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Mark Shand funeral to take place

The funeral of the Duchess of Cornwall's brother Mark Shand is to take place today.

Conservationist and travel writer Mr Shand died unexpectedly last week after falling and hitting his head in New York.

Camilla and her family, who were left devastated by the 62-year-old adventurer's death, will gather for a private family funeral at Holy Trinity Church in Stourpaine, Dorset.

The Prince of Wales will be at his wife's side to support her during the service.

Camilla and her siblings often spent time together in the picturesque village of Stourpaine, which is home to the Duchess's sister Annabel Elliot. Mr Shand once described how the country retreat had become the family's "centre" .

The funeral of the Duchess's father Major Bruce Shand was held at the same church in 2006.

Mark Shand's body was escorted home on a private jet by Camilla's son Tom Parker Bowles and nephew Ben Elliot after a medical examiner in the US ruled his death an accident.

Food writer Mr Parker Bowles paid a moving tribute to his uncle, saying that his death had left "a massive, gaping hole that will never be filled".

"There was no-one like him, never will be. How lucky we all were to have had this giant, magnificent figure in our lives," he wrote in the Mail on Sunday newspaper.

Mr Shand was in New York for charity auction at Sotheby's and slipped and struck his head on the pavement as he tried to re-enter through a revolving door after going for a drink with a relative.

Camilla's younger brother, who had a daughter Ayesha, was known for his dedication to protecting the endangered Asian elephant.

His rescue of Tara, a female elephant whom he saved from the streets of eastern India and rode 600 miles across the country, led to his best-selling work Travels On My Elephant, and the foundation of the conservation charity Elephant Family.

The rebellious adventurer penned numerous books including Skulduggery which told of his travels in Indonesia where he encountered cannibals, crocodiles and much more. ''We nearly got killed many times,'' he once recalled.

Elephant Family, which said it had been "deeply touched by the many offers of support we have received since his tragic death", has launched the Mark Shand Memorial Fund to raise funds to save the Asian elephant.

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