The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge visited the Taj Mahal in Agra on Saturday, the final day of their week-long tour of India and Bhutan, in an overt tribute to Diana, Princess of Wales.
Prince William and his wife, Catherine, retraced the steps of his mother, Princess Diana, who travelled there 24 years ago on an infamous visit without her then husband, Prince Charles.
Photographs of the princess visiting the monument alone in 1992 were widely interpreted as a sign of early tensions in the couple’s marriage and distance between Diana and Buckingham Palace. She divorced from Prince Charles four years after the trip, and died in a car accident in Paris a year later, aged 36.
One particular image, which showed the princess sitting alone outside the Taj Mahal on a bench that later would be renamed in her honour, has been remembered as an iconic moment in the modern history of the royal family.
Visiting the monument for the first time William and the Catherine hoped to create “new memories”, a spokesman said. They were pictured on the “princess Diana bench” shortly after arriving at the site on Saturday morning.
In a nod to the significance of the visit, a statement released ahead of the duke and duchess’s tour of India said: “The Duke of Cambridge is of course aware of the huge esteem 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.”
The monument was built as a gesture of love in 1631 by the Mughal emperor Shah Jahan as a final resting place for his favourite wife Mumtaz, and the couple were given a tour of the mausoleum, which contains the tombs of the two lovers.
Their to the Taj was met with some controversy last week. According to the Times of India newspaper, officials handling the royal tour requested scaffolding at the site be taken down. Conservationists say doing so would undo years of work. The Foreign Office said that no such request was made.
The royal tour of India included visits to some of the country’s slums, meetings with Bollywood celebrities and a safari in the Kaziranga national park, which has the world’s largest population of one-horned rhinos and some of the world’s last Bengal tigers.