LONDON – More than 20 years after the death of Diana, Princess of Wales, her two sons will unveil a statue on Thursday to mark what would have been her 60th birthday in the gardens of her former home in London, Kensington Palace.
Still, for many, getting a glimpse of the statue will come after searching for clues as to the state of the relationship between Princes William and Harry.
This will only be the second time the brothers have been seen together in public since Harry and his wife, Meghan, stepped down from their roles as royals last year. Harry’s last visit to the UK was in April for the funeral of his grandfather Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, who died at the age of 99.
Next, the brothers were seen walking together and chatting after the service in St George’s Chapel in Windsor, the site of Harry’s marriage to Meghan three years earlier. Reports of a rift between the siblings have swirled in the UK press since 2018, and Harry said he and William were on “different paths”.
Harry, Duke of Sussex, and William, Duke of Cambridge, will be accompanied at the inauguration by members of Diana’s close family, as well as the statue sculptor and garden designer.
The statue will be placed in the area known as Sunken Garden, one of Diana’s favorite spots, according to Kensington Palace. This is also where Harry and Meghan posed for photos after their engagement in November 2017. The garden was recently redesigned and replanted with 4,000 flowers, including roses, forget-me-nots and lavender, the palace said in A press release.
Diana lived at Kensington Palace during and after her tumultuous marriage to Prince Charles and raised William and Harry there. It is now William’s family home.
The brothers commissioned the statue in 2017 to mark the 20th anniversary of Diana’s death. However, this is far from the only way they have invoked his memory.
Since leaving the UK, Harry has often appealed to his mother’s legacy.
He posted a photo of himself as a child on his prominent mother’s shoulders on his Archewell website, claiming he is “his mother’s son” and said in a recent Apple TV + documentary “The Me You Can’t See “that her mother would be proud of him” to live the life she wanted for herself.
Meanwhile, in May, William made a rare, moving statement following a BBC investigation which revealed journalist Martin Bashir used “deceptive behavior” to secure a landmark interview with Diana in 1995 – in which she said that “there were three of us in this marriage”, in reference to Camilla Parker Bowles, who would marry Charles in 2005.
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William and Harry’s charitable work and the causes they support also appear to have been guided by their mother’s interests, according to Roya Nikkhah, royal correspondent for The Sunday Times.
“A lot of the charitable work that William and Harry have done in the past, you know 10 to 20 years, has been to honor their mother,” she told NBC News.
Following Diana’s commitment to helping people with HIV / AIDS and the homeless, Harry created Sentebale, which supports children in Botswana and Lesotho with HIV. William is also the boss of the UK Centrepoint homeless charity, just like Diana.
Despite the fact that it has been almost 24 years since her death, Diana has become something of a mythological figure to many, according to Melanie Kennedy, professor of sociology at the University of Leicester, who studies celebrity.
“We look to media figures to worship in ways that in the past we would have gone to church,” Kennedy said. “When she died, it solidified her status as a religious figure, a saint, and it stuck.”
William and Harry’s father, Prince Charles, heir to the throne, will not join them at Thursday’s event, nor will their wives. Meghan gave birth to a baby girl in June in California where the couple now live. She was named Lilibet Diana, in honor of Queen Elizabeth II, whose nickname is Lilibet, and in memory of Harry’s mother.
Kelly cobiella and Adela Suliman contributed.