Sir Elton John singing Candle in the wind remains one of the most unforgettable moments at Princess Diana’s funeral in 1997. Newly released documents however suggest that if the Royal family had had their way, that iconic performance would have never happened. 

Princess Diana had died in a car crash in Paris on August 31, 1997. Known as the ‘people’s Princess’, Diana’s death was mourned by millions of her fans and admirers around the world. She remains an icon to many LGBTQI people for being an outspoken ally and embracing of HIV/AIDS causes.

Sir Elton was one of Princess Diana’s closest friends and his song at the funeral had been the catharsis that the millions who watched the televised funeral around the world needed to deal with their grief.

Sir Elton had first met Princess Diana at Prince Andrew’s birthday in 1981, where the singer was performing. They bonded over the Charleston dance. “I loved her because she did so much for AIDS and she was a great friend to me,” Elton had said in one interview.

Royal Family Dismissed Song As ‘Too Sentimental’

Bernie Taupin, Elton’s lyricist had reworked Candle in the wind – originally written for Marlyn Monroe – with new lyrics for Princess Diana and retitled it England’s Rose. The Royal family, new documents reveal, were opposed to Elton singing the song at the funeral, saying it was “too sentimental”.



SkyNews reported that Westminster Abbey had a saxophonist on standby if the Royals refused to allow Elton to sing at the funeral.

The Dean of Westminster Very Rev Dr Wesley Carr sent a personal plea to the Royal Family, the documents revealed. Dr Carr said that allowing Sir Elton to perform would be an “imaginative and generous” gesture to the public, who had criticised the Royal Family’s perceived indifference after Princess 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,” he wrote.



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“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.”

‘Generous To The Millions Personally Bereaved’


Princess Diana and Sir John Elton

Dr Carr said that the song was already being played all the time on radio. “He has written new words to the tune which is being widely played and sung throughout the nation in memorial to Diana.”

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

Dr Carr added that if the Royal Family felt that the lyrics were too sentimental “(although that is by no means a bad thing given the national mood), they need not be printed – only sung.”

Dr Carr offered to speak to anyone on the phone on the significance of retaining Sir Elton’s song. There are no records of any response or if Dr Carr’s offer had been taken up.

Sir Elton’s song remains one of the most memorable moments of the funeral and gave a voice to the grief of a nation. The track went on to sell over 33 million copies around the world. 



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