FOR WIL­LIAM & KATE THIS IS A HOME­COM­ING

The cou­ple’s first visit to In­dia will be in­ter­preted by royal watch­ers as a nod to Prince Wil­liam’s late mother Princess Diana as well as his step­mother Camilla

The Economic Times - - Saturday Feature -

pil­grim­age to the world’s most fa­mous ode to im­pe­rial love, the Taj Ma­hal, and a most un­usual cross-coun­try hop to As­sam to spend a cou­ple of days at the UNESCO World Heritage Site, Kazi­ranga Na­tional Park.

These two en­gage­ments, of course, will be in­ter­spersed with solemn wreath­lay­ings (at Mum­bai’s Taj Ho­tel, and New Delhi’s Gandhi Sm­riti and In­dia Gate) and earnest in­ter­ac­tions with NGOs in both cities, not to men­tion a Bol­ly­wood gala and a party at the British high com­mis­sioner’s res­i­dence for Queen El­iz­a­beth II’s 90th birth­day.

But their Taj Ma­hal pit­stop will in­evitably draw at­ten­tion back to the fa­mous 1992 photo of a down­cast Princess Diana sit­ting at the same spot, even though the Cam­bridges’ stated in­ten­tion is to “cre­ate new mem­o­ries”. That photo call sounded the death knell for her mar­riage to Prince Charles, so images of the muchin-love ju­nior Wales’ of to­day could be a wel­come se­quel. Thei r two- day trip to Kazi ra nga Na­tional Park will see them take part in Bihu cel­e­bra­tions and speak out on the en­dan­gered one-horned rhino, 68% of which live and thrive in Kazi­ranga. A morn­ing sa­fari around the park in jeeps is on the cards, though atop ele­phants may be more ap­pro­pri­ate given their sub­se­quent visit the Kazi­ranga Dis­cov­ery Cen­tre.

This event is what royal watch­ers should con­sider to be fur­ther ev­i­dence of their ex­cel­lent re­la­tions with Camilla, whom Diana’s fans still love to hate. For the ele­phant clinic at the Kazi­ranga cen­tre is named af­ter Camilla’s late younger brother, Mark Shand, a fer­vent cham­pion of the In­dian ele­phant. Also, Camilla and Prince Charles are now the joint pa­trons of Ele­phant Fam­ily, Shand’s char­ity that is help­ing with the cre­ation of more ele­phant cor­ri­dors in the area. The pub­lic­ity of this royal visit to Kazi­ranga — and the Cam­bridges’ “call for artists” for a fund-rais­ing ele­phant pa­rade later in the year — will cer­tainly boost the Park’s hopes for in­ter­na­tional funds for the task.

As for the brief so­journ in Bhutan, the odds are on baby talk at King Jigme Kh­e­sar Nam­gyal Wangchuk and Queen Jet­sun Pema’s pri­vate din­ner for the ju­nior Wales —or are they the se­nior Cam­bridges… The other ma­jor item on the agenda — a six-hour steep hike to a monastery that Prince Charles also hoofed it to in his day — will def­i­nitely not have a pa­parazzi pack fol­low­ing.

A pi­quant aside: the roy­als will be stay­ing in New Delhi at the res­i­dence of the British high com­mis­sioner, Sir Do­minic Asquith, whose great-grand­fa­ther HH Asquith was the British prime min­is­ter when Wil­liam’s great-great grand­fa­ther Ge­orge V came for the 1911 Delhi Dur­bar. And the Cam­bridges will may be amused to note that Sir Do­minic’s el­der brother is the cur­rent Earl of Ox­ford…

(Left) Kate flaunts a sheer navy blue dress from In­dia-born British de­signer Saloni Lodha and (right) Lady Diana on her In­dia trip to Agra in 1992

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