There are few photos of Princess Diana more famous than the one taken as she sat outside the famous Taj Mahal in India. Captured in 1992 on what today is affectionately known as “Lady Di’s Chair,” the photo has been recreated by thousands of people since, including Prince William and Kate Middleton.
Interestingly, one individual who didn’t take the chance to strike a similar pose when given the opportunity was Meghan Markle.
When Harry and Meghan began dating, Meghan often found herself traveling to various places around the world on different jobs. The then-Suits actress was on a business trip to India and planned to visit the legendary marble mausoleum, named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1982.
In his book, Spare, Prince Harry revealed what he told Meghan before her trip, and how he had warned her about recreating the famous Diana picture. The reason reportedly left her “baffled.”
Princess Diana didn’t acquire the monicker of “The People’s Princess” simply because it sounded good.
No, through her charitable work and warmth, she became an important figure for the British people to lean on and be inspired by in tough times. As she famously said, she didn’t wish to be the queen on paper, but rather the queen in people’s hearts.
Princess Diana – iconic visit to the Taj Mahal
The tragic accident in Paris that led to her death remains one of the most shocking events in modern British history. Yet to this day, Diana’s legacy lives on, not only through her sons William and Harry but, more importantly, in people’s hearts.
We can all agree that Princess Diana died far too young. Sadly, she was followed everywhere and endured a troubled private life once she joined the Royal Family.
Despite it all, though, Diana was a loving mother. She always made sure to put William and Harry first – the mother-of-two wanted her children to have a childhood that was as normal as possible. Yet while she wanted to be with her sons all the time, duty called, and Diana traveled the world both with and without her then-husband, Charles.
Over the years, Diana visited many places, cementing her place in history through camera lenses worldwide. One of the most iconic photos taken of her was snapped in 1992 when she visited India – and the Taj Mahal.
Then-President Ramaswamy Venkataraman greeted her on arrival, and during her trip she visited the inauguration of the Taman Special School for children. At the time, Prince Charles was attending a business meeting in Bangalore, leaving Diana to do her own thing.
That included a visit to the Taj Mahal, but the iconic photo left a bitter taste afterward.
For any who don’t know, the Taj Mahal is not a castle or a home.
What is the Taj Mahal?
Rather, it’s a colossal mausoleum of white marble, built between 1631 and 1648 by order of the Mughal emperor Shah Jahan. It was to be a memory of his favorite wife, Mumtaz Mahal.
The UNESCO website describes the Taj Mahal as “the jewel of Muslim art in India and one of the universally admired masterpieces of the world’s heritage.”
“The Taj Mahal is considered to be the greatest architectural achievement in the whole range of Indo-Islamic architecture. Its recognized architectonic beauty has a rhythmic combination of solids and voids, concave and convex, and light shadow; such as arches and domes, further increases the aesthetic aspect. The color combination of lush green scape, reddish pathway, and blue sky over it showcases the monument in ever-changing tints and moods. The relief work in marble and inlay with precious and semi-precious stones make it a monument apart,” the description reads.
Princess Diana was pictured in front of the Taj Mahal, sitting on a bench with the massive mausoleum behind her. She wore a red jacket, a purple skirt, and matching shoes for the occasion, striking a pose many have recreated since.
Royal photographer Anwar Hussein was one of the photographers present at the time. Speaking to People in 2022, he opened up about the special day. Reportedly, it wasn’t the first time he had taken a picture of a royal in front of the historic landmark.
“The Taj Mahal exists as the eternal monument of a husband’s love,” Hussein said. “I photographed Charles there just before he got engaged. He said to us then, ‘I’d like to bring my girlfriend or future wife here one day.’ “
The picture became iconic. However, as beautiful as it seemed, the photo of Diana is often remembered with a tinge of sorrow for what came after.
Iconic picture of Princess Diana became sign of a crashing relationship with Charles
In 1992, just months after the visit to the Taj Mahal, Princess Diana and Prince Charles separated. Three years later the two divorced, and in 1997, the “People’s Princess” was tragically killed in a car crash in Paris, France.
During the India visit, rumors about Diana and Charles’ marriage crumbling were already common knowledge. Though they had conflicting schedules and engagements, it was somewhat expected that the two would visit the Taj Mahal together. Today, we know that it didn’t happen.
“We didn’t know if [Princess Diana] would come. She kept us waiting for a long time,” Anwar Hussein told People. “It was really, really hot there. She looked sad, and she knew which way the story would go. She was very clever. There were other pictures taken that day on another bench when she seemed to be contemplating things.”
Princess Diana was asked by a reporter how she felt being at the mausoleum, simply replying: “It was a fascinating experience – very healing.” Reporters wondered what she meant and asked again.
