British princes unveil Diana statue as royal rift simmers

William and Harry meet for a ceremony in central London after months of friction caused by royal family rows.

The statue in honour of Diana was revealed in the Sunken Garden of London's Kensington Palace, her former home [Dominic Lipinski/Pool via Reuters]

British Princes William and Harry have unveiled a statue honouring their late mother Princess Diana on what would have been her 60th birthday.

The work by sculptor Ian Rank-Broadley, a figure of Diana standing between a boy and girl, was revealed on Thursday in the Sunken Garden of Kensington Palace in central London, her former home.

It is the second memorial to Diana in London, after a 210-metre (689-foot) long fountain was unveiled in Hyde Park in 2004 after years of bureaucratic wrangling and squabbling over the design.

“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 brothers said in a statement.

“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.”

The brothers last saw each other in April at the funeral of their grandfather Prince Philip [Dominic Lipinski/Pool via Reuters]

William, 39, and Harry, 36, were joined by their mother’s brother Charles Spencer and her sisters Sarah McCorquodale and Jane Fellowes for the small, private event at the Sunken Garden, one of Diana’s favourite places.

Images of the ceremony were published on social media shortly after the statue was unveiled.

The buildup to Thursday’s event was the subject of intense media focus, with the brothers said to have barely spoken to each other in recent months after a public falling out.

Royal commentator Penny Junor told Reuters prior to the ceremony she thought it would be “very awkward” between the pair.

“They will put on a show because the cameras will be there, but neither of them is very good at hiding their emotions,” she said.

William was 15 and Harry 12 when the limousine carrying their mother and her partner Dodi al-Fayed crashed in a tunnel in Paris as it sped away from chasing photographers.

Diana became a household name around the world after her marriage to heir to the throne Prince Charles in 1981.

The subsequent collapse of their relationship was played out in the full glare of the media spotlight, further captivating the public.

Almost a quarter of a century since the fatal crash, her life and death are still a regular feature in British newspapers.

Diana became a household name around the world after her marriage to heir to the throne Prince Charles in 1981 [File: Kevin Lamarque/Reuters]

William and Harry have spoken of the deep trauma the loss caused, and how it affected their mental health for years afterwards.

In 2017, they commissioned the statue to mark her legacy and life, eventually selecting Rank-Broadley, whose effigy of Queen Elizabeth II has been used on British and Commonwealth coinage, as its designer.

Royal rift

William now lives with his family at Kensington Palace.

Harry also used to live at the site, but his home is now in California after he and his American wife Meghan Markle stepped down from official royal duties last year.

He has since openly criticised royal institutions.

In an interview with chat show host Oprah Winfrey, he and Meghan accused an unnamed royal family member of racism, a claim media reports say infuriated his brother.

The brothers last saw each other in April at the funeral of their grandfather Prince Philip, the queen’s husband of more than 70 years.

Charles Spencer, brother of Diana, attended Thursday’s ceremony [John Sibley/Reuters]​

Thursday’s event marks their second public meeting since Harry and Meghan stepped away from royal duties.

Finding some sort of rapprochement between the princes is crucial to the monarchy as Britain’s royal family seeks to appeal to a younger generation and a more diverse population.

William and Harry – and, it has been reported, Meghan – are expected to meet again in June next year for celebrations of their grandmother’s 70 years as queen.

Source: News Agencies