The statue will be revealed in an afternoon ceremony on the occasion of what would have been Diana’s 60th birthday, with close family members joined by others involved in the project. Statues sculptor Ian Rank-Broadley – whose effigy of the Queen appears on British coins – and garden designer Pip Morrison will be among the guests as well as members of the statue committee.
A gardener makes the final preparations for the space before the statue is unveiled. Credit: Aaron Chown / PA Images / Getty Images
The highly anticipated engagement marks the first time the brothers have been seen together publicly since the Duke of Edinburgh’s funeral in April. William and Harry lived at Kensington Palace with their mother before she died in a car crash in 1997.
Diana’s sons co-commissioned the piece in 2017 – the 20th anniversary of her death – as they wanted to recognize the impact of her life with a permanent statue.
“Our mother touched so many lives. We hope the statue will help everyone who visits Kensington Palace reflect on her life and legacy,” the couple said in a joint statement announcing the project. They had hoped to unveil the statue the same year, but the project was delayed.
Diana on a ski vacation with her two sons, William (left) and Harry (right) in 1993. Credit: Jayne Fincher / Princess Diana Archives / Getty Images
One of Diana’s Favorite Places
The landscaping and planting plan surrounding the new statue was developed by Morrison and produced by the Garden and Estates team at Historic Royal Palaces (HRP), a charity that manages several royal properties.
Morrison incorporated the garden’s existing historic structures with deep flower borders and generous lawns around the pool “to create a calmer, more reflective setting for the statue,” according to Kensington Palace.
Over 4,000 flowers were selected for the project, some of which were known to be Diana’s favorites, such as forget-me-nots, as well as spring and summer flowers in various pastel hues such as tulips, dahlias and lavender.
The recently redesigned Sunken Garden is pictured in this image courtesy of Kensington Palace. Credit: Kensington Palace / Getty Images
Ahead of the unveiling, Morrison said in a Kensington Palace statement that “it was a very special project to work on, as the Sunken Garden was Diana, Princess of Wales’ favorite place.” He added that the team focused on creating a space that would flatter the new artwork and provide a calming space for visitors.
Graham Dillamore, deputy director of gardens and estates at HRP, said in the same statement that Diana “regularly admired the changing flower displays in the Sunken Garden” and often stopped to speak with the gardeners who took care of them.
“More than three decades later, I am honored to have been part of the team preparing the garden for the installation of this statue,” he continued, adding “I hope visitors to the palace and gardens will appreciate its peaceful setting and will take a moment to reflect on the life and legacy of the princess. “
Broken fraternal bonds
In the years since the statue was commissioned, Harry married and started a family with his wife Meghan. The brothers then separated their common Royal Foundation. And the Sussexes have since chosen to relocate to another continent to escape the endless media intrusion they say they have faced, as well as their experience of racism within the Royal Family and the lack of support from the royal house.
William and Harry were last seen together at their grandfather’s funeral in April. Credit: Gareth Fuller / WPA Pool / Getty Images
Where is the queen this week?
But it has remained busy since landing in the British capital at the end of last week. The United States is on the UK’s ‘amber’ list, which means it had to self-quarantine upon arrival and perform a series of negative Covid-19 tests to free itself.
Meghan, the Duchess of Sussex, will not be at the event on Thursday and instead remained in California after giving birth to the couple’s second child, Lilibet ‘Lili’ Diana Mountbatten-Windsor just a few weeks ago.
Meanwhile, the few days were also busy for William who started the week in Scotland by accompanying the Queen on a series of events. The 95-year-old ruler traditionally takes on a week of engagements in the country in late June or early July each year to celebrate Scottish community, innovation and history.
The garden and the new statue of Diana will be accessible free of charge during the opening hours of the historic royal palaces.
The Sunken Garden was established in 1908 at the instigation of King Edward VII, in an area of the palace gardens previously occupied by potting sheds and greenhouses. The garden layout is inspired by the 17th-century Dutch-style Pond Garden at Hampton Court Palace.