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The death of Diana, Princess of Wales in a car accident at the Pont de l'Alma Tunnel, Paris, on 30 August 1997, was an event that transformed the United Kingdom's perception of the Monarchy. HM The Queen, previously a very popular monarch, appeared remote and overly-formal; people lambasted The Prince of Wales for the "way he treated Diana". But more than anything, the Nation mourned like it had never mourned before.

I remember with clarity the day in question - one of those, "you'll always remember where you were when..." moments. In particular, I remember how TV schedules were wiped totally in favour of sombre, reflective programmes about the late Princess's life. I recall that initially the only other programmes being shown were children's programmes on BBC2.

During this first day of shock, something odd happened. Several producers selected the same piece of music for their programmes' credits - Elton John's 1979 hit song about Marilyn Monroe, Candle in the Wind. It seemed to be the most fitting piece of music lyrically, and its combination of uplifting and mournful sounds seemed to suit the occasion. This coincidence was seized upon by the media, and people started to clamour for Elton John to release a new version of the song to reflect the loss of Britain's "Queen of Hearts". He was, after all, a close friend of Diana, who had supported him when he wept at the funeral of their mutual friend, Gianni Versace, only just over a month before Princess Diana met her own untimely demise. Initially, Elton John refused, but after sustained pressure and encouragement from Sir Richard Branson he relented and, with his long-time songwriter Bernie Taupin, set about rewriting the original song to reflect the tragedy.

When the day of the funeral, 6 September 1997, came, an estimated 2.5 billion people worldwide tuned in to see the pomp and splendour that typifies British state ceremonials. They saw millions of people in Britain in tears, an unprecedented act of national grief. And, in what was to be a defining moment of the funeral, they saw Elton John take to the piano in Westminster Abbey, mid-way through the funeral, to perform Candle in the Wind 1997. It was to be the first and last ever live performance of the song; when asked if he would play it at a concert in the US later in 1997, John replied, "absolutely not. The only way I'll ever sing it again is if the children [Princes William and Harry] ask me - otherwise it would be totally inappropriate." John performed flawlessly, despite his own feelings of loss and grief - not a note dropped, not a word faltered - or not as far as the audience was aware. Shortly after the funeral, he said in an interview: "When I started singing and playing, I suddenly realized this was it. At the beginning of the last verse, my voice cracked. I was really chock full of emotion and I had to close my eyes and grit my teeth and get through it."

Immediately following the funeral, Elton John travelled to a recording studio and under the direction of the Beatles producer Sir George Martin recorded Candle in the Wind 1997 with the addition of a flute and two violins. This was duly released with the song Something About the Way You Look Tonight as a B-side, and released on the world music market. All proceeds were to be given directly to the Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial Fund, with Elton John predicting as much as $16 million in world takings. Actually, the single sold over 35 million copies worldwide - according to the Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial Fund the single has raised over £38 million ($57 million). It became the fastest-selling single in history, entering the US and British charts at No 1.

Some time after this success, Elton John was knighted by HM The Queen for services to music and charity. In an interview concerning the funeral, Sir Elton remarked: "I felt very much like a representative at that moment. It was an honour just to be invited to the funeral, but to also be able to sing that song. It's probably the biggest honour of my life. I don't think anything will ever match it for me."

Candle in the Wind 1997

In memory of Diana, Princess of Wales, 1961-1997

Bernie Taupin and Elton John

Goodbye England's rose,
May you ever grow in our hearts,
You had the grace to place yourself
Where lives were torn apart;
You called out to your country,
And you whispered to those in pain,
Now you belong in Heaven
And the stars spell out your name.

And it seems to me you lived your life
Like a Candle in the Wind;
Never fading with the sunset
When the rain set in.
And your footsteps will ever fall here,
Along England's greenest hills;
Your candle burned out long before
Your legend ever will.

Loveliness we've lost,
Those empty days without your smile
This torch we'll always carry
For our Nation's golden child.
And even though we try,
The truth brings us to tears;
All our words cannot express
The joy you brought us through the years.

And it seems to me you lived your life
Like a Candle in the Wind;
Never fading with the sunset
When the rain set in.
And your footsteps will ever fall here,
Along England's greenest hills;
Your candle burned out long before
Your legend ever will.

Goodbye England's rose,
May you ever grow in our hearts,
You had the grace to place yourself
Where lives were torn apart;
Goodbye England's rose
From a country lost without your smile
Who'll miss the wings of your compassion
More than you will ever know.

And it seems to me you lived your life
Like a Candle in the Wind;
Never fading with the sunset
When the rain set in.
And your footsteps will ever fall here,
Along England's greenest hills;
Your candle burned out long before
Your legend ever will.

Your footsteps will ever fall here,
Along England's greenest hills;
Your candle burned out long before
Your legend ever will.

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