Diana smiled, replying: “Work it out for yourself.”
When photos of Princess Diana emerged, one royal expert stated it “broke hearts.”
“That picture of her as a lonely, neglected, beautiful girl who didn’t have anyone to love her back just broke everybody’s hearts,” royal biographer and journalist Tina Brown said in the CNN documentary series The Windsors: Inside the Royal Dynasty.
“She knew what she was doing. And it made Charles absolutely crazy.”
Diana never wanted to take the picture
There was a sad background story to the picture, and in a way it symbolized the beginning of the end for Princess Diana’s time with the Royal Family, as her and Charles’ relationship came crashing down.
Interestingly, though, it turns out that the picture itself almost didn’t happen.
According to her former security officer Ken Wharfe, Diana didn’t want the picture taken in the first place.
“The point was, this was during the visit, it was the joint visit with her and the Prince of Wales,” Wharfe said, as reported by Express. “The Prince of Wales, understandably, didn’t want to sit on that seat with his wife as it was the temple of love.”
He added: “Of course, the media interest was always on Diana, right through her life, together with the Prince of Wales. This was a big problem for him. He wanted that media attention but, of course, the focus was on Diana, for obvious reasons.”
Princess Diana’s Taj Mahal picture is legendary, but she’s far from the only royal to have visited the world heritage site.
In 2016, 24 years after his mother, Prince William and his wife Kate Middleton – then Duke and Duchess of Cambridge – visited the Taj Mahal and posed for pictures at “Lady D’ ‘s Chair.” Before the trip, the couple’s spokesman said they hoped to create “new memories.”
“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,” the statement read.
“He feels incredibly lucky to visit a place where his mother’s memory is kept alive by so many who travel there.”
Prince Harry pleaded Meghan Markle to not take Taj Mahal picture
Princess Diana, Prince William, and Princess Kate have all been pictured outside the Taj Mahal. However, were it not for Prince Harry, there might well have been another princess to have mimicked Diana’s photo.
Harry and Meghan began dating in 2016, and though they tried everything to keep their relationship as private as possible, it quickly became the subject of mass speculation. The British tabloids wrote all sorts of things about them, as they had about Harry’s mother, Diana.
As a result, Harry decided to act when Meghan planned to travel to India with World Vision, where she was to promote menstrual health management and education access for young girls.
Reportedly, before her plane left for India, Harry warned his then-girlfriend: “Do not take a photo of yourself in front of the Taj Mahal.”
The Duke was eager not to have people think Meghan was mimicking his mother. Even though it seemed like he was surprised by her answer, he was overjoyed.
“‘Do not take a photo in front of the Taj Mahal.’ She’d asked why and I’d said: ‘My mum.’ I’d explained that my mother had posed for a photo there, and it had become iconic, and I didn’t want anyone thinking Meg was trying to mimic my mother,” Harry wrote in his book Spare.
“Meg had never heard of this photo, and found the whole thing baffling, and I loved her for being baffled.”
When Princess Diana passed away in 1997, she was mourned by millions. But of course, as is always the case, her family endured the deepest wounds.
Harry revealed details of day when his mother died
Harry recalled the moment he got word of his mother’s passing in his book, Spare. He described how his father sat beside his bed, telling him: “Darling boy, Mummy’s been in a car crash.
“There were complications. Mummy was quite badly injured and taken to hospital, darling boy,” Harry recalled his father saying. “He always called me ‘darling boy,’ but he was saying it quite a lot now. His voice was soft. He was in shock, it seemed.
“With a head injury. They tried, darling boy. I’m afraid she didn’t make it.”
The prince further claimed that Charles put his hand on his knee, saying: “It’s going to be OK,” but that he “didn’t hug” him.
“Everyone knows where they were and what they were doing the night my mother died,” Harry stated.
“I cried once, at the burial, and you know I go into detail about how strange it was and how actually there was some guilt that I felt and I think William felt as well, by walking around the outside of Kensington Palace.”
“There were 50,000 bouquets of flowers to our mother and there we were shaking people’s hands, smiling,” he continued. “I’ve seen the videos, right, I looked back over it all. And the wet hands that we were shaking, we couldn’t understand why their hands were wet, but it was all the tears that they were wiping away.”
“My mother had just died”
Harry and William walked behind Diana’s coffin as the procession reached Westminster Abbey. Later, Harry slammed the decision that the two young boys – 12 and 15, respectively – had to walk through London with the world watching.
“My mother had just died, and I had to walk a long way behind her coffin, surrounded by thousands of people watching me while millions more did on television,” he told Newsweek in 2017. “I don’t think any child should be asked to do that, under any circumstances. I don’t think it would happen today.”
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