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The One Way William and Harry Shocked Everyone at the Unveiling

After not seeing each other in months, the princes made a surprising move at the unveiling.

Today was the day royal watchers had been waiting for: on what would have been her 60th birthday, a years-in-the-making statue of Princess Diana was unveiled at an understated and sparsely attended event on the grounds of Kensington Palace. But while the world waited for their first glimpse of the statue, which was kept under a dark green cloak, the attention turned to Prince William and Prince Harry, who were seeing each other at the unveiling for the first time in months, since the funeral of their grandfather, Prince Philip, in April.

Tensions between the brothers have only intensified over the past few months after Harry and Duchess Meghan leveled explosive claims against the Royal Family, alleging they have been treated with cruel indifference and subjected to racist comments. Both William and Harry are under intense pressure to reconcile so as to remove the public scrutiny that has plagued the Royal Family over the past year, and though the princes did their best to put their differences aside at the unveiling, it was impossible for anyone to forget what had come before today

The unveiling brought William and Harry back to Kensington Palace, the home they shared with their mother until her tragic death in 1997. They chose for the statue to be placed in the Sunken Garden, which was reportedly one of Diana's favorite spots for rest and relaxation. Before today's unveiling, more than 4,000 flowers were planted in the newly redesigned garden, including Diana's favorite forget-me-nots and as well as tulips, dahlias, and lavender plants.

The plans for the statue were first announced in 2017 when William and Harry said they wanted the design to become a permanent installation as a tribute to the impact Diana had made on the world. The statue was completed in 2018, but the unveiling was delayed due to Harry and Meghan's wedding and later further postponed due to COVID restrictions. Since Megxit, the brothers' involvement went from attending meetings about the project together in-person to Harry, in California, being kept informed of the project via email and calls from the statue committee.

While every detail of the unveiling and the drama leading up to the ceremony has been exhaustively covered, William and Harry did somehow still manage to shock those who watched the long-awaited tribute to the Princess of Wales. Read on to find out what Diana's sons did—and did not do—that took everyone by surprise.

The most emotional moment of the ceremony came well before the statue was unveiled.

Prince William, Duke of Cambridge (left) and Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex arrive for the unveiling of a statue they commissioned of their mother Diana, Princess of Wales, in the Sunken Garden at Kensington Palace, on what would have been her 60th birthday on July 1, 2021 in London, England.
Yui Mok – WPA Pool/Getty Images

After months of speculation over whether or not Harry would even attend the unveiling, the first glimpse of the brothers together as they entered the Sunken Garden before the unveiling proved to be the most emotional moment of the event. Just seeing William and Harry, both in dark suits walking in step with one another, was a poignant and powerful echo of that September day in 1997 when they stood together in preparation for the long walk through the streets of London behind Diana's coffin. In that moment, the drama and rancor of the past few weeks faded away and William and Harry were once again "Diana's boys."

RELATED: Diana Would Have Healed William and Harry's Rift, Says Royal Biographer.

Harry let William take the lead before the ceremony.

Britain's Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex, Lady Sarah McCorquodale, Lady Jane Fellowes, Britain's Prince William, Duke of Cambridge and Earl Spencer attend the unveiling of a statue of their mother, Princess Diana at The Sunken Garden in Kensington Palace, London on July 1, 2021.
Dominic Lipinski / POOL / AFP via Getty Images

When the brothers entered the Sunken Garden, they appeared to be engaged in conversation and then broke off to individually greet the smattering of guests who stood socially distant in a path leading up to the statue. There was nothing unusual about that in and of itself, as that's the way most meet-and-greets are handled when royals split up to cover the crowd.

At the ceremony, William and Harry appeared in good spirits and were seen laughing and joking with the other attendees. However, it was notable that Harry seemed slightly deferential to William as he held himself back from engaging with most guests until after his older brother had done so. When they greeted their Spencer aunts and their uncle, William took the lead greeting Diana's siblings, giving Lady Sarah McCorquodale a kiss on both cheeks then welcoming Lady Jane Fellowes and Charles, Earl Spencer. Harry received a warm welcome from his aunts as well, with Charles offering a handshake and a wide smile to his nephew.

The brothers did not say anything to the public or press at the unveiling.

Britain's Prince William, Duke of Cambridge (L) and Britain's Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex unveil a statue of their mother, Princess Diana at The Sunken Garden in Kensington Palace, London on July 1, 2021
Dominic Lipinski / POOL / AFP via Getty Images

With the press limited to a pool feed stationed on the other side of the garden's pond from where William and Harry greeted the limited guests, the pared-down event had an oddly remote feel in stark contrast to what had been planned for the original celebration. The unveiling was originally set to include more than 100 of Diana's closest friends, supporters, and ex-members of her staff, but COVID restrictions resulted in a much smaller guest list. On this characteristically gray day in London, the unveiling ultimately felt like neither a public event nor a private ceremony.

It was impossible to hear anything that the brothers said to each other or the other attendees as they made their way over to statue. When the time came for the big reveal, William and Harry stood on either side of the statue before William said, "Ready?" and both tugged on strings that pulled away the green cloth, revealing a bronze figure of their mother surrounded by three children. Once the statue was unveiled, William and Harry (who placed his hands on his hips) remained standing apart from each other and stepped back to take in the installation.

After a few moments, they resumed their conversations with the other guests, with no one making any official comments or remarks. (The Daily Mail reported that Harry was only at Kensington Palace for 90 minutes and arrived just 15 minutes before the ceremony began.) Ultimately, the unveiling was less than 20 minutes long, a far shorter and quieter occasion than many expected. A bigger celebration is planned for September for the guests who William and Harry couldn't host due to COVID restrictions.

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After the ceremony, William and Harry released a joint statement that spoke volumes.

The Duke of Cambridge (left) and Duke of Sussex look at a statue they commissioned of their mother Diana, Princess of Wales, in the Sunken Garden at Kensington Palace, London, on what would have been her 60th birthday.
Dominic Lipinski/PA Wire via Getty Images

There had been extensive reporting about William and Harry each insisting on making their own remarks about their mother at the unveiling. Royal biographer Angela Levin went so far as to claim Harry refused to let the Palace preview his comments before the event. And an insider previously told Best Life, "We will hear two very different speeches. But both will be poignant and heartbreaking."

In the end, the brothers managed to defy expectations and shock royal watchers by saying nothing at all. Instead, after the unveiling, they issued a written joint statement which read: "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. Thank you to [artist] Ian Rank-Broadley, [garden designer] Pip Morrison and their teams for their outstanding work, to the friends and donors who helped make this happen, and to all those around the world who keep our mother's memory alive."

William and Harry wisely chose to keep the focus on their mother and the new statue created to honor her rather than encourage forensic examination of their every word. That, of course, will now resume as we are left to wonder if Diana's sons are any closer to reconciling in light of today's events.

RELATED: Diana Would've Been "Very Disappointed" in Harry for This Reason, Sources Say.

Diane Clehane is a New York-based journalist and author of Imagining Diana and Diana: The Secrets of Her Style.

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