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Treading in Diana's Footsteps

11/04/2016 16:45 | Updated 11 April 2016

So the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge are to end their Indian tour on Saturday by visiting the Taj Mahal? Well - why wouldn't they? They are famously a loving couple, and this has been a place for lovers through the centuries.

But this is also - just as famously - the place where Diana, Princess of Wales, posed for the press in 1992 and dramatised the failure of her marriage. Ostentatiously alone, gazing wistfully at the cameras, in front of the building another prince, Shah Jahan, had raised to celebrate his enduring love story . . . This was, if we remember, the royal 'annus horribilis' and the War of the Waleses was well underway. The couple had travelled to India on different planes, and stayed on different floors of their hotel. The Queen had asked them to undertake this joint public engagement in the hope of plastering over the cracks in the marriage. Before the end of the year, she agreed that the pair should separate, and put everyone out of their misery.

The Cambridges' communications secretary, Jason Knauf, said in a statement that the Duke is of course aware of the huge esteem in which his mother is held in India - 'and he appreciates the iconic status of the images that exist of the Princess at the Taj . . . Twenty four years on from her visit to the Taj, the Duke and Duchess are looking forward to seeing this beautiful place for themselves and creating some new memories'.

Yes, but is it just me - or are things getting ever so slightly worrying here?

The bench on which Diana posed wasn't taken away. It's known as 'Lady Di's Chair'. But the Duke and Duchess won't pose just there - will they? Whatever the photographers say? Though in the past, when comparisons with Diana beckoned, they haven't exactly shied away.

There isn't a word to be said against the fact that William and Harry, and Kate too, are starting to specialise in the kind of charities Diana would have approved - mental health and children's issues, as well as the kind of nature and military-type causes other royals have adopted more naturally.

There was nothing to be said when William gave Kate his mother's engagement ring. It was a touching way of including her in the happiness she was not there to enjoy. And if Kate, like Diana, wore a strong blue for the engagement pictures, well, again, why shouldn't she?

No - I think what set the alarm bells ringing for me was the christening of their second baby Princess Charlotte (Charlotte Elizabeth Diana) and the outfit Prince George wore for the ceremony. A smocked shirt and red shorts - almost identical to outfit his father wore to meet his younger brother, Prince Harry, in the maternity unit. A little odd, surely?

There is clearly a sense in which Prince William (and perhaps his brother too) are trying to retread old ground - and this time, to do it properly. If the marriage of Charles and Diana was meant to be a national fairy story, then this time they want it to end happily. That phrase of the communications secretary about 'creating some new memories' is key.

In a sense no doubt Diana's heirs are right in what they do. Searching - the looking for a loved one - is said to be an important stage in the grieving process . . . But a stage from which the bereaved should move on, eventually.

So I hope that William and Kate enjoy their visit to the Taj Mahal (a mausoleum raised, if you think about it, by another man who couldn't let go of his dead). On that famous bench or elsewhere, I hope they do create some happy memories. Then I hope that they get up, and simply, finally, walk away. As Diana, princess of Wales, would have wanted, surely.

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