London luxury department store Harrods is removing a statue of the late Princess Diana and her boyfriend Dodi Al Fayed, in what is being seen as an attempt by its Qatari owners to entice the British royals back through its doors.
The statue will be returned to the Knightsbridge store’s former owner and father of Dodi, Mohamed Al Fayed, who commissioned the memorial after the couple were killed in a Paris car crash in 1997.
Mr Al Fayed sold Harrods to the Qatari royal family in 2010 for a reported £1.5 billion.
The three-metre high bronze statue, entitled ‘Innocent Victims’, shows Diana and Dodi holding hands and releasing a bird.
The store’s managing director, Michael Ward, said on Saturday that it was now time to return the statue to the Egyptian tycoon, given Diana's sons Princes William and Harry are commissioning their own statue to their mother at Kensington Palace.
But The Telegraph reported that the decision is part of a wider plan by the new Qatari owners to win back the British Royal Family's patronage of the popular central London site.
The royals stopped shopping at the store after Mr Al Fayed, 88, accused the Duke of Edinburgh of masterminding the death of Diana and his son.
Harrods lost its royal warrant in 2000, thanks to a "significant decline in the trading relationship over several years."
It had previously held continuous royal warrants since 1913.
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The Queen had also dropped Harrods as her provider of Christmas puddings in favour of Tesco.
Mr Al Fayed retaliated by ordering all remaining royal warrants to be taken down from the facade of Harrods and burned, describing them as a “curse” on the store.
While the controversial statue remained in place, there had been little chance that Harrods would regain the favour of the British royals.
With its removal, the Qatari royal family are hoping that Harrods can once again become a preferred shopping venue for the royals, according sources cited by The Telegraph.
Mr Ward said “the time was right” to take down the shrine.
“We are very proud to have played our role in celebrating the lives of Diana, Princess of Wales, and Dodi Al Fayed at Harrods and to have welcomed people from around the world to visit the memorial for the past 20 years," he said.
"With the announcement of the new official memorial statue to Diana, Princess of Wales at Kensington Palace, we feel that the time is right to return this memorial to Mr Al Fayed and for the public to be invited to pay their respects at the palace."
A spokesman for the Al Fayed family told The Times it was "grateful" to Qatar Holdings for preserving the memorial of the couple, adding: "It is now time to bring them home."