Is there such a thing as “too sentimental” at a funeral?
Apparently, the royal family thinks so.
British National Archives documents released this week revealed the palace staff originally wanted to reject Elton John as the performer for Princess Diana’s funeral, claiming the song he chose was “too sentimental,” Sky News reported.
As a close friend of the late princess, John reworked the song “Candle in the Wind” for the service in 1997.
Songwriter and lyricist Bernie Taupin rewrote the first line of the tribute, originally about Marilyn Monroe. He changed “Goodbye Norma Jean,” Monroe’s legal name, to “Goodbye England’s rose,” a nod to Diana.
Westminster Abbey, where the funeral took place, had a saxophone player on standby in the event John’s performance was cancelled.
The then-dean of Westminster Abbey, Very Reverend Dr. Wesley Carr, appealed to the royal family, saying it would be “imaginative and generous” to the millions of people who felt “personally bereaved.”
“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,” Carr wrote in a letter to senior official Lieutenant Colonel Malcolm Ross.
He continued, “Anything classical or choral” would be deemed “inappropriate,” and that songs by John would be “powerful.”
Being “too sentimental,” he added, was not a “bad thing given the national mood,” but suggested that the song not be printed, only sung, if that were a concern.
“It is popular culture at its best,” he wrote of John’s music.
In the archival notes, John’s songs were described as “a different style of music, popular and associated with the princess.”
Diana was 36 when she was killed Aug. 31, 1997 in a car crash while being chased by paparazzi in Paris. Her wealthy Egyptian boyfriend Dodi Fayed and the couple’s driver, Henri Paul, also died.