Will and Kate end India trip with poignant Taj Mahal visit

NEW DELHI • Prince William and his wife Catherine wrapped up their trip to India and Bhutan yesterday with a visit to the Taj Mahal - a place that carries poignant echoes for Britain's royal family.

When the late Princess Diana was photographed sitting alone outside the tragic monument to love in 1992, it sparked much media speculation and later became a symbol of her failing marriage.

Crafted in white marble and inlaid with precious stones, India's most famous monument was built between 1631 and 1648 under Moghul emperor Shah Jahan, in memory of his favourite wife, Mumtaz Mahal.

It holds special significance for the young royals, with Kensington Palace saying Prince William feels "incredibly lucky" to visit a site where his mother's memory is so alive.

It follows a week that saw the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge feed baby rhinos in north-eastern Assam and trek to a mountain monastery in Bhutan, retracing the footsteps of Prince Charles.


(Above) Britain's Prince William and Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, posing at The Taj Mahal, in India, yesterday. PHOTOS: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS

When they reached Agra, home of the Taj, waiting for them was a 73-year-old fan whose family memories stretch back even further, to the visit of Queen Elizabeth II in 1961.

"I have been dreaming of meeting the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge ever since I got to know they would be coming to the Taj," Mr Surendra Sharma said.

His late uncle Kailash Nath Sharma, a keen photographer, took several black-and-white pictures of the Queen and Prince Philip.

Mr Sharma may have reason to hope - in Mumbai, the couple took time out from engagements to meet with a 93-year-old admirer Boman Kohinoor.

The restaurant owner became the star of a social media campaign that saw arrangements made for him to meet the royals at the last minute.

Agra wore a festive look yesterday, with roads decked out in fairy lights and flowers as it prepared to welcome the high-profile guests.

Security was beefed up around the monument, with several paramilitary personnel standing guard with sniffer dogs.


(Above) The prince's mother, Diana, Princess of Wales, sat alone in the same spot in 1992. The photo sparked much media speculation and later became a symbol of her failing marriage. PHOTOS: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS

The couple arrived in a private jet before heading out to the Taj, a Unesco world heritage site, after lunch. The mausoleum is undergoing renovation work, with scaffolding covering two of the minarets - and a senior archaeological official said it would not be dismantled for the visit.

The visit marks the final stop on a hectic itinerary for the royal couple, on their first official trip to the country that the British ruled for close to 200 years. They are set to return to England today, in time for the Queen's 90th birthday on April 21.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on April 17, 2016, with the headline 'Will and Kate end India trip with poignant Taj Mahal visit'. Print Edition | Subscribe