Monday, December 11

Prince William and Kate join Indian celebrities at charity gala



The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge arrive at a Bollywood Charity Gala hosted by the British High Commission and the British Asian Trust at the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel.

The couple arrived in Mumbai, India, on April 10 as they began their seven-day tour of India and Bhutan. The royal couple’s itinerary includes several events in Mumbai and Delhi, followed by a trip to Kaziranga Wildlife Sanctuary in Assam, a two-day trip to Bhutan and finally, a visit to the Taj Mahal in Agra, India.

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge were joined by some of India’s biggest film stars, sporting heroes and business people for a charity gala at the Taj Mahal Palace hotel in Mumbai, which wrapped up the first day of their tour of India and Bhutan.

Bollywood stars Shahrukh Khan and Aishwarya Rai and cricket legend Sachin Tendulkar were among those who joined Will and Kate at the fundraising event at the end of their first day in India on Sunday. Proceeds from the gala will support three children’s charities, Magic Bus, ChildLine and Doorstep.

According to reports, the couple turned down an invitation to stay in a £9,500-a night Tata suite, as the company is preparing to withdraw its UK steel operations, putting thousands of British jobs at risk. The gala, which is being held at the Tata-owned hotel, will not be attended by Tata chairman Cyrus Mistry or members of the Tata family. The Guardian made attempts to contact the Taj, but has not been able to confirm reports independently.

The trip is one of few foreign royal engagements this year. According to the palace press team, Will and Kate have wanted to come to India since they married five years ago.

The pair will spend a week touring India. On the last day of the trip, they will visit the Taj Mahal, where Princess Diana was famously photographed on a solo trip to the country in 1992.

The trip to the Taj Mahal has also caused controversy in the country, after a report in the Times of India said that officials had asked for scaffolding at the monument to be taken down ahead of the royal visit, so the couple could have their picture taken in front of it.

Taking down the scaffolding, according to conservationists would undo months of work at the monument. The Foreign Office has denied that any such request was made.

According to a statement, William “feels incredibly lucky to visit a place where his mother’s memory is kept alive by so many who travel there”.

The pair arrived in Mumbai on Sunday morning, and have spent their first day touring the city’s slums and playing cricket and football with underprivileged children from the area. They visited the Oval Maidan – a recreational ground in the south of the city – and the historic Banganga water tank.

They are staying at the Taj Mahal Palace hotel, which was the scene of a deadly terrorist attack in 2008, claiming the lives of 166 people. Police were on high terror alert ahead of their visit.

The hotel overlooks the Gateway of India, which was built to commemorate the visit of Prince William’s great-grandparents, King George V and Queen Mary to Mumbai in 1911, when India was part of the British raj.

On Monday, the pair will travel to Delhi, where they will pay respects to the 70,000 Indian soldiers who fought for Britain in the first world war and meet with Indian prime minister Narendra Modi. They will celebrate the Queen’s birthday at an event in the Indian capital.

They will also tour the Kaziranga national park, home of the endangered one-horned rhino and meet wildlife rangers who defend them from poachers.

In Bhutan, the couple will be received by national musicians and have a private dinner at Lingkana palace hosted by the king and queen of Bhutan. They will also watch an archery competition.