The One Way Diana's Friends Were "Surprised" by Harry at the Unveiling
"It had to have been a difficult day, so his behavior was a bit unexpected," a source said of the prince.
Now that the long-awaited statue of Princess Diana, commissioned by Prince William and Prince Harry in 2017, has been unveiled, royal watchers have begun to dissect every detail of the ceremony for clues on what it may have meant for the future of the brothers' fractured relationship. The unveiling was an understated and sparsely attended affair that took place on Thursday, July 1, what would have been Diana's 60th birthday, at the Sunken Gardens on the grounds of Kensington Palace, her favorite place in the home she once shared with her boys. Only Diana's siblings, Charles, the Earl Spencer, Lady Sarah McCorquodale, and Lady Jane Fellowes, along with the statue's sculptor Ian Rank-Broadley, garden designer Pip Morrison, and members of the statue committee joined William and Harry for the unveiling.
The event marked the first time William and Harry had been seen together since Prince Philip's funeral in April. In the months since, the brothers' relationship has gone from bad to worse with the Duke of Sussex continuing his war of words with the Palace. The latest chapter involved a very public disagreement over whether or not Harry and Duchess Meghan told Queen Elizabeth that they were using her private childhood nickname for the first name of their newborn daughter, Lilibet Diana Mountbatten-Windsor, before the official birth announcement.
With emotions running high between Harry and the rest of the Royal Family, there was no question things between William and Harry would be far from relaxed the day of the Diana statue unveiling. But Harry confounded many royal watchers, including friends of Diana, at the event. Read on to find out what surprised the late princess's friends about the Duke of Sussex and what some say was behind his behavior.
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Despite the obvious tension between the brothers, Harry seemed "uncharacteristically gleeful," one friend said.
The brothers spent mere minutes together before they walked into the Sunken Garden side by side to greet the small handful of guests assembled for the unveiling. The next morning, the Daily Mirror's royal editor Russell Myers said on ITV's Lorraine that there was an "undeniable tension" in the air at the event that could not be hidden by "forced smiles."
That's why several royal watchers were confused by Harry's behavior. One friend of Diana's told Best Life, "With everything that's been going on, Harry seemed uncharacteristically gleeful. He was smiling and making broad gestures a lot of the time, which felt a bit forced. I was surprised when he stepped back after he and William pulled the chord on the statue and he put his hands on his hips. That was a bit odd."
Another observer said, "Harry has talked so much recently about the trauma of missing his mother and how he has suffered as a result, so it was surprising to see him laughing and joking at the statue unveiling. It had to have been a difficult day, so his behavior was a bit unexpected. Maybe it was due to a bit of nervousness, which is completely understandable."
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William and Harry "seemed as if they were at different events," according to another.
The unveiling was originally planned as a celebration of Diana's life and legacy that would be attended by more than 100 friends, charitable partners, and ex-staff of the late princess. But, due to restrictions on gathering sizes and concerns over protecting William and Harry's privacy, the ceremony took on a different tone. Most press were banned and the schedule was kept top secret, with the unveiling seeming more somber than originally expected.
William appeared somewhat pensive throughout, except when he relaxed a bit speaking to his Spencer relatives and chatting with the statue and garden designers. Harry, on the other hand, was beaming the entire time, especially as he joked with his uncle Charles, Earl Spencer and exchanged kisses with his aunts.
At one point, the brothers stood only a few feet apart with their backs to each other. While Harry was taking animatedly to a few guests, William stood by silently, looking almost pained. When the moment came for the princes to pull the chord on the billowing green covering and unveil that statue, their reactions could not have been more different. William stood facing the statue of his mother with his hands clasped in front of him, while a broadly smiling Harry turned toward the guests, rubbed his hands together and called out something to his Spencer relatives. William never turned around to engage in the conversation.
"When they stood there at the foot of the statue after they'd unveiled it, William and Harry acted as if they were at different events," a longtime acquaintance of Diana's told Best Life. "There was this sense that William was alone, lost in his thoughts, and Harry was getting on with it and full of fun. There were no speeches, so there was more attention on the boys' body language and that spoke volumes."
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Royal experts say there was no sign that the widening rift between the brothers is lifting.
In the weeks leading up to the unveiling, many royal experts in the U.K. were hopeful that the event could serve as a turning point in William and Harry's relationship and they could begin some kind of healing process, but some now say that they fear nothing has changed. "They probably did their mother proud," Daily Mirror royal editor Myers said on Lorraine. But, he added that the brothers' relationship is now at "rock bottom" and didn't think the statue unveiling was a "catalyst for change."
Appearing on a Facebook Live for True Royalty TV, Ingrid Seward, editor at large of Majesty magazine, said (via The Mirror) William and Harry managed to put their differences aside for the day because "they were definitely not going to let us know if things were awkward." She continued: "I don't think it's the moment to try and have a rapprochement. I think it's very difficult when you haven't spoken to a member of your family for some time to suddenly say, 'Well right, let's make it up."
Harry didn't linger after the ceremony and wasted no time getting back to California.
Despite several published reports that William and Harry were to meet for a private talk after the unveiling, Harry didn't linger after the ceremony. According to the Daily Mail, the prince left after "one polite drink," having a glass of champagne with his Spencer relatives on the terrace of Kensington Palace before departing. All told, the prince, who had arrived just 15 minutes before the event began, spent a total of 90 minutes at the Palace on Thursday, the Daily Mail reported.
Harry was spotted heading back to California on Friday, reportedly missing the opportunity to see his grandmother, the Queen, who had been in Scotland, but was heading back to Windsor. As Best Life reported last week, Harry had been staying just a few miles away from Windsor Castle at his former U.K. home, Frogmore Cottage, with its current owners: his cousin Princess Eugenie and her husband, Jack Brooksbank.
"All this talk about William and Harry deciding to reconcile after unveiling the statue of their mother was just a fairy story," one source told Best Life. "Everyone wants to see them as they once were, but there is too much water under the bridge. Harry put on a good show at the unveiling out of his love and respect for his mother, but the center of his world is back in California and it appears he couldn't wait to get back there."
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Diane Clehane is a New York-based journalist and author of Imagining Diana and Diana: The Secrets of Her Style.