The world is once again watching Prince William and Harry as they prepare to stand side by side at a private unveiling of a statue of their late mother Diana, Princess of Wales.
To mark what would have been Diana’s 60th birthday, the brothers will reunite in a scaled-back ceremony at Kensington Palace’s Sunken Garden in a small gathering of notables on July 1.
The Duke of Cambridge and the Duke of Sussex’s troubled relationship is well documented, but their mother will be their focus on this day as they honour her memory.
“Our mother touched so many lives,” they said in a statement when the project was first announced in 2017.
“We hope the statue will help all those who visit Kensington Palace to reflect on her life and her legacy.”
Royal watcher Katie Nicholl told CBS’s Entertainment Tonight recently: “Diana always said to them, ‘Boys stay close, don’t ever fall out’.”
“She would be devastated that that is what’s happened, and she would want them to be there, together, for that unveiling of the statue in her honour,” Nicholl said.
Prince William, Harry to reunite
Prince Harry jetted into England on June 25 and headed straight to Frogmore Cottage – his former residence with his California-based former Suits actor Meghan Markle – to quarantine for five days.
He appeared in a surprise video released on Monday during the 2021 Diana Award [the only charity set up in memory of Diana], to congratulate award recipients.
He spoke about the unveiling of the statue with his brother.
“Later this week, my brother and I are recognising what would have been our mum’s 60th birthday, and she would have been so proud of you all,” he said.
A royal source has already described the ceremony, at Diana’s former home, as being a “small event and a very personal moment for the family”.
Kensington Palace has confirmed the royal brothers and Diana’s close family, most likely her siblings, will attend the unveiling, along with sculptor Ian Rank-Broadley, who has a long record of creating images of the royal family – along with garden designer Pip Morrison.
But the scope of the unveiling has been reduced, with many of Diana’s friends and colleagues unable to attend due to coronavirus regulations.
A big rift to mend
It is only Prince Harry’s second visit home to the UK since his shock move to the US in March last year with Markle and their baby son Archie.
Markle stayed behind in their luxurious home in Montecito, Santa Barbara with Archie, now 2 and daughter Lilibet, born on June 4.
They quit as senior working royals amid a desire to lead a more normal life away from the spotlight.
It has been anything but, with Harry plunging the monarchy – and the brothers – into crisis after the Sussex’s bombshell interview with Oprah Winfrey in March and subsequent claims in his new mental health docuseries with Winfrey.
There were damning claims of racism within the royal family ranks, with Markle revealing there were “conversations about how dark his [Archie’s] skin might be when he’s born”.
Harry told Winfrey that royal life was taking its toll on Meghan and he had an increasingly distant relationship with his father Prince Charles.
He also alluded to his fears that Meghan or Archie could suffer the same fate as Diana, who died in a car crash while being chased by photographers in Paris in 1997.
“My biggest concern was history repeating itself. And what I was seeing was history was repeating itself,” he said.
Harry first stepped back on British soil after 11 months to attend his grandfather Prince Philip’s funeral on April 17.
He and William appeared at ease in each other’s company, and left the service deep in conversation.
When the brothers commissioned the statue on the 20th anniversary year of Diana’s death – their relationship was strong, as they worked together to promote issues such as raising awareness about mental health.
Despite efforts behind the scenes in recent months from their close-knit circle of friends to mend the relationship and find a way for them to repair the damage, the brothers still appear divided.
Adds Nicholl: “The idea that Harry is going to suddenly come around to William’s way of thinking and visa versa … is a way off.
“There clearly is still a lot of hurt, a lot of resentment and a degree of mistrust on both parts … so it’s early days.
“The hope is that come July when we are hoping to see the brothers stand, once again, shoulder by shoulder, to unveil the statue in memory of their mother, that the relationship will be stronger and in a better place.”