Prince William and Prince Harry have unveiled a statue of their late mother Princess Diana. The unveiling took place at Sunken Garden at Kensington Palace on Thursday, July 1, on what would have been Diana’s 60th birthday.
The statue was “commissioned [in February 2017] to mark the twentieth anniversary of her death and recognize her positive impact in the UK and around the world,” the palace said in a statement last year. “The Princes hope that the statue will help all those who visit Kensington Palace to reflect on their mother’s life and her legacy.”
There was a lot of buzz leading up to this event, which not only unveiled the statue but also showcased a new look for Sunken Garden. One of Diana’s favorite spots, the garden was redesigned with her in mind, with work beginning in 2019. Over 4,000 individual flowers were planted, including forget-me-nots, Diana’s favorite flower.
Moreover, this event reunited William and Harry reuniting for the first time since Prince Philip’s funeral in April. The brothers’ relationship has been especially strained since Harry and wife Meghan Markle stepped away from their royal duties and left the country in 2020.
What does this event mean for Diana’s legacy, and what does it mean for William and Harry? We’ve got the full story below.
A modest affair
One of the most notable things about Diana’s statue unveiling is just how modest it was. On one hand, this was a major event intended to celebrate one of the most beloved royals in modern history. On the other hand, you could pack the entire guest list into a few spacious cars.
Originally, the event was going to be larger and open to members of the public. But pandemic restrictions cut the guest list dramatically and it was turned into a private, intimate affair.
Still, raising eyebrows, several notable royals were missing from the unveiling. This includes Prince Charles, Kate Middleton, Meghan Markle, and Queen Elizabeth herself.
Instead, the unveiling was attended by Prince William, Prince Harry, and Diana’s siblings: Lady Sarah McCorquodale, Lady Jane Fellowes and Earl Spencer. Also present were the statue’s sculptor Ian Rank-Broadley (best known for sculpting the effigy of Queen Elizabeth that appears on all U.K. coins.), garden designer Pip Morrison, and members of the statue committee.
Why the small guest list? A source told Us Weekly, “The royals wanted to keep it very personal and not have many family members in attendance since that would be a takeaway from the special moment.”
Continuing, the source added, “This wasn’t a last-minute decision; it was decided on a few weeks ago that the other royals wouldn’t be attending. Meghan just had her baby, Kate watched from afar with the kids, and same with the Queen. Charles had said he didn’t want to be a distraction.”
Basically, the more royals who attended, the more the press would focus on them rather than the legacy of Diana.
“The royals will certainly be visiting at a later time,” another insider told Us Weekly. “Out of respect for Harry and William, they wanted it to be just about Diana’s sons and not a huge public affair. Kate was definitely supporting William while physically not being there and really wanted to attend, but the family as a whole decided it was best for the kids and her to stay at home.”
Likewise, Meghan is supporting Harry from afar, as she is busy taking care of their newborn Lilibet “Lili” Diana, who was born on June 4, at their home in Montecito, California.
William and Harry’s joint statement
The event simply consisted of William and Harry pulling a green cloth away that was draped over the statue to unveil it. They admired the statue with one of their aunts for a few moments before rejoining the other guests.
Rather than giving a speech, William and Harry released a joint statement through Buckingham Palace after the event. The statement reads, “Today, on what would have been our Mother’s 60th birthday, we remember her love, strength and character — qualities that made her a force for good around the world, changing countless lives for the better. 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.”
So, why didn’t the brothers give a speech at the unveiling? Likely for the same reason they kept the guest list so small: to avoid courting controversy and detracting from the focus of Diana.
And the design of the statue itself says a lot about Diana’s legacy.
Design of the statue
The statue is made of bronze, and it includes Diana surrounded by three children. She has one hand on a boy’s shoulder. Her other hand is holding that of a girl. And another boy is positioned behind her. The children do not represent anyone in particular. Rather, these symbolic children represent Diana’s commitment to children’s charities and humanitarian work.
The official statement from Kensington Palace echoes this sentiment. It highlights Diana “as an ambassador for humanitarian causes” and hopes the statue will “convey her character and compassion.”
Explaining his decision for including the children in the sculpture, Rank-Broadley said, “I think we felt if the princess stood on her own in solitary fashion she might appear isolated. And one of the things that came across in talking to her friends and family was she was such a friendly and gregarious person, and she had a particular warmth for children. And in many ways it alludes to her humanitarian work and shows she was a great comfort.”
Additionally, the statue is engraved with Diana’s name and a fragment of the poem “The Measure of a Man” (which was read at her 2007 memorial service). The poem excerpt reads as follows: “These are the units to measure the worth / Of this woman as a woman regardless of birth. / Not what was her station? / But had she a heart? / How did she play her God-given part?”
William and Harry reunited
Needless to say, all eyes were on William and Harry during this event. The two have allegedly been clashing since Harry began dating Meghan Markle in 2016. Harry stepping away from royal responsibilities and leaving the country in early 2020 further strained the brothers’ relationship. And Harry and Meghan’s explosive interview with Oprah last March, which put the Royal Family on blast, could have potentially ended their brotherly bond.
However, at the unveiling, the two princes looked surprisingly friendly. Royal expert Kinsey Schofield gave his assessment to The List: “The princes looked comfortable and at ease with one another.” And, in particular, “Prince Harry looked especially joyous.” But Schofield also pointed out the possibility that the brothers wanted to make sure “the day wasn’t hijacked by gossip.”
But what does today’s events mean for William and Harry’s future relationship?
No royal reconciliation?
If you’re rooting for a royal reconciliation, then Harry and William’s happy demeanor may seem like a good sign. But Schofield says we shouldn’t hold our breath about things getting back to normal.
Schofield’s assessment is that while William and Harry have been talking quite a bit while Harry is in the U.K., all the chatter has centered around this unveiling and nothing deeper. And the expert’s final assessment is that while Harry is “eager for a reconciliation,” William “just wants to continue to venture down his own path with his family closely beside him.”
Furthermore, Schofield claims William believes “the only way to protect his family is by distancing himself from his brother’s.” In other words, while the brothers aren’t having explosive fights, it doesn’t look like William wants to mend their fractured relationship anytime soon.