LONDON – Bound by childhood grief, separated by adult feuds, Prince William and Prince Harry meet briefly on Thursday to unveil a statue of their mother, Diana, Princess of Wales, on the occasion of what would have been his 60th birthday.
For a few fleeting minutes in Kensington Palace’s Sunken Garden, the two brothers will likely set aside a season of acrimony – the anguished accusations and furious denials of racism and callous treatment – to pay tribute to a woman whose sudden death 24 years ago, she put an end to her own turbulent history within the royal family.
But this is not a cathartic reconciliation: William and Harry, by all accounts, are still barely on good terms.
The older brother, William, say royal watchers, is still deeply saddened by his younger brother, Harry, for a series of interviews in which he and his wife, Meghan, have described royal life as a sort of golden prison and have said family members were backslid. opinions on mental health and race issues.
“It’s going to take a long time for this flaw to heal,” said Penny Junor, author of several books on the royal family. “The initiative has to come from Harry, and I don’t think he’s in the mood for it.”
Yet on Thursday, the brothers will strive to present a united front by participating in an intimate ceremony to dedicate the statue, which evokes Diana in a more carefree era, as well as the redesigned garden, planted with a riot of oblivion. me-nots, sweet peas, tulips, roses and other flowers she loved.
The Sunken Garden, below the royal apartment where she lived, was a refuge for Diana, according to officials at Buckingham Palace. She performed there often with William and Harry, who then had their own quarters at Kensington Palace, before Harry abruptly announced in 2020 that he and Meghan, a former mixed-race American actress, would be stepping down from their official duties and would leave Great Britain.
The couple moved to Montecito, California, where Meghan recently gave birth to their second child, Lilibet Diana, whose name honors both Harry’s mother and his grandmother, Queen Elizabeth II (his childhood nickname was Lilibet). Meghan did not travel to London for the unveiling and Harry was not supposed to stay long after the 30-minute ceremony.
Harry and William were last reunited in April at the funeral of the Queen’s husband Prince Philip, walking behind their grandfather’s coffin just as they had walked together as young boys behind the funeral procession of their mother. This time, one of their cousins walked conspicuously between them.
As William and Harry left the service in St. George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle, the British press scrutinized their body language for evidence they had broken the ice. Other than a few words and cursory glances, there were few signs of a thaw, and Harry quickly returned to California.
The brothers managed to stay on the same page by denouncing the BBC last month after the results of an internal investigation were published into a sensational 1995 interview Diana gave to journalist Martin Bashir. He concluded that Mr Bashir had used deceptive means to secure the interview, in which Diana spoke of the adultery which destroyed her marriage to Prince Charles.
William accused the BBC of making “sinister and false statements about the royal family, which played on his fears and fueled paranoia”. Harry, referring to a “culture of exploitation and unethical practices” by the media, said: “Our mother lost her life because of it, and nothing has changed”.
Even then, however, their statements spoke of their separate lives and their different worldviews. While William condemned what he called “fake news”, he reaffirmed the importance of a free press and public service broadcasting. Harry placed the BBC interview in the context of a consistently broken press and drew a direct link to his mother’s death in a car crash in Paris in 1997.
Days earlier, Harry had said in a podcast that he thought the First Amendment to the United States Constitution, which protects a free press, was “bonkers”. He added that he didn’t know much about it, given his recent arrival in the country. Some royal watchers interpreted William’s statement as a subtle dig at Harry for his much-criticized comments.
The rift between the brothers, which opened around the time Harry and Meghan were married, deepened after the couple’s interview with Oprah Winfrey in March. They claimed that before the birth of their first child, Archie, a family member or members expressed concern about the skin color of Meghan’s unborn baby.
“We are really not a racist family,” said William, when asked about his brother’s allegations.
Social distancing restrictions imposed by the pandemic are expected to keep the ceremony extremely small, which royal watchers said was a blessing as it would reduce the scrutiny of William and Harry. Neither the Queen, Charles, nor William’s wife, Kate, are expected to participate. But Diana’s brother, Charles Spencer, and her two sisters, Sarah McCorquodale and Jane Fellowes, will be there.
The statue was designed by sculptor Ian Rank-Broadley, whose image of the Queen has been engraved on coins in Britain and the Commonwealth since 1998. The Sunken Garden, designed by King Edward VII in 1908 , was remodeled for the occasion by Pip Morrison, a landscape architect specializing in historic gardens.
In a statement, Mr Morrison said he aimed to create “a calming place for people to visit Kensington Palace to remember the Princess”.