Prince William and Prince Harry reunited on Thursday to honor Princess Diana. The brothers came together at Kensington Palace in London, England, to unveil the long-awaited statue of their late mother.
The brothers’ reunion comes amid reports that they are at odds following Harry’s exit from senior royal duties and his tell-all interview with Oprah Winfrey. ET’s royal expert, Katie Nicholl, explained to ET the significance of their reunion, and how they came together to present a “united front.”
“I think both of them have wanted today to be about the statue, about remembering Diana’s legacy, and not about the rift that has really overshadowed the coverage of the royal family for the past 18 months,” Nicholl shared. “So they clearly went to a lot of effort to deflect from this rift between the two of them.”
Nicholl said she feels the brothers made a concerted effort to make the event specifically about “their mother [and] her legacy, [by] crucially putting on a united front to remember Diana.”
The statue of the Princess of Wales — created by sculptor Ian Rank-Broadley — resides in the Sunken Garden of the palace where Diana once lived, and was unveiled on a particularly meaningful date, as it would have marked Diana’s 60th birthday had she not tragically died in a car accident in Paris, France, in 1997.
According to Nicholl, the brothers managed to accomplish their goal by not giving fodder to new reports of tension or discord that may have otherwise overshadowed the celebratory event.
“They seemed relaxed in each other’s company, there wasn’t any sign of tension between them,” Nicholl shared. “I thought Harry particularly looked quite jovial, he looked like he was really enjoying the day.”
Nicholl also addressed whether or not William and Harry had a private meeting before the event to come to a consensus on how to present themselves during the unveiling.
“There has been a lot of speculation about a meeting, both before the unveiling of the statue and after,” Nicholl said. “I think one of the biggest problems in all of this has been the breakdown of trust. The fact that conversations, private conversations, have been leaked to the media. I think every effort is going to go into making sure that any conversation that has taken place is going to remain private.”
“I think for the rift to heal in any way, that simply has to happen,” she added.
Nicholl said, however, that it’s “hard to imagine that there hasn’t been a meeting” at some point. Nicholl expressed that any such meeting would likely have taken place before the small ceremony commenced, so the pair “would’ve had a moment at least to come together to talk about what was about to happen and to make sure that they’d had some time together before they went out into the Sunken Garden and faced the cameras for the first time.”
Nicholl also reflected on what this reunion could signify for the brothers’ relationship moving forward, and in the long run.
“Harry himself has said that he wants to repair relationships with his family,” she shared. “He’s said that he loves his brother and he acknowledges that it’s going to take time for the relationship to heal, but I think the endgame is the hope that it will heal. That things will get better.”
However, Nicholl said, “Speaking to sources close to William, I think it is going to take some time. The Duke of Cambridge is still very bitter and very hurt by a lot of what Harry and Meghan has said in that interview… [and] possibly it’s ambitious to expect that [their relationship] ever will be what it once was.”
“I think they both recognize that a fracture that divides key and important members of the royal family is something that can only be ultimately damaging to the monarchy,” Nicholl said.
As for the event itself, Nicholl said it was a “Spencer family affair,” attended largely by Diana’s family.
Apart from Harry and William, “No members of the royal family [were there] and we would not expecting them either,” Nicholl said. “This is very much William and Harry’s tribute to their mother to commemorate her legacy and I think it felt very right that it was a Spencer family affair.”
As for the next time people are likely to see William and Harry reunite in public, Nicholl said it will probably be Queen Elizabeth II’s Platinum Jubilee celebration, which is set to take place in June 2022.
“I think that’s a given they’re going to want to be a part of those official birthday celebrations for the queen,” Nicholl said. “We know that it was always [Harry’s] intention, pre-pandemic, that they would travel back to the U.K. on a relatively regular basis. Now clearly, things have been difficult, family relations have been strained, but I think it is still Harry’s ultimate goal to make sure that he does come back to Britain for holidays, and that they do spend some time back here in England.”
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