This Royal Will Step in for Harry at Diana's Statue Unveiling, Say Sources
William will have "support from someone very close to him if Harry isn't there," an insider says.
The past year has been marked by both joyful and tragic moments for the royals, and now, Prince William and Prince Harry are preparing for one of the most emotional events they could face in 2021. Royal watchers are hopeful the brothers will put their differences aside and reunite for the unveiling of the statue of their mother, Princess Diana, on July 1, at Kensington Palace. But the past few months may have changed any plans Harry had to return to England for the ceremony.
William and Harry first announced their plans for the statue in 2017 in a joint statement that read: "It has been 20 years since our mother's death and the time is right to recognize her positive impact in the U.K. and around the world with a permanent statue. Our mother touched so many lives. We hope the statue will help all those who visit Kensington Palace to reflect on her life and her legacy." But now, the brothers' rift is in stark contrast to the days when they were were working together closely as senior royals.
In August 2020, it had been announced that Harry, Duchess Meghan, and their son, Archie Mountbatten-Windsor, would return to the U.K. for the unveiling of the statue. But that was before the couple learned they were expecting their second child and before a series of claims Harry and Meghan have made about the Royal Family, from their explosive interview with Oprah Winfrey to Harry's revelations on the Armchair Expert podcast. In late April, Daily Mirror's Russell Myers told talkRADIO (via Express) that Harry may use the birth of his daughter as a "convenient excuse" not to go to the unveiling and have to "face the family" again.
Last week, Harry and Meghan announced they will be taking parental leave now that their daughter, Lilibet Diana Mountbatten-Windsor, has arrived; that could mean Harry may, in fact, skip the ceremony to stay home in California with his growing family. Royal biographer Duncan Larcombe told OK! magazine (via Express) this week that London is a "trigger" for the Duke of Sussex, based on his comments about his mental health on his Apple TV+ docuseries with Winfrey.
"If Harry does not come back to England for Diana's statue unveiling, it will be desperately sad to see William standing there alone without his brother," a royal source told Best Life. "William is certainly strong enough to represent both of them, but there is talk that he will have the necessary support from someone very close to stand with him if Harry isn't there on what will clearly be a very emotional day."
Read on to find out which royal would stand in for Harry if he decides to remain in California on July 1 and why it may come to that.
William will have Kate by his side if Harry is a no-show.
Throughout this tumultuous year when it fell to William to be the face and voice of the monarchy in good times and bad, Duchess Catherine has been with him every step of the way, with her steadfast support and quiet counsel. It was Kate who wordlessly arranged for William and Harry to have time to talk by themselves after Prince Philip's funeral service in April. She broke the ice by speaking to her brother-in-law when the Royal Family left the church, subtly bringing the brothers together on their walk back to Windsor Castle when she stepped back and let them walk on together. It was the first time the princes had seen each other since the Sussexes left England in the spring of 2020.
In The Mirror, Myers reported that the birth of Lilibet Diana "has cleared the way" for Harry to be at the ceremony on July 1, but the Duchess of Cambridge is prepared to "step in" if he doesn't make it to England.
"Catherine has been William's rock through everything that's happened," a royal source told Best Life. "She has seen firsthand the hurt and frustration William has endured because of the rift with Harry and has made it her priority to support him any way she could. She has become William's most trusted confidant. It makes perfect sense she would be there if Harry is not."
There is a precedent for Kate attending special ceremonies honoring Diana. In 2017, on the 20th anniversary of Diana's death, the duchess attended the unveiling of the newly transformed Sunken Garden with William and Harry, where the statue will be erected. "It was the three of them for a very long time," said the source. "Kate had a very close relationship with Harry, but everything fell apart when he became engaged to Meghan. She would be sorry to see Harry miss the statue unveiling. She wants him to be there, but she won't let William stand alone if it comes to that."
Meghan will reportedly not be at the unveiling, which makes it less likely Harry will attend.
For months, there has been rampant speculation about whether Meghan would accompany Harry back to England for the unveiling of the Princess Diana statue. Royal reporters in the U.K. are now in collective agreement that Meghan will not be coming to England with her husband for the ceremony. Daily Telegraph's acting royal correspondent Victoria Ward tweeted: "The Duchess of Sussex will not fly to the U.K. to join Harry for the unveiling of a statue of his late mother, sources confirm, after a U.S. website claimed she would join him. She's just had a baby, they point out." ITV royal producer Lizzie Robinson also tweeted: "Meghan will not fly to the U.K. to join Harry for the unveiling of a statue of his late mother Princess Diana on July 1st, a source confirmed."
Royal biographer Larcombe concurs with those comments, telling OK!: "No one I've spoken to believes Meghan will attend. She's just had a baby and that's a perfect reason to want to stay where she is."
A royal insider told Best Life, "After all that's happened just in the past few months with Harry's stunning claims on that podcast and his series on mental health, as well as the fresh controversy over whether the Queen knew beforehand about his plans to name his daughter 'Lilibet,' it would seem the duke would want his wife by his side when he faces the family. If Meghan is staying home, there's a chance Harry will too."
Some royal experts still believe Harry—and not Kate—will attend the unveiling.
There have also been reports out of the U.K. saying that Harry will stand side by side with William at Kensington Palace. A source told The Sun the brothers "will both move heaven and earth to be there."
On July 17, Daily Telegraph associate editor Camilla Tominey was quoted in Express saying that nothing has suggested that both Harry or William's families—including Kate—will be attending the ceremony. "We've never really been told that family is going to be included in this thing," Tominey said. "We know this is the reunion for the brothers on what would have been Diana's 60th birthday on 1st July. Never any suggestions that the Cambridges would attend along with Prince William and equally, that Meghan and the children would attend with Harry." The royal reporter believes only the brothers will attend, saying, "I think we may just see them cut solo figures without their families around them. All eyes will be on the brothers of course, because everyone's hoping there may be some kind of reconciliation at what is going to be a hugely poignant and significant moment for them, remembering their late mother."
An inside source told Best Life: "For months, every week seems to bring more drama involving the rift between Harry and Meghan and the Royal Family. No one really knows with any certainty whether Harry will be there. Any fresh revelations or accusations out of the Sussex camp any time between now and the end of the month could change whatever plans have been made for Harry to attend. It's quite sad that the rift between William and Harry has overshadowed what should be a poignant remembrance of Diana and how much she loved 'her boys.'"
If Harry does attend, there will be one significant change to the ceremony.
Last month, The Sun reported there will be no joint address at the unveiling, as planned when the statue and ceremony were originally conceived. The creation of the statue is the last joint project William and Harry worked on together before the Sussexes stepped down and left the U.K. In late April and early May, there was some hope that the brothers had begun to heal their rift after speaking briefly at Prince Philip's funeral. But based on the events of the past month, it's clear there is still a great deal of acrimony between Harry and the Royal Family. "Things have not improved," an insider told Best Life. "The podcast was a bridge too far. If the brothers can come together just for the day, that will be all. They might be there physically together, but emotionally, they are very much still worlds apart."
Should Harry attend, he and William will do separate addresses as they did when it was revealed in late May that the BBC had covered up the fact that Diana had been tricked into doing her infamous interview with Martin Bashir.
"If their statements about how their mother was deceived by the BBC are any indication, we will hear two very different speeches," a source told Best Life. "But both will be poignant and heartbreaking."