In searing temperatures of 41C (106F) 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 200 miles away by elephant.

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.

They made their way slowly through the gardens with their guide, walked on to a large marble plinth containing a fountain and walked over to a bench in a similar position to the one the duke's mother sat on during her tour with Charles in February 1992.

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.

They spent around 15 minutes touring the mausoleum which is home to the tombs of Jahan and his beloved wife.

The building was not closed to the public but the crowds were held back while they completed their tour and visitors watched as they left the Taj Mahal and walked to another point in the garden where photographers were waiting.

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 he wished them a happy wedding anniversary, adding: "They were shocked that I know about it, but you know the internet - but then she 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 replied "absolutely".

Mr Mohammed said they 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 came to know that the queen died at the age of just 39, he said.

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

The royal couple did not mention Diana but the guide told them "she was beloved so much in the whole of India".

Summing up the Cambridges' seven-day tour of India and Bhutan which ended on Saturday, a Kensington Palace 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. They had a serious day focusing on conservation."

He added that the killing of a rhino by poachers would not have made the front pages if they had not been at Kaziranga National Park where they visited.

And they had established close ties with the King and Queen of Bhutan particularly after a successful three-and-a-half hour dinner that marked the start of "a relationship with this important part of the world".

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

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