Princes William and Harry put aside their differences on Thursday to unveil a statue of Princess Diana, cementing their late mother’s place in royal history on what would have been her 60th birthday.
Diana’s three siblings joined the brothers for the private ceremony in Sunken Garden at Kensington Palace in London, a place where the princess has already found solace. This was only the second time the brothers have appeared together in public since Harry left royal duties over a year ago.
The statue, which shows a larger-than-life Diana surrounded by three children, was commissioned by the brothers in 2017. The style of her dress is believed to evoke the last period of her life, when she gained confidence in her humanitarian work .
“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 in the whole world, improving countless lives, ”William and Harry said in a joint statement. . “Every day we want her to be always with us, and our hope is that this statue will be seen as a symbol of her life and legacy forever. “
The statue is “extremely important” because it highlights the efforts of the brothers to represent Diana as someone who connected with the people and modernized the monarchy, said Robert Lacey, historian and author of “Battle of Brothers: William , Harry and the Inside Story ”. of a family in turmoil. The traditionalists had criticized him for having undermined centuries of tradition.
“Statues aren’t popular or trendy or even politically correct things these days,” Lacey said. “So the fact that once rebellious Diana, the royal outcast, is brought up with her own pedestal and her own position says a lot about how the British monarchy is evolving and will continue to move forward. “
Royal watchers who hoped the unveiling ceremony would provide some insight into the state of the strained relationship between William and Harry were likely disappointed. A video released after the event showed the brothers entering the garden together before speaking with family members, then pulling two ropes to remove the statue’s cover.
In their only other recent appearance together, the couple appeared to have a friendly chat after the funeral of their grandfather, Prince Philip. But subsequent reports indicated that there was little progress in mitigating the fracture.
Ties between the brothers have been painfully strained in recent months, with William defending the royal family against allegations of racism and callousness made by Harry and his wife, Meghan, from their new home in Southern California.
Harry stepped down from royal duties last year and moved his family to the United States in search of a more peaceful existence that he could better control. William continued with his royal life and the endless demands that come with his role as second in line for the throne.
The relationship became more strained in March when Harry and Meghan gave an interview to American talk show host Oprah Winfrey.
Harry confirmed rumors that he and his brother had drifted apart, saying “the relationship is ‘space’ at the moment” – although he added that “time heals all things hopefully” . Harry also told Winfrey that his father, Prince Charles, had not accepted his calls for a while.
The couple revealed that before the birth of their first child, an unidentified member of the royal family expressed concern over the color of his skin. A few days after the broadcast, William responded to questions posed by reporters, saying it was “not a racist family.”
But the memory of Diana is something that continues to unite the princes.
William and Harry both seek to control how their mother is portrayed, highlighting her philanthropy and shared touch while downplaying controversy, said historian Ed Owens, author of The Family Firm: Monarchy, Mass Media and the British Public 1932-1953 ”, which examines the royal family’s public relations strategy.
“I think they both share a… common vision for Diana that they both seek to promote,” Owens said. “The re-imagination of Diana that is currently taking place via the princes is quite complementary. And I think for Thursday’s sake the past will be over. “
Those touched by the life of the preschool teacher-turned-princess remember her before her birthday, remembering the complicated royal rebel who left a lasting mark on the house of Windsor.
Not far from the new statue, Diana fan Abdul Daoud enshrined the memory of the princess in his Diana café, which opened in 1989.
The walls of the cafe groan with pictures of Diana. There she meets Mother Teresa. Or holding flowers. Or in a tiara.
Daoud wants people to remember the beauty and cuteness of the princess, who would come for a cappuccino.
Realizing that Diana loved lilies, Daoud would send her flowers to mark her birthday. One of her proudest possessions is a thank you letter she once sent him.
These days he’s celebrating his birthday in his own way, going to Kensington Palace to lay lilies at the gates of his old home.
“It is my duty – my duty to always carry on his legacy,” Daoud said of his good works and kindness. “I want to help people remember her in the best way – as I remembered her. “
Our Morning Update and Evening Update bulletins are written by the editors of The Globe, giving you a concise summary of the day’s most important headlines. register today.