On July 1, 2021, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge released a photo of the Princes William and Harry, standing at the base of a statue of their late mother, Princess Diana.1 In the photo, Princess Diana forms the apex of a triangle of figures. Each of her hands rests on a child and a third stands behind her. Further down, the princes form the base of the triangle, a show of unity amid rumors of tensions between them. The princes commissioned the statue in 2017 upon the 20th anniversary of her death, but its unveiling marked a happier occasion, on what should have been her 60th Birthday. More than merely a portrait of her likeness, the statue commemorates the many facets of her life and legacy.
The children who appear with her represent, according to Kensington Palace, “universality and generational impact of the Princess’s work.” Known for her compassion, courage, and connection with children, Princess Diana earned the moniker, “the People’s Princess.” While she certainly held the status of fashion icon, her attire in this statue is intended to point more toward her deeds than her appearance. A large square belt buckle immediately draws the eye, recognizable to royal watchers as a striking blouse and pencil-skirt combination that she wore in a portrait with her sons. However, as the description from Kensington Palace explains, “The portrait and 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.”
Her outfit is not the only aspect of this statue that holds meaning, but the setting in the renovated Sunken Garden is also significant. According to Kensington Palace, that garden was a favorite place for Princess Diana, and after her death the palace transformed it into a memorial garden. As a nod to her fashion legacy, the flowers would often match the particularly iconic items of her clothing that the palace displayed. The updated Sunken Garden now contains a meticulously planted 4000-flower collection, most notably including Forget-Me-Nots. Not only were Forget-Me-Nots a personal favorite of Princess Diana, but the name evokes the deep longing within her sons that their mother not be forgotten.
As the world remembers Princess Diana on what should have marked her 60th year of life, her commemorative statue serves as a reminder that her legacy after life is much more than her shy smile, soulful eyes, stunning glamor, and sensationalized tragedy. As the poem at the base of the statue reads, “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?”