How Prince Harry and his grandmother Queen Elizabeth II maintained their ‘special’ bond throughout the years
Hearts broke around the world when Queen Elizabeth II‘s death was announced in the early hours of this morning, and they further shattered when it emerged that Prince Harry, who had returned to the United Kingdom from the United States earlier in the week, missed his grandmother’s final moments by just 90 minutes.
Despite the complexity of the duo’s relationship – the Queen was not only the Duke of Sussex‘s grandmother but also the longest-reigning monarch in British history and the head of the ‘Firm’ Harry quit – they shared a special bond, and Harry and his wife Meghan Markle spoke of the Queen with affection, even when they were speaking out about the Firm.
“She’s always got a great sense of humour with me,” Harry, 37, said of his grandmother in a tell-all interview with NBC‘s Hoda Kotb earlier this year. “Her sense of humour and ability to see the humour in so… so many different things. We have a really special relationship. We talk about thing she can’t really talk about with anybody else, so that is always a nice piece to her.”
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Harry and the Queen’s close bond was spotlighted many times over the years in public, and it only strengthened behind closed doors.
His interview with Kotb this year was not the first time he spoke of the Queen’s sense of humour – in 2012, he opened up to People about the Queen’s penchant for comedy, saying she learned it from her late husband, Prince Philip, who passed away in 2021 at the age of 99.
“They are very funny together. My family is the same as any other family when it comes to humour behind closed doors,” he said of his grandparents, adding, “though I’d like think I was funnier than my grandmother.”
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While Harry and the Queen shared many laughs over the years, Her Majesty was also a steadfast support throughout times of tragedy.
When Harry’s mother, Princess Diana, died suddenly in a car crash at the age of 36, news outlets across the world were reporting on the breaking story – and the Queen wanted to protect her grandchildren from hearing the details of their mother’s death so they could grieve in peace.
So, the monarch instructed the staff at Balmoral Castle – where Harry and Prince William were staying at the time and where the Queen ultimately passed away peacefully at the age of 96 – to hide all of the radios and televisions at the estate.
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Prince Harry’s mischievous military inspection by Queen Elizabeth II
Putting their personal relationship aside when it came to official duties was not something the duo could always do, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing.
Although Harry was open about the fact that his grandmother was also his “boss” – “I still view her more as the Queen than my grandmother,” he said in the 2016 documentary Elizabeth At 90 – A Family Tribute – there were times where their shared sense of humour broke through.
This was evident in 2006, when the Queen inspected the Sovereign’s Parade at Sandhurst’s Royal Military Academy, and Harry, who was in the parade, grinned at his grandmother who smiled back at him – a stark contrast to the sombre soldiers who were also marching in the parade.
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The Duke of Sussex, however, has been open about how, after he joined the army in 2005 as Officer Cadet Wales of the Alamein Company when he was 20, his relationship with his grandmother shifted – he became more familiar with her role as a public figurehead.
“Once you’re in the military, she means a lot more to you than just a grandmother,” Harry told the ABC in 2012. “She is the queen. And then you suddenly … start realising, you know, ‘Wow, this is quite a big deal.'”
The Queen was supportive of her grandson’s role in the military, which saw him serve two tours in Afghanistan over 10 years of active service.
Her support only grew when he established the Invictus Games, an international sporting competition that was first held in 2014, for servicemen and women who are wounded, injured and sick servicemen, both serving and veterans.
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Queen Elizabeth’s cameo at the 2016 Invictus Games
Once again, Her Majesty and Harry’s shared sense of humour became evident in 2016 – but this time it was for the whole world to see, not just behind closed doors.
The Queen starred in a promotional video for the Invictus Games, which also featured then-President Barack Obama and his wife, then-First Lady Michelle Obama.
In the video, Harry receives a video message from the former first lady ahead of the Games, who tells the duke: “Hey, Prince Harry, remember when you told us to bring it at the Invictus Games?”
“Careful what you wish for,” the former president then says, as a soldier in the background ‘drops a mic’.
Harry then shows the message to his grandmother, who responds with an unimpressed, “Oh, really, please.”
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It was an unexpected move from Her Majesty at the time, as she was normally more formal with her duties – four years earlier, however, she did star in a skit with the James Bond (Daniel Craig) for the opening of the 2021 London Olympics, and at her Platinum Jubilee celebrations earlier this year, she starred in a skit with Paddington Bear.
“I didn’t want to put pressure on her to take part,” Harry said of her 2016 Invictus Games cameo, according to Angela Levin’s biography Harry: Conversations with the Prince.
She was, however, eager to be involved, according to Harry: “She’s my boss as head of the armed forces… and if you have the ability to up one on the Americans, then why not?”
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Prince Harry and Queen Elizabeth II’s bond following the ‘royal resignation’
When it came to Harry’s relationship with Meghan Markle, Duchess of Sussex, the Queen was reportedly “delighted” early on, and approved of Meghan, 41, because she made Harry happy.
Notably, the Queen allowed Meghan to join the royal family for Christmas at Sandringham in 2017, the first time an unmarried partner of a royal family member had been allowed to attend.
Meghan has only had kind words to say about the Queen, even throughout the Sussexes’ resignation as senior working royals, move to the United States, and subsequent tell-all interviews.
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“The Queen has always been wonderful to me,” Meghan told Oprah in the couple’s famed March 2021 interview with the talk show host, which also included accusations of racism and bullying from Meghan and Harry towards other senior royals.
“I just really loved being in her company…she’s always been warm and inviting and really welcoming.”
Despite reports that the Queen was “blindsided” by Harry’s decision to step away from his senior position within the Firm with the Duchess of Sussex, in that same interview with Oprah, he said that he had “too much respect for her” to shock her like that, and noted that he had discussed his royal exit with the Queen three different times before it was public information.
“I’ve spoken more to my grandmother in the last year than I have done for many, many years,” he told Oprah, adding that they held calls on Zoom so the Queen could see her great-grandson, Archie Mountbatten-Windsor.
“My grandmother and I have a really good relationship and an understanding. And I have a deep respect for her. She’s my Colonel-in-chief, right? She always will be.”
It was over Zoom that the Queen met her one-year-old great-granddaughter, Lilibet Mountbatten-Windsor, in 2021. The duo, who share a name – Lilibet was named after her great-grandmother’s nickname – finally met in-person during the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee weekend in June 2022.
Unfortunately, however, that was the great-grandmother and great-granddaughter’s only meeting before the Queen’s passing, and it’s not known if they have any unofficial photographs together.
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