On July 1, the world saw the first glimpse of the statue tribute to Princess Diana erected at Sunken Garden at Kensington Palace. While Diana was beloved by the public, what truly fascinated the world about this unveiling is that it brought Prince Harry back to England.
This meant Harry and William were together in person for the first time since the funeral for Prince Philip. But how do the brothers feel about this statue, and how do they feel about each other after years of tension? Thanks to a lip reader, we now have the answer!
Why the need for a lip reader?
The lip reader in question is Jeremy Freeman. He shared his observations about the event with The Mirror. However, you might be asking a pretty basic question: why must we rely on a lip reader in the first place?
The short answer is that this unveiling was meant to be a relatively private affair. Well, as private as an event involving some of the most famous people in the world could be. That meant the actual unveiling was not televised live, so we are left with limited footage without audio and a handful of photos.
However, thanks to Freeman’s skills as a lip reader, we know a bit more about how William and Harry really feel about the statue of their mother.
How do William and Harry feel about Diana’s statue?
According to Freeman’s statements to The Mirror, Harry’s first reaction upon seeing the statue was, “Wow! Isn’t that amazing.” Harry would go on to repeat “Amazing” while William said, “What a reveal. Okay. Okay.”
Harry also seemed pleased with the garden setting, complete with 4,000 flowers. Perhaps reacting to the sight of his mother’s favorite flowers (forget-me-nots, which is only fitting for someone as beloved in death as Diana), Harry smiled. He then offered a few simple words: “This is spectacular.”
A mixed public reaction
We know now that William and Harry were pleased by the statue of their mother. But how did everyone else feel? As you can imagine, the answer depends on who you ask!
According to The Daily Mail, the public reaction was “mixed.” They report that some onlookers said that the display was “stunning” and even “made them cry.” And royal expert Penny Junor was effusive in praise, saying, “I think it looks stunning. And I love the larger than life size and the fact that she has three children with her. It looks like a magnificent piece of art.”
But as the Daily Mail points out, others were unimpressed by the likeness of Diana’s face or were critical of what she is wearing. “Ok, I’ll be the first to say it,” one critique said. “I’m underwhelmed by the statue. Not a good likeness of Diana and what is she wearing?” It seems that even in death, Princess Diana cannot escape public criticism of her appearance!
Why some people are outraged about the Diana statue
As we noted above, some commentators had very surface-level thoughts about the general aesthetics of the statue. And that meant they were criticizing the stony visage of Diana with all the scrutiny they might apply to someone’s selfies on Instagram.
However, others are angry about the statue because they don’t feel it adequately captures the spirit of Diana herself. Writing for The Guardian, Jonathan Jones called it a “lifeless shrine” and a “spiritless hunk of nonsense.”
Jones claims this is less a Diana tribute and more an example of “mawkish Diana worship.” He negatively compares Diana posing with children to Piero della Francesca’s famous Renaissance painting of the Virgin Mary protecting others with her robe. “She deserves to be remembered,” Jones claims. “But does she need to be turned into a colossal divine protectress of all children?
But is it art?
It’s one thing for Diana’s sons to love the statue and for some of Diana’s biggest fans to hate it. But since the statue is considered a work of art, that leaves us with another question: how does the art world feel about it?
The general reaction seems somewhat mixed and mostly unimpressed. For example, the Telegraph’s art critic Alastair Sooke said the whole thing seemed “kitsch and archaic.” He also claimed, “Frankly, I’m not even sure the face is a convincing likeness.”
Meanwhile, art historian Ruth Millington was mixed when describing the statue to the BBC. Regarding Diana, Millington believes the statue “does her justice.” But for a piece meant to evoke such strong emotions from the public, Millington has to admit that she found “nothing overly sentimental about this statue.”
And in true art world style, some critics have criticized the statue for an unexpected reason: the sculptor! It was sculpted by gifted artist Ian Rank-Broadley, but The Times’ chief art critic Rachel Campbell-Johnston was unimpressed. She wrote, “The chosen sculptor should certainly have been female” and went on to say that “[Diana] should not have been commemorated by one of our nation’s most safely established middle-aged white male artists.”