William and Harry unveil Diana statue at Kensington Palace

By Caroline Davies

The long-awaited statue of Diana, Princess of Wales was finally unveiled in a scaled-down ceremony on Thursday which saw the dukes of Cambridge and Sussex reunited in tribute to their mother, setting aside their recent differences.

On what would have been Diana’s 60th birthday, the brothers appeared together for the first time since the Duke of Edinburgh’s funeral, after Prince Harry flew in from California for the brief ceremony.

Prince William arrived a few minutes after Harry and the two pulled a cord to unveil a sculpture, cast in bronze, of Diana surrounded by three children, in the Sunken Garden at Kensington Palace, her former home in London.

Covid dictated a limited guest list including Diana’s siblings, Earl Spencer, Lady Sarah McCorquodale and Lady Jane Fellowes, as well as the statue committee and others involved in the installation and the garden design. Prince Charles was absent, as was the Queen.

William and Harry made no speeches during the ceremony. In a brief joint statement, released after the unveiling, they said: “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.”

Prince Harry, left, and Prince William greet their aunts, Sarah McCorquodale, left, and Jane Fellowes, right
Prince Harry, left, and Prince William greet their aunts, Sarah McCorquodale, left, and Jane Fellowes, right. Photograph: Dominic Lipinski/AP

Sculptor Ian Rank-Broadley depicted Diana with short cropped hair, in the later years of her life. Kensington Palace said the statue aims to reflect Diana’s “warmth, elegance and energy”, while three children beside her represent the “universality and generational impact of the princess’s work”.

Rank-Broadley said: “Diana, Princess of Wales was an icon who touched the lives of people right around the world so it has been a privilege to work alongside Prince William and Prince Harry on this statue which commemorates her life.

“We wanted to capture her warmth and humanity while showcasing the impact she had across generations. I hope that people will enjoy visiting the statue and the Sunken Garden, and taking a moment to remember the princess.”

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

Plans for the statue were first announced in 2017, on the 20th anniversary of Diana’s death.

Rank-Broadley said William and Harry had helped with photographs, reminiscences and anecdotes about their mother, which he drew upon as they visited his studio on a regular basis. Describing it as a “collaborative effort”, he said he had paid “the greatest heed to both princes in what they had to say”, and he hoped the statue might provide some “solace” for them.

The princes’ outward show of unity comes amid a troubled relationship between the brothers since Harry decamped to America, from where he and his wife, Meghan, have criticised the royal family and the institution, including with claims of racism.

Harry had travelled from his home in California while Meghan remained in the US with their two children, Archie, two, and newborn Lilibet, whose middle name, Diana, honours the late princess.

Crowds gathered outside Kensington Palace, with fans of Diana pinning flowers and photographs to the gates.

The statue can be seen by members of the public during the opening hours of Kensington Palace.