Special access to Diana statue to mark anniversary of her death

The statue of Diana, Princess of Wales will be specially opened to well-wishers to mark the first anniversary of her death since the long-awaited memorial was unveiled.

The princess was killed on August 31 in 1997, with Tuesday marking 24 years since the fatal car crash in Paris.

Due to the pandemic, Kensington Palace and its gardens are operating reduced opening days and are usually only accessible to the public from Wednesday to Sunday.

But Historic Royal Palaces (HRP) said special arrangements had been made to allow visitors to view the statue from the Cradle Walk around the Sunken Garden where it stands from 3pm to 5pm on Tuesday.

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The statue of Diana, Princess of Wales in the Sunken Garden (Jonathan Brady/PA)

The bronze tribute was finally revealed by the Duke of Cambridge and Duke of Sussex together – despite their troubled relationship – at a ceremony last month on what would have been their mother’s 60th birthday.

A spokesman for HRP said: “We acknowledge that there will be interest in viewing the statue on that day.

“So we will be providing access to the Cradle Walk which is essentially the beautiful walkway around the Sunken Garden.

“We will be opening that up, freely available, for passers-by or anybody who wants to stop and take a moment on that Tuesday, specially for the anniversary.”

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Diana, Princess of Wales (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

Entry to the Cradle Walk will be free and does not need to be booked, but well-wishers will not be able to leave flowers at the base of the statue nor approach it.

Public access to the Sunken Garden, even before the statue arrived, has always been limited to the walkway – an arched arbour of red-twigged lime – which used to be known by the nickname ‘Nanny Walk’ after becoming a favoured meeting point for the many nannies in Kensington.

Ardent Diana fans usually make a pilgrimage to leave flowers and messages at the ornate Golden Gates of Kensington Palace on the anniversary of her death.

HRP said they were conscious not to take attention from those who gather there each year, and that they hoped the gates at Diana’s former London home would continue to be the focal point.

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Tributes attached to the Golden Gates of Kensington Palace in 2017 ahead of the 20th anniversary of Diana’s death (PA)

“We didn’t want to take the shine away from the Golden Gates, and from the kind of tributes that we know will be there,” the spokesman said.

“It’s special for the group to have that kind of moment.”

The statue by renowned artist Ian Rank-Broadley shows Diana, with short cropped hair and a style of dress based on the final period of her life, surrounded by three children.

Commissioned by William and Harry in honour of their mother, who died when they were just 15 and 12, it had been due to be unveiled before the end of 2017.

Diana’s 60th birthday
The Duke of Cambridge and Duke of Sussex unveiling the memorial (Dominic Lipinski/PA)

William, the Duchess of Cambridge and their three children Prince George, Princess Charlotte and Prince Louis will mark the anniversary privately.

It follows a time of turbulence for the royal family, with Harry thousands of miles away in the US with the Duchess of Sussex after stepping down from royal duties.

Harry is publishing his memoirs next year, and he and Meghan laid bare their brief lives as working royals in their Oprah interview in March, alleging a member of the family made a racist comment about their son, and telling how the institution failed to help the duchess when she was having suicidal thoughts.