William and Harry stand shoulder to shoulder to unveil statue of Diana

Princes pay tribute to their late mother on what would have been her 60th birthday

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The Dukes of Cambridge and Sussex put their differences aside to unveil a statue of their late mother, Diana, Princess of Wales, on what would have been her 60th birthday.

The pair were seen smiling, standing shoulder to shoulder, as they revealed the statue at a small ceremony in the Sunken Garden at Kensington Palace in central London.

"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", William and Harry said in a joint statement.

"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."

The pair have been at odds since Harry and his wife Meghan chose to leave the royal family. The brothers have seen each other only once - at their grandfather Prince Philip's funeral - since Harry's devastating TV interview with Oprah Winfrey in which allegations of racism in the royal family were aired amid general criticism of his upbringing and the pressures he and Meghan faced.

The bronze statue, made by Ian Rank-Broadley, shows the late princess with three children she met during her humanitarian work. Her hands are gently placed on the shoulders of two of the children – a boy and a girl. The girl is holding Diana's hand.

The statue was commissioned by the brothers in 2017 to memorialise their mother and mark the 20th anniversary of her death.

Kensington Palace said the statue reflects Diana’s “warmth, elegance and energy”, while the children represent the “universality and generational impact of the princess’s work”.

"The portrait and style of dress was based on the final period of her life as she gained confidence in her role as an ambassador for humanitarian causes and aims to convey her character and compassion", a palace statement said.

Beneath the statue is a plinth engraved with Diana's name and the date of the unveiling.

In front of the statue is a paving stone engraved with an extract inspired by The Measure of A Man poem: "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?”

The Sunken Garden, one of Diana's favourite places when she lived in the palace, has been redesigned and now features more than 4,000 flowers, including forget-me-nots which were adored by the princess.

The royal brothers made no speeches during the ceremony.

With Diana’s siblings watching, William and Harry pulled away a green cloth covering the monument. They stood either side of the statue looking at the memorial, with Harry resting his hands on his hips.

The princes, who wore dark suits with ties, arrived a few minutes early for the ceremony and stopped in a shrub-lined path outside the garden to chat to the chairman of the statue committee, Jamie Lowther-Pinkerton.

They also spoke with their mother's siblings, Lady Sarah McCorquodale, Lady Jane Fellowes and Earl Spencer. William and Harry appeared in good spirits throughout the event, laughing and sharing jokes with their guests.

Rank-Broadley, whose portrait of Queen Elizabeth II features on the back of British coins, said it was a privilege to work on the Diana statue.

“We wanted to capture her warmth and humanity while showcasing the impact she had across generations", he said.

"I hope that people will enjoy visiting the statue and the Sunken Garden, and taking a moment to remember the princess."

Thursday's ceremony was the first public event the brothers have attended since the death of the Duke of Edinburgh in April.

Harry, who lives in California with his wife, the Duchess of Sussex, and their two children, arrived in the UK last week to complete mandatory quarantine ahead of the ceremony.

Who attended the ceremony?

There were just a handful of guests at the unveiling of the statue - including William, Harry, Diana's two sisters, her brother, members of the statue committee and Rank-Broadley.

Jamie Lowther-Pinkerton, the former SAS major who served as William and Harry's most senior aide for eight years, was chairman of the committee.

Also on the committee was Historic Royal Palaces’ chief executive John Barnes, gallery owner Gerry Farrell and financier Guy Monson.

Garden designer Pip Morrison and fellow gardener Gary James were present, as was one of Diana's best friends, Julia Samuel.

Feuding brothers

The unveiling of the statue comes at a difficult time for the royal family.

This year, William was forced to defend the monarchy after accusations of racism and insensitivity made by Harry and Meghan.

The death of Prince Philip appeared to do little to mend the rift, with Harry telling Oprah Winfrey in May his pleas for help while in poor mental health were met with “total silence or total neglect”.

Richard Fitzwilliams, royal commentator and former editor of The International Who’s Who, told The National ahead of the unveiling that the meeting of the two brothers was unlikely to heal the rift between them.

"There are hurt feelings on both sides", he said.

“It’s important that anything said doesn’t get into the media, otherwise, no one will say anything that’s meaningful. It’s very, very important to stress that what’s happened is a tragedy between the brothers and for the royal family.”

Robert Lacey, a historian and author of Battle of Brothers: William, Harry and the Inside Story of a Family in Tumult, said people shouldn’t expect a quick resolution of the conflict because the men are fighting over core beliefs.

“It’s a matter of love versus duty, with William standing for duty and the concept of the monarchy as he sees it”, he said. “And then, from Harry’s point of view, love, loyalty to his wife. He is standing by her. These are very deeply rooted differences, so it would be facile to think that there can just be a click of the fingers.”

Updated: July 01, 2021, 4:05 PM