United Kingdom

Princes William and Harry drastically scale back unveiling of statue of Princess Diana due to Covid

Princes William and Harry have drastically scaled back next week’s unveiling of the statue of Princess Diana, the Daily Mail can reveal.

The brothers were due to put aside their bitter rift to host an elaborate ceremony on July 1 at Kensington Palace, her former home, on what would have been their mother’s 60th birthday.

Instead they will preside over a significantly reduced gathering featuring just a handful of guests – the estranged princes themselves and Spencer relatives.

Up until this week they had been planning to welcome more than 100 of their mother’s friends, former staff and supporters. But Covid rules have pressed them into a rethink.

Guests have been told that next Thursday’s large ceremony has been scrapped and that a new date will be fixed for September. 

Princes William and Harry have drastically scaled back next week’s unveiling of the statue of Princess Diana, the Daily Mail can reveal (pictured: the Princess of Wales arriving at the Serpentine Gallery in London in June 1995)

The brothers (pictured at Prince Philip's funeral in April this year) were due to put aside their bitter rift to host an elaborate ceremony on July 1 at Kensington Palace. Instead they will preside over a significantly reduced gathering featuring just a handful of guest

It is a bitter disappointment for many in Diana’s circle who had hoped their presence would help bring about a reconciliation between William and his brother. They have been barely on speaking terms since Harry and Meghan quit royal life for California. Whether this makes a rapprochement that much easier remains to be seen.

The pair have privately told friends that they will do their utmost to ensure their differences do not distract from what they hope will be a moving celebration to recognise their mother’s ‘positive impact’.

Ever since they announced plans for the statue it has been bedevilled by problems. Originally it was hoped to be unveiled in 2017.

But there were delays over the design and, according to insiders, differences of opinion over what period in Diana’s life the statue should represent. 

Such divisions led the committee set up after her death in 1997 in order to find a suitable way to celebrate her life to conclude that a statue would be wrong.

At the time, her family expressed reservations that no sculptor had ever properly ‘caught’ Diana. There were also real fears that a statue would become a shrine.  

The Princess of Wales pictured with her sons attending the Heads of State VE Remembrance Service in London's Hyde Park in May 1995

Guests have been told that next Thursday’s large ceremony has been scrapped and that a new date will be fixed for September (pictured: Diana at a private viewing and reception at Christies in aid of the Aids Crisis Trust and the Royal Marsden Hospital Cancer Fund)

Those fears have not subsided but with the passing years, William and Harry felt the time was right for a life-size figure. They sought private donations to fund the statue, which has been created by artist Ian Rank-Broadley, whose portrait of the Queen appears on all British coins. 

The statue was finished in 2018, but Harry and Meghan’s wedding and Megxit delayed the unveiling.

Donors including Elton John and David Furnish will now be invited to September’s party along with other friends and family – but there is no guarantee Harry will be there.

So while many watching on Thursday will be keen to see how the artist has imagined Diana, many more will be searching for any sign that the warring brothers can settle their differences.

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