The Duke of Cambridge and the Duke of Sussex have jointly paid tribute to their mother Diana, Princess of Wales, saying “every day, we wish she were still with us” as they reunited for the unveiling of her long-awaited statue.
In the shadow of their mother’s likeness cast in bronze, William and Harry – divided on many issues – put on a united front.
In a statement released after the brief ceremony, the brothers 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.”
With Diana’s siblings watching, William and Harry pulled away a green cloth covering the monument which will forever remind visitors to her former home of Kensington Palace about its most famous resident.
They stood either side of the statue looking at the memorial, with Harry resting his hands on his hips.
William and Harry, who looked smart in dark suits with ties, arrived a few minutes early for the unveiling and stopped in a shrub-lined path outside the garden to chat to the chairman of the statue committee Jamie Lowther-Pinkerton.
The troubled relationship of the royal brothers has made headlines around the world but as they entered the garden where the statue is positioned they mirrored each other, walking with their left hands touching their stomachs.
Harry let out a laugh of appreciation when he saw his mother’s siblings and older brother William, who was a step ahead, greeted Lady Sarah McCorquodale kissing her on both cheeks and went on to warmly welcome his aunt Lady Jane Fellowes and uncle Earl Spencer.
William and Harry appeared in good spirits throughout the event, laughing and joking with their guests and appearing at ease in each other’s company.
The figure of the princess, who would have celebrated her 60th birthday on Thursday, is surrounded by three children and depicts 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 the children represent the “universality and generational impact of the princess’s work”.
It added: “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.”
The royal brothers made no speeches during the ceremony, with the statue standing as their testimony to their mother.
Sculptor Ian Rank-Broadley’s artwork was erected in the palace’s Sunken Garden, one of the places Diana loved most at the Palace.
Mr Rank-Broadley said afterwards that he hoped the statue might provide some “solace” for the two brothers.
“I think that their mother is there in a real physical sense, perhaps in the evening when the grounds are shut they could easily come here for a moment of quiet reflection and I hope that will give them some sort of comfort or solace,” he said.
He explained that William and Harry had shared poignant private moments of fun and joy from their time with their late mother when they collaborated with him on the piece.
“They made a huge contribution, in many ways I could say the sculpture belongs to them as well – they helped make it,” Mr Rank-Broadley said.
He added: “They described their mother and in many ways there were private moments that were related – one certainly got the feeling she was an enormous amount of fun and (loved) playing jokes.”
The Sunken Garden has been redesigned during the past two years and features more than 4,000 individual flowers, including forget-me-nots which were adored by the princess.
Graham Dillamore, deputy head of gardens and estates at Historic Royal Palaces, said William and Harry jointly revealing the statue was a symbol of “unity”.
Mr Dillamore, who worked as head gardener at Kensington Palace when Diana lived there and part project-managed the new redesign, said: “I think it was just an incredible moment when they pulled that cord off the statue to reveal such a wonderful thing – there was a great, I thought, unity there.”
He recounted stories of the princess singing Abba songs and jogging past garden staff, saying he had one wish of the monument: “I hope she likes it.”
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?'”
Covid restrictions had reduced the number of guests to just 14 and most were gathered between the garden’s side entrance and the statue, erected at the end of a large rectangle ornamental pond.
Members of the statue committee who were tasked in 2017 with commissioning and privately raising funds for the creation of the statue stood nearby.
Harry and William chatted informally with the guests, who included the Sunken Garden’s designer Pip Morrison, Kensington Palace head gardener Gary James, and Mr Dillamore.
Mr Rank-Broadley’s wife Hazel was an additional guest to the confirmed list, bringing the total to 14, not including William and Harry.
In their statement afterwards, William and Harry added: “Thank you to Ian Rank-Broadley, Pip Morrison and their teams for their outstanding work, to the friends and donors who helped make this happen, and to all those around the world who keep our mother’s memory alive.”