Delhi: 10 & 11 February

On the day of their arrival on a six-day tour to India, the royal couple met with President R. Venkataraman and his wife Janaki at their official residence, where they enjoyed strolling through the famous Moghul Gardens. This was followed by a short visit to the New Delhi War Cemetery, where the royal couple paid their respect to British and Indian soldiers killed in World War II.

 

Later, the royal couple visited Raj Ghat, the place where Mahatma Gandhi was cremated after his assassination in 1948, to place a wreath. Then, the royal couple visited Sonia Gandhi, widow of former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi, at her house. In the evening, Prince Charles and Princess Diana attended an official banquet given by Indian Vice President Shankar Dayal Sharma. The princess wore the Spencer family tiara and a dazzling black gown designed by Catherine Walker.

 

Agra: 12 February

 

Separated by two different schedules, Princess Diana, then 30, started her trip by visiting Tamana Special Needs Nursery School, where she met teachers and young children. Then, she visited Marie Stopes Clinic, a family planning clinic, where she met popular condom producer Vinday Tandon. She smiled when he cheekily introduced himself saying: "Call me Condom Tandon!"

 

Afterwards, the princess lingered alone for more than an hour at the Taj Mahal, accompanied by Professor Mukund Rawat, who showed her around India's white marble wonder, which was dedicated by a grief-stricken emperor to his beloved dead wife. Before leaving the Taj, Princess Diana wrote in the visitors' book: "A beautiful monument." Later on that day, after waving her staff aside, the princess sat alone in silent solitude for five long minutes on a marble bench to be photographed by 40 photographers in front of the "Monument of Love", while Prince Charles was in Bangalore. It seemed clear that she was saddened by the absence of her husband, who was visiting an architecture school and making a speech to industrialists. She told the gathered press reporters: "It would have been better if both of us had been here." The poignant photograph signalled that Princess Diana and Prince Charles were drifting apart. Princess Diana intriguingly told the press reporters that the experience had been: "very healing." When asked to explain why, she said: "Work it out for yourself."

 

Jaipur: 13 February

 

The royal couple were geographically reunited in the ancient city of Jaipur, where they visited Nalu village. Later that day, the prince was asked to play in an exhibition polo match. He was visibly looking forward to it. The same could not be said for Princess Diana. An exhibition match requires an official prize-giving at its conclusion. It was understood that the princess would present the prizes, and it was also assumed that, win or lose, she would kiss her husband. Princess Diana, however, was in no mood to be an accessory to the day's events. During a break for lunch, word came through that the princess had no intention of attending the polo. The tour's former private secretary Peter Westmacott and former press officer Dickie Arbitar went to see her in an effort to persuade her of the wisdom of doing otherwise. The princess raged: "I don't want to go, You think I even care? You really think I even care any more? Because I don't. I'm at the point where I don't care what they think, much less what they write in the papers. I'm not going to present the prizes and that's that!"

 

Practising emotional blackmail, Peter Westmacott and Dickie Arbitar reminded the princess that the next stop on her itinerary was Mother Teresa's mission in Calcutta, and that the last thing she needed if she persisted in her refusal to go to the polo was to know that she had upset her gracious hosts. Making the right professional choice mattered to Princess Diana, which is why she finally agreed to go. The Prince scored three of his winning team's four goals, and his expression said it all. His face was flushed with the glow of victory. By contrast, his wife looked as though she'd rather be anywhere else. During the prize giving ceremony, Princess Diana snubbed her husband as he leaned in to kiss her. Dickie Arbiter recalled: "Prince Charles forgot to kiss wife in front of waiting media, but realised his mistake and hastily returned to kiss her cheek. Incensed, the princess swivelled her head so that the kiss landed near her ear. The crowd, as well as those of us accompanying the royal couple, could only cringe." 

 

Describing that awkward moment, royal correspondent James Whitaker said: "Prince Charles gave his wife a long-awaited kiss and looked as though he'd almost forgotten how to do it. On the eve of St. Valentine's Day, the best that flustered Prince Charles could manage was a peck on Princess Diana's right earlobe! Princess Diana presented her husband with a medal and the chance to give her the kind of smacker that he planted on her lips after a match in Gloucestershire nearly five years ago. That was the last proper kiss the pair shared in public." Royal photographer Jayne Fincher added: "The final public kiss was more like a kiss-off!" When Ken Wharfe, the princess's protection officer, later asked her why she had behaved as she did, Princess Diana replied: "I'm not about to pander to him! Why the bloody hell should I? If he wants to make a fool out of me with that woman, he deserves it. But I am not about to make a fool of myself so that all his friends can laugh at me."

 

Hyderabad: 14 February

 

The trip began with an official visit to Hyderabad Town Hall, where Prince Charles and Princess Diana wore a traditional bindi mark on their forehead and a garland round their necks. It was then followed by a short visit to the famous Qutab Shahi Tombs where the couple recieved a warm welcome and generous gifts. Later on, the princess made two separate engagements. First was to Lallapet High School, then to the Mianpur Old Age Welfare Centre where she met and shook hands with members of India‚Äôs lowest caste known as a the untouchables. The elderly men and women reached out to touch Princess Diana's feet as a sign of respect after the distribution of food and clothes. This visit was considered as a symbolic moment because the untouchables have historically been ostracised from Indian society. 

 

Calcutta: 15 February

 

After Prince Charles had left India separately, Princess Diana planned for one last visit; to Mother Teresa's Hospice For The Sick And Dying. The nuns there welcomed her with several hauntingly lovely songs. The princess had tears in her eyes as she listened, but she was not alone. The entire press corps was moved to tears by the beauty of their voices. Royal photographer Jayne Fincher remembered: "Hardened old hacks from Fleet Street emptied their pockets and gave the sisters all the money they had to continue their wonderful work." Without regard to her pink designer dress, which was covered in dirt from the bare walls, Princess Diana visited every one of the 50 patients, who were close to death. She showed touching compassion by comforting dying men and women, who suffered from Aids. The princess, however, was not able to meet Mother Teresa, but later flew out to Rome to meet her there instead. 

 

The India tour sent out clear smoke signals on the state of the royal marriage, and the royal couple announced their separation nine months later.

 

Sources:

  • Diana: Portrait Of A Princess, By Jayne Fincher. Publication Date: 24 August 1998

  • On Duty With The Queen: My Time As A Buckingham Palace Press Officer, By Dickie Arbiter. Publication Date: 01 October 2014

  • Princess Diana In India: A Look Back At Her Iconic Visit, By Alice Foster. Published In The Express On 11 April 2016