March 26, 2023

Prince Harry was born in 1984 – 32 years after the Queen ascended to the throne – the second child of her eldest son, Prince Charles. Never in direct line to the throne, the Duke of Sussex and the Queen seemed, in the public eye, to always have a relationship filled with love and playfulness.
This dynamic was summed up in a promotional video for the 2016 Invictus Games, where the Queen appeared alongside Harry in a humorous skit. In 2016, Harry told the BBC’s Andrew Marr about asking his grandmother to be involved: “Naturally, I was going to drag the Queen into it and say ‘do you want to be part of this’ and she was more than happy to oblige,” he joked.
Even in more tumultuous times, when Prince Harry and Meghan, the Duchess of Sussex, chose to step down from senior royal life in January 2020 and move their family to the US, the couple continued to publicly state their respect and admiration for the monarch.
Prince Harry’s early years
After the death of his mother, Diana, the Princess of Wales in 1997, the royal family pulled together, with Harry and his brother William, the Duke of Cornwall and Cambridge, initially protected from much of the media commentary by their grandmother. The morning after the accident on 31 August, after learning the news of their mother’s death, Harry and William accompanied the Queen to church as usual.
Under their grandmother’s direction, there was no mention of Diana during the service, in a bid to avoid upsetting the two young boys. “At the time, you know, my grandmother wanted to protect her two grandsons, and my father as well,” the Duke of Cornwall and Cambridge told the BBC in the 2017 documentary Diana 7 Days. “Our grandmother deliberately removed the newspapers, and things like that, so there was nothing in the house at all. So we didn’t know what was going on.”
As he got older, Prince Harry continued to be close to his grandmother, who the grandchildren of the Royal Family referred to as “Gan Gan.” In 2003, aged 18, he presented the Queen with a gift in front of a crowd of spectators, before playing in a polo match.
According to royal biographers Omid Scobie and Carolyn Durand, writing in Finding Freedom, the Royal Family has a habit of giving silly gifts. Harry reportedly once gave the Queen a shower cap that read Ain’t Life a B**ch on it. Another gift from Harry was an electronic singing fish, which she received for Christmas one year.
Known for his fun side, Prince Harry has frequently been photographed making the Queen laugh. When Harry was 21, in a rare candid photo, the Queen laughed as she inspected her grandson during his passing-out Sovereign’s Parade at Sandhurst Military Academy. Harry tried and failed to contain his laughter.
In 2021, Prince Harry told NBC that his favourite thing about the Queen was her “sense of humour and ability to see humour in so many different things”. He also told reporters: “We have a really special relationship. We talk about things she can’t talk about with anyone else”.
As Prince Harry got older, the obvious fun did not stop between the Queen and her grandson.
The Invictus Games
After Prince Harry set up the Invictus Games in 2014, a sporting event for injured servicemen and women, he worked to publicise the games and its cause. In 2016, the Queen surprised the world by appearing in a short promotional clip for the games, alongside former US President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama.
In an unexpected display of silliness, the Queen joined Harry in a sitting room in Buckingham Palace. The pair responded to remarks by the Obamas, who issued an Invictus Game challenge to Britain. “Oh really?” the Queen says, turning to Harry. “Please!”
This was one of the rare examples of informality from the Queen, perhaps encouraged by her playful grandson. “If Harry asks, the Queen would say yes – as she adores him,” a friend of Prince Harry’s told People magazine.
Harry and Meghan
In 2017, Prince Harry announced his engagement to the actress Meghan Markle. The relationship between the new couple and the Queen was welcoming.
The Duchess of Sussex spoke of meeting the Queen during the couple’s first BBC interview. “It’s incredible to be able to meet her through his lens, not just with his honour and respect for her as the monarch, but the love that he has for her as his grandmother,” she said. “She’s an incredible woman.”
For Harry, the real test was the Queen’s much-loved corgis. “The corgis took to you straight away!” he said during the interview. “I’ve spent the last 33 years being barked at, and this one [Meghan] walks in – absolutely nothing.”
The couple regularly appeared alongside the family at royal events to mark the Queen’s Birthday, such as Trooping the Colour, where they stood on the famous Buckingham Palace balcony, watching the Mall.
Harry and Meghan step back from the Royal Family
In January 2020, the couple announced they would be stepping back as senior royals and would split their time between Britain and North America in the coming years. The announcement came after years of negative reporting by the media, which Prince Harry had publicly called to end.
Speaking at a charity dinner, the Duke said of their departure: “Our hope was to continue serving the Queen, the Commonwealth, and my military associations, but without public funding. Unfortunately, that wasn’t possible. I’ve accepted this knowing that it doesn’t change who I am or how committed I am, but I hope that helps you understand what it had come to.
“That I would step my back from my family and all I have ever known to take a step forward into what I hope can be a more peaceful life. I was born into this life and it is a great honour to serve my country and the Queen.”
The Palace released a statement claiming that “discussions with the Duke and Duchess of Sussex are at an early stage” and that “these complicated issues will take time to work through”.
The Montecito years
On 7 March 2021 came the Oprah interview. In this primetime tell-all, the couple spoke out about the racism and bullying they felt in the royal household. It divided the UK and threw the relationship between the Queen and her grandson into the spotlight once more. However, despite the more shocking claims, the couple repeatedly spoke during the interview about their love and respect for the Queen herself.
Two days after the shock interview aired, an unprecedented statement was released by the Palace: “The whole family is saddened to learn the full extent of how challenging the last few years have been for Harry and Meghan.
“The issues raised, particularly that of race, are concerning. While some recollections may vary, they are taken very seriously and will be addressed by the family privately. Harry, Meghan and Archie will always be much loved family members.”
Becoming a great-grandmother (again)
After Harry and Meghan left for the US, the relationship with the Queen behind the scenes continued. Prince Harry told James Corden on the Late, Late Show about the Queen’s gift giving for his son, Archie. “She sent us a waffle maker for Archie, so [for] breakfast now Meg makes up a beautiful organic mix, in the waffle maker, flip it, out it comes,” he said. “Archie loves it. And now I have waffles for breakfast – bit of yoghurt, bit of jam on top.”
Prince Harry also visited the UK and saw his grandmother in private. “Being with her, it was great. It was just so nice to see her,” Harry said. “She’s on great form. She’s always got a great sense of humour with me, and I’m just making sure that she’s, you know, protected, and got the right people around her.”
Then on 6 June 2021, Harry and Meghan welcomed their daughter Lilibet. Despite still living in the US, Harry and Meghan’s name for their new baby had direct links to home. The Queen’s nickname within her family was ‘Lilibet’ – the naming was a clear tribute to his grandmother.
Publicly, messages of celebration across the pond also continued. On Prince Harry’s 37th birthday on 15 September 2021, the Palace’s Twitter account shared several happy photographs of Harry, with the caption: “Wishing The Duke of Sussex a happy birthday today!”
On 8 September, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex were in the UK when a statement was released by the Queen’s doctors about her deteriorating health. Prince Harry travelled to Scotland to be at Balmoral with the rest of his family, but the Duchess did not attend. Catherine, the Duchess of Cornwall and Cambridge, also did not attend.
The Queen’s death was announced on 8 September at 18:30.
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