Royal fans have given their verdicts on the new statue of Diana, Princess of Wales, after Kensington Palace’s gardens were reopened to the public.
More than 100 visitors flocked to the Sunken Garden in the first hour of the statue’s public unveiling on Friday, with some queuing to get in two hours before opening.
Royal family superfan Terry Hutt, 86, from Whaddon, Cambridgeshire, waited at the gates clad in a Union flag suit and top hat, and called the statue unveiling a “dream come true”.
He said: “This statue is something we’ve been looking forward to for many years.
“I was one of the fortunate ones to meet Princess Diana. I was at St Bart’s campaigning to save the hospital and she was opening a building for homeless people and she thought I was homeless.
“She sent me a nod and a few words. Ever since, I’ve always been around for her.
“I was surprised that in the statue she wasn’t on her own, but again, I swallow my pride and I like what I see.”
Donna Burton, 50, from Newcastle, arrived in London on Wednesday to celebrate Diana’s birthday with a banner in Kensington Gardens.
She has been a fan since Diana got married to the Prince of Wales because “she just did so many kind-hearted things for people”.
She admitted that she felt underwhelmed by pictures of the statue initially, saying: “I wasn’t that impressed really. I just thought it didn’t really look like her – but I think it must be hard to make a statue look like someone.”
She added: “I think it would have been a bit lonely for her on her own. I would have preferred the kids to be William and Harry.”
Terri-Ann Pincombe, 56, from Kesgrave, Suffolk, said she liked how “informal” the statue of Diana was, adding: “Her vulnerability made her very human. It would have been nice to see Harry and William as the kids in the statue but perhaps that would have made it more about them.”
Meanwhile, Sara Terrence, who lives in London but is originally from New Zealand, said the statue “gives people something to come and look at and remember her by”.
“I think it’s beautiful and lovely but I was wondering about why the three children were there – perhaps to show her caring side?” she said.
The Duke of Cambridge and the Duke of Sussex reunited for the unveiling of sculptor Ian Rank-Broadley’s artwork on Thursday, saying they hoped it would be “a symbol of (Diana’s) life and her legacy”.
The figure of the princess, who would have celebrated her 60th birthday on Thursday, is surrounded by three children and depicts Diana, with short cropped hair, in the later years of her life.
The palace’s Sunken Garden – one of the places Diana loved most at the palace – has been redesigned during the past two years and features more than 4,000 individual flowers, including forget-me-nots which were adored by the princess.
Graham Dillamore, deputy head of gardens and estates at Historic Royal Palaces, said: “While she was in residence at Kensington Palace, Diana, Princess of Wales regularly admired the changing floral displays in the Sunken Garden and would always stop to talk with me and the other gardeners who cared for it.
“Over three decades later, I’m honoured to have been part of the team preparing the garden for the installation of this statue.”