LONDON (NewsNation Now) — Princes William and Harry unveiled a statue of their mother, Princess Diana, on what would have been her 60th birthday Thursday in a small — and brief — ceremony at London’s Kensington Palace.
Diana’s family joined the two brothers for the ceremony at the palace’s Sunken Garden, a place in which the princess once found solace. It was the first time the brothers have appeared in public together since the funeral of their grandfather, Prince Philip.
The brothers later issued a joint statement in which they described their mother’s strength and character as “qualities that made her a force for good around the world.”
“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,” they said.
The official social media account for the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge also tweeted out a photo of the brothers looking at the statue once it was unveiled.
The statue, which is blueish green in color and designed by sculptor Ian Rank-Broadley whose effigy of Queen Elizabeth has been used on British and Commonwealth coins, was commissioned by the princes in 2017 as a tribute to their mother.
William’s office said they wanted it to reflect her positive impact in Britain and globally, and to help future generations understand “the significance of her place in history”.
Beneath the statue is a plinth bearing Diana’s name and the date of the unveiling, while in front lies a paving stone engraved with an extract inspired by the poem “The Measure of A Man”.
Both brothers have spoken of the deep trauma her death caused, and how it affected their mental health for years afterwards. Almost a quarter of a century since the fatal crash, Diana remains a captivating figure for many.
Lady Diana Spencer, 20, married Prince Charles, the heir to throne, on July 29, 1981, at St. Paul’s Cathedral.
Prince Charles and Diana separated in 1992 and divorced in 1996, with both acknowledging extramarital affairs.
She was known for interacting more intimately with the public — kneeling to the level of a child, sitting on the edge of a patient’s hospital bed and writing personal notes to her fans. She shook hands with a young AIDS patient in London during the early days of the epidemic, showing people that the disease couldn’t be transmitted through touch.
The event was the brothers’ second public meeting since Harry and Meghan stepped away from royal duties over a year ago, reportedly causing a rift in the family.
The relationship was further strained in March when Harry and Meghan gave an interview to Oprah Winfrey. The couple revealed that before the birth of their first child, an unidentified member of the royal family had expressed concern about how dark his skin might be.
Days after the broadcast, William responded, telling reporters that his was “very much not a racist family.”
NewsNationNow.com spoke with royal expert and celebrity journalist Hadley Hall Meares about the drama brewing around the ceremony.
“Well, it’s actually quite sad because apparently Earl Spencer, the brother of Princess Diana, who was there today, had said through sources that he hoped that this and the big win for Britain in the Euro (soccer championship) recently, would be able to bring the brothers together,” Meares said.
England beat Germany 2-0 at the European Championship Tuesday and put the team into the quarterfinals.
“But it seems that Harry was only at Kensington Palace, where the statue is and where the ceremony was for 90 minutes total and that the brothers barely spoke except about the statue and perhaps a little bit about soccer,” Meares said. “And that after one polite drink Harry quickly exited so it doesn’t seem like much progress was made on a personal front between the brothers today, but certainly they were united in honoring their mother.”
Both William and Harry seek to control the way their mother is portrayed, highlighting her philanthropy and common touch while discounting the controversies, said historian Ed Owens, author of “The Family Firm: Monarchy, Mass Media and the British Public 1932-1953,” which examines the royal family’s public relations strategy.
“I think that they both share a … common view of Diana, which they both seek to promote,’’ Owens said. “The re-imagining of Diana that is taking place via the princes at the moment is entirely complimentary. And I think for the sake of Thursday, bygones will be bygones.’’
The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.