Prince Harry and Prince William Were Perfectly Civil, Extremely Briefly
There were no heartfelt signs of reconciliation between Prince Harry and Prince William at Diana’s statue unveiling, but rather two brothers doing their best to smile dutifully.
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Prince Harry and Prince William showed they were able to comport themselves with dignity, professionalism, and courtesy at Thursday’s unveiling of a statue to honor their mother, Princess Diana, but the lack of hugs and Harry’s rapid departure from Kensington Palace just minutes after the ceremony was over showed that the brothers’ personal relationship remains deeply fractured.
Unlike the venue of the brothers’ last meeting, Windsor Castle, there is only one vehicular exit from Kensington Palace, meaning that reporters were able to calculate exactly how long Harry spent there. It was notable that he arrived just 15 minutes before the ceremony was due to start at 2 p.m., and left just 90 minutes later, according to the Daily Mail.
Harry was gone by the time the palace released video and photo of the event, a vivid illustration of his ongoing desire to control all terms of the media’s access to him.
Control issues aside, the brevity of his sojourn in his brother’s company was a clear sign that despite walking, talking, and even apparently exchanging a joke while they were on camera in the Sunken Garden at Kensington Palace, a true resumption of filial friendship remains some way off.
Robert Lacey, whose bestselling book Battle of Brothers drove headlines this week with the revelation that Charles and William avoided intense and important discussions with Harry after Prince Philip’s funeral in April, described the events of Thursday as a “working reconciliation,” telling The Daily Beast: “It’s a new accommodation, it’s not about pretending they are suddenly best friends, and in that respect it is actually rather mature.”
The writer Penny Junor, who penned the definitive biography of Harry’s younger years, told The Daily Beast, “They put on a good face and a good front, so full marks to them. They were very professional. They were clearly able to put their differences aside for the sake of the family, but that is not to suggest everything is hunky-dory. The fact that Harry left the palace quite quickly after the unveiling is clear evidence of that; under normal circumstances, William would of course have said, ‘Come and have tea, come and see the children.’ Harry has quarantined, so there was no reason why he couldn’t have popped in.”
Lacey said that in his view it was encouraging to see the brothers apparently “taking pleasure in each other’s company, but without over-egging the pudding.”
What did he make of reports that Harry had left Kensington Palace shortly after the ceremony finished?
“They are living separate lives, Harry has made a major decision about not wanting to participate in the professional aspects of royal life and he wants to get back to his wife and children.
“But it would seem that they are on cordial terms, and are ready to work together on an agreed basis when it’s necessary or desirable, and that’s exactly what they were doing today in capping off this project, which they have worked so hard on together.
“This represents their joint wish to honor their mother, and it shows their capacity and their willingness to get together when there are important things to do together. It was unrealistic to hope for any more reconciliation than that. It is a working reconciliation and I think what we saw today is that a new relationship between the brothers has been established.”
Duncan Larcombe, a former royal editor at British tabloid the Sun who has also written a biography of Harry, told The Daily Beast that the fact the brothers had issued a joint statement was a positive sign. “They always used to issue joint statements when it was anything to do with their mother,” he said. “So when in response to the Martin Bashir inquiry they issued individual statements, it felt odd.
“I imagine it was worrying in the build-up to today for the palace that it was once again going to be individual statements, and there would have been relief that in the end a joint statement was issued. The truth is they did not look anything like as relaxed with each other as they did in the good old days. It will have given Harry a hell of a lot to think about as he returns home.”
In their statement Thursday the brothers said: “Today, on what would have been our Mother's 60th birthday, we remember her love, strength and character—qualities that made her a force for good around the world, changing countless lives for the better.
“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.”
With all the focus on the state of Harry and William’s relationship, it could easily be forgotten that an actual statue was unveiled on Thursday. The work shows Diana with three children, and is 1.25 times life-size.
Rank-Broadley said after the ceremony that William and Harry “would send photographs on a regular basis at all the different stages,” and said “visits were made to my studio so they were well aware of how it was progressing.”
There is a long tradition in the U.K. of art critics absolutely hammering new public installations, and this new statue has proved no exception.
The U.K. Times’s critic, Rachel Campbell-Johnston described it as “Diana tat” and critiqued the choice of artist in Rank-Broadley, whose bust of Queen Elizabeth II adorns British coinage, saying, “The princess who willfully aligned herself with the marginalized, who crossed barriers of convention to support previously unfashionable causes, should not have been commemorated by one of our nation’s most safely established middle-aged white male artists.”
The Guardian’s Jonathan Jones described the piece as “a religious image that shamelessly plays up to the most mawkish aspects of Diana worship,” and said its “emotive symbolism is undermined by its aesthetic awfulness. In style it breathes the kind of repression and formality which Harry has claimed to reject. Are we sure Charles had no hand here? It looks like his insipid artistic taste.”
Alastair Sooke, the Daily Telegraph’s chief art critic, described the figure of Diana as “an empowered humanitarian warrior wearing a belt so big it wouldn’t look amiss on He-Man,” adding, “A lot of well-wishers and diehard fans simply wanted a good old-fashioned statue of their heroine. And that’s exactly what they’ve got.”