Princes William and Harry made a rare appearance together in London on Thursday to unveil a statue of their mother, Diana, Princess of Wales, on what would have been her 60th birthday.
“Every day, we wish she were still with us, and our hope is that this statue will be seen forever as a symbol of her life and her legacy,” said the princes while unveiling the statue.
The ceremony took place in the private Sunken Garden at Kensington Palace. As well as William and Harry, the small audience included Diana’s siblings, Earl Spencer, Lady Sarah McCorquodale, and Lady Jane Fellowes and those who were involved in creating both the garden and the statue.
Diana, who died in a car crash in Paris in 1997, continues to be a source of fascination decades after her death, especially in the entertainment industry, with multiple feature projects in the works about the iconic royal. Among them is the film “Spencer,” starring Kristen Stewart in the lead role, and Lightbox documentary “Diana,” which will get a theatrical release next year.
Diana also made her first, highly-anticipated appearance in Netflix series “The Crown” last winter, with up-and-coming actor Emma Corrin playing the tragic princess. She will next be portrayed by Elizabeth Debicki in the upcoming season.
Designed by British sculptor Ian Rank-Broadley, who also attended the ceremony today, the statue was first announced in January 2017 with the intention of unveiling it that August, on the 20th anniversary of her death.
As well as the pandemic, a rift between the royal brothers is thought to have caused the delay. In January 2020, Harry and his wife Meghan, the Duchess of Sussex, announced they were taking a “step back” from royal duties and leaving the U.K. — relocating first to Canada and then California, where they have now set up their own production company.
The rift intensified when the Sussexes sought to air their grievances via multiple interviews, in contrast to the strict code of silence that royals usually live by. Among them was an interview with Oprah on CBS, a cameo on “The Late Late Show,” a podcast with Dax Shephard and an Apple TV Plus documentary on mental health, among other appearances. The Royal Family — including Prince William, who is second in line to the throne — hit back via statements to the British press.
So fraught are relations that at their grandfather Prince Philip’s funeral in April, the brothers refused to walk together behind the coffin, with their cousin Peter Phillips walking between them. In May, they also issued separate statements condemning the BBC over its treatment of their mother regarding her infamous Panorama interview with Martin Bashir in 1995, in which she said there were “three people” in her relationship with Prince Charles (referring to Charles’ mistress, now his wife, Camilla Parker-Bowles.)
Royal watchers and palace insiders hope that Thursday’s appearance, for which Prince Harry flew from California for the second time this year, may set forward a path for reconciliation.
Whether they will reconcile with the press any time soon is a different matter, however. Between the brothers’ strong admonishment of the BBC and the breakdown of their own relationship playing out in the global media, tensions between the royals and the press themselves are at an all-time high. (Harry and Meghan have repeatedly blamed the British tabloids for their self-imposed exile to California.)
Which is perhaps why today’s ceremony was held, as much as possible, behind closed doors, with almost the entirety of the press pack relegated to Kensington Gardens, beyond the palace gates, along with members of the public. Only one reporter from the Press Association and a pool camera were permitted to record the statue’s unveiling.