Royal family didn’t want Elton John’s moving performance at Princess Diana’s funeral

Sir Elton John sings "Candle In The Wind" at the funeral of Diana, Princess of Wales on 6 September, 1997

The royal family opposed Elton John’s moving performance of “Candle in the Wind” at Princess Diana’s funeral, new documents have revealed.

John reworked his song “Candle in the Wind” – originally written for Marilyn Monroe – for Diana after her death in 1997, and his performance proved to be one of the most distinctive parts of her funeral at Westminster Abbey.

But newly released papers from the National Archives show that the palace believed the song to be “too sentimental”, according to Sky News.

The royals’ resistance was so great that Westminster Abbey even had a saxophonist on call to take over, just in case they refused to allow John, a friend of Princess Diana’s, to perform.

The Very Rev Dr Wesley Carr, dean of Westminster at the time, wrote to the palace to convince them that the performance should go ahead.

He told the royals, who were facing criticism at the time for their quiet response to Diana’s death: “This is a crucial point in the service and we would urge boldness. It is where the unexpected happens and something of the modern world that the princess represented.

“I respectfully suggest that anything classical or choral (even a popular classic such as something by Lloyd Webber) is inappropriate.

“Better would be the enclosed song by Elton John (known to millions and his music was enjoyed by the princess), which would be powerful.

“He has written new words to the tune which is being widely played and sung throughout the nation in memorial to Diana. It is all the time on the radio.

“Its use here would be imaginative and generous to the millions who are feeling personally bereaved: it is popular culture at its best.”

Touching on the royal family’s criticism of the song, he added: “If it were thought the words too sentimental (although that is by no means a bad thing given the national mood), they need not be printed – only sung.

“I would be prepared to discuss the significance of this suggestion over the phone with anyone.”

The performance went ahead, but an early draft of the order of service for the funeral shows that organisers wrote that John would be performing “Your Song”, misprinting it as “Our Song”.

Prince Harry has followed in his mother’s footsteps, working with Elton John to fight AIDS

Princess Diana was crucial in humanising queer men during the AIDS crisis, making many visits to those with HIV officially and unofficially, and famously shaking hands with a patient at the height of the stigma and hysteria surrounding the epidemic.

Her son, Prince Harry, has followed in her footsteps, and made HIV/ AIDS one of his most important campaigning issues. 

In 2018, he joined forces with Elton John to launch the MenStar coalition, which includes the Children’s Investment Fund Foundation, the Elton John AIDS Foundation, Gilead Sciences, Johnson & Johnson, PEPFAR, The Global Fund and Unitaid, and works to end AIDS globally.