Buckingham Palace did not want Elton John to perform at Princess Diana’s funeral, according to government documents

Elton John singing “Candle in the Wind” at the funeral of Diana, Princess of Wales in1997.Anwar Hussein/Getty Images

  • The palace believed Elton John’s “Candle in the wind” was “too sentimental,” according to reports.

  • A saxophonist was on standby to perform the song if the palace refused to allow John to perform.

  • The Dean of Westminster Abbey wrote a personal note to the palace appealing for John to perform.

Buckingham Palace didn’t want Elton John to perform at Princess Diana’s funeral, according to government documents released by the British national archives this week.

John — who had been close friends with Princess Diana — performed a reworked version of “Candle In The Wind,” a song that was originally written in memory of Marilyn Monroe, at Diana’s funeral in 1997. The singer-songwriter and his longtime lyricist Bernie Taupin changed the first line of the song from “Goodbye Norma Jean” (Monroe’s real name) to “Goodbye England’s rose.”

However, the contents of the archival government documents — which were first reported on by Sky News — state that senior members of the royal household believed the lyrics to “Candle in The Wind” were “too sentimental” for the occasion.

Westminster Abbey — the royal church where Diana’s funeral took place — had a solo saxophonist on standby to perform the song in the event that the palace refused to allow John to perform.

A picture of Elton John arriving at the funeral service of Diana, Princess of Wales in 1997.

Elton John arriving at the funeral service of Diana, Princess of Wales in 1997.Princess Diana Archive/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

In response, the Very Reverend Dr. Wesley Carr, then-Dean of Westminster Abbey, personally appealed to the palace and argued that it would be “imaginative and generous” to the millions feeling “personally bereaved” if John performed.

Sky News reports that in a separate note sent to a “senior member of the royal household,” Carr, who was involved in negotiations over the service between the Palace and Princess Diana’s family, said John’s song had captured the public mood and would be an essential part of the funeral service.

“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.

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

Representatives for Buckingham Palace did not immediately respond to Insider’s comment request.

Later in the note, Carr stated that John’s song had been played “all the time on the radio” following Diana’s death and if the palace deemed the lyrics “too sentimental” they “need not be printed — only sung.”

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

Elton John previously stated he and Bernie Taupin reworked “Candle in the Wind” at the suggestion of Virgin Group business magnate Richard Branson. The song went on to sell 33 million copies worldwide and became the second highest-selling physical single of all time after Bing Crosby’s “White Christmas,” according to The Guardian.

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