Is it possible to be “too sentimental” at a funeral? Apparently, Buckingham Palace agrees that it is.
According to documents from the British National Archives, the Buckingham Palace staff wanted to reject Elton John as the performer for Princess Diana’s funeral because the song he chose was “too sentimental.”
In 1997, Elton John, who was a close friend of the late Princess Diana, reworked the song “Candle in the Wind” for the service.
Bernie Taupin rewrote the first line of the tribute, which was originally about Marilyn Monroe. In a nod to Diana, he changed “Goodbye Norma Jean” to “Goodbye England’s Rose.”
In the event that John’s performance had to be canceled, Westminster Abbey, where the funeral was held, had a saxophone player on standby.
Very Rev. Dr. Wesley Carr, then-dean of Westminster Abbey, 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 Anything classical or choral” would be deemed “inappropriate,” and that songs by John would be “powerful,” Carr wrote in a letter to the senior official Lt. Col. Malcolm Ross.
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 was a concern.
“It is popular culture at its best,” he wrote of John’s music.
John’s songs were described in the archival notes as “a different style of music, popular and associated with the princess.”
Princess Diana was 36 years old when she died in a car accident while being chased by paparazzi in Paris, France on August 31, 1997. Dodi Fayed, her wealthy Egyptian boyfriend, and the couple’s driver, Henri Paul, were also killed.