The Poignant Symbolism of Princess Diana’s Statue at Kensington Palace

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The event was subdued, or, well, as subdued as an event involving several members of the British royal family can be: it was the unveiling of Princess Diana’s statue at Kensington Palace on what would have been her 60th birthday. Her sons, Prince William and Prince Harry, estranged by most accounts, briefly reunited for the occasion. (For what it’s worth, cameras showed them chatting politely upon arrival, and even, on occasion, smiling.) Their father, Prince Charles, did not join them, reportedly not wishing to stir up painful emotions for both himself and the public. “These moments have the potential to resurface old wounds, and it brings back memories for him; happy, sad, regretful. Since Diana’s death, he has felt it’s best to keep those memories to himself and leave his sons to it,” a source told the Times of London. Instead, Princess Diana’s siblings The Earl Spencer, The Lady Sarah McCorquodale, and The Lady Jane Fellowes, joined her sons for familial support. “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,” Harry and William said in a joint statement. “Every day, we wish she were still with us.”

The statue of Princess Diana was designed by Ian Rank-Broadley, a sculptor who also designed Queen Elizabeth’s profile on the United Kingdom’s official coinage. It shows her surrounded by three children, symbolizing the late Princess’s charitable, and generational, legacy. (During her life, many of her causes involved helping vulnerable youth, from her work at Great Ormond Street Hospital to her founding of the charity Child Bereavement UK.)

The bronze Diana wears a blouse tucked into a belted pencil skirt. It’s a simple, sleek, and intentional look. “The style of dress was based on the final period of her life as she gained confidence in her role as an ambassador for humanitarian causes and aims to convey her character and compassion,” Kensington Palace said in a statement.

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Printed on a plaque is a verse from The Measure of a Man, which was also used in the program for Diana’s 2007 memorial service. It reads as follows: “These are the units to measure the worth / Of this woman as a woman regardless of birth / Not what was her station? / But had she a heart? / How did she play her God-given part?”

The statue is 1.25 times life size, making visitors in awe, yet not overwhelmed, by its presence.

It stands in Kensington Palace’s newly-redesigned Sunken Garden. Designer Pip Morisson wanted to create a peaceful, poignant setting for the work by surrounding it with a gentle green lawn and floral borders. He and the Historic Royal Palace’s gardens and estate team planted an abundance of forget-me-knots—the late Princess’s favorite flower—as well as ballerina and blush noisette roses, white triumphator and china pink tulips, lavender, dahlias, and sweet peas. It took them over 1,000 hours to do so.

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The statue is viewable to the public during Kensington Palace’s open hours. It will, as Diana certainly would have wanted to be, free to do so.

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