Prince William and Prince Harry took a collaborative approach with Ian Rank-Broadley as he envisioned and created the Princess Diana tribute — "they made a huge contribution," says the sculptor
Advertisement
Sculptor Ian Rank-Broadley with his statue of Diana, Princess of Wales
Credit: Dominic Lipinski/WPA Pool/Shutterstock

On Thursday, Prince William and Prince Harry reunited at Kensington Palace to unveil a long-awaited statue of Princess Diana in the Sunken Garden, one of her favorite havens in London. So who is Ian Rank-Broadley, man behind the sculpture?

The acclaimed artist has produced the likeness of Queen Elizabeth featured on all U.K. and Commonwealth coins since 1998, and his royal roots are deep.

Most recently, Rank-Broadley's also commemorated the life of Prince Philip, who died in April at age 99, when Her Majesty's Treasury debuted a special edition coin featuring a portrait of the late Duke of the Edinburgh. The limited edition, 5-pound coin — which will not enter the general circulation — was released over the weekend and features an effigy by Rank-Broadley which Philip approved in 2008, the Associated Press reported.

But Rank-Broadley's connection to the royals goes back to 1976 when he graduated from the Slade School of Fine Art and won the Royal Mint competition for a new effigy of the Queen for all British coinage in 1997, his website states.

He would go on to win the mint's design contests for the Queen Mother Centennial crown coin in 1998, and Queen's Golden Jubilee crown coin and medal in 2001. In creating the commemorative coin for the jubilee celebrations, he was awarded the first Olin-Stones prize from the Society of Portrait Sculptors in 2003.

Royal commemorative coin
Credit: Stefan Rousseau - PA Images/PA Images via Getty Images

Four years later, Rank-Broadley completed another prestigious commission and created two bronze sculpture groups at the center of the Armed Forces Memorial, unveiled in 2007. The memorial, within the National Memorial Arboretum in Staffordshire, honors the 16,000 military men and women of the British Armed Forces killed in the line of duty since WWII.

A decade later, it was announced that Prince William and Prince Harry had specially commissioned Rank-Broadley to create a statue of Princess Diana to stand in the garden of her former home. 2017 was a year of many commemorations of Diana's life, as it marked 20 years since she died in a car crash in Paris at age 36.

The Duke of Cambridge and Duke of Sussex arrive for the unveiling of a statue they commissioned of their mother Diana, Princess of Wales
Prince William and Prince Harry unveil a statue of their mother, Princess Diana, at Kensington Gardens.
| Credit: Alamy Stock Photo

"Ian is an extremely gifted sculptor and we know that he will create a fitting and lasting tribute to our mother," the princes said in a joint statement released to PEOPLE at the time. "We look forward to unveiling the statue, which will allow all those who visit Kensington Palace to remember and celebrate her life and legacy."

Listen below to our daily podcast PEOPLE Every Day for more on Prince William and Prince Harry's reunion for the unveiling of the statue honoring their mother, Princess Diana.

At the unveiling on Thursday, Rank-Broadley told reporters: "Uppermost in my mind was to do something for the princes, the princess was a very public figure and in many respects an icon — but she was somebody's mother. So I paid the greatest heed to both princes in what they had to say."

He continued, "In many ways it was a collaborative effort. ... They described their mother and in many ways there were private moments that were related – one certainly got the feeling she was an enormous amount of fun and [loved] playing jokes."

"They made a huge contribution," he added of William and Harry. "I could say the sculpture belongs to them as well — they helped make it."

Echoing similar sentiments, Rank-Broadley added, "It is my sole and highest intention to fulfill the expectations of Their Royal Highnesses in creating a lasting and fitting memorial to their late mother Diana, Princess of Wales."

princess diana, Ian Rank-Broadley,
Credit: Tim Graham Photo Library via Getty Images; Tony Harris - PA Images/PA Images via Getty Images

Can't get enough of PEOPLE's Royals coverage? Sign up for our free Royals newsletter to get the latest updates on Kate MiddletonMeghan Markle and more!

The princes formed a committee with one of Diana's sisters, some friends, experts and charity contacts to choose a fitting tribute. Though royal sources said last summer that the design stages had been progressing well, the installation was delayed due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Now, the long-awaited effigy has been unveiled on what would have been Diana's 60th birthday.

prince harry, princess diana, prince william
Princess Diana, Prince Harry and Prince William
| Credit: Julian Parker/UK Press via Getty

On Friday, Kensington Palace released new details about the ceremony, officially confirming William and Harry's reunion. The Duke of Sussex made the flight from California to the U.K. last week and isolate at Frogmore Cottage for a few days before attending a charity gathering for the WellChild children's charity, of which he is patron.

Rank-Broadley joined the brothers, some of Princess Diana's close family members, statue committee members, and Sunken Garden designer Pip Morrison for the grand unveiling.

Get the latest issue of PEOPLE Royals for glamorous new photos and inside stories royals fans haven't seen or read elsewhere! Subscribe at peopleroyals.com/launch

The statue was "commissioned to mark the twentieth anniversary of her death and recognize her positive impact in the UK and around the world," the palace said in a statement last year.

The statement continued, "The Princes hope that the statue will help all those who visit Kensington Palace to reflect on their mother's life and her legacy."