The Royal Family was said to be ‘wearied’ by the never-ending soap opera surrounding Prince Harry yesterday – but determined to put on a business as usual front as they marked the Queen’s 96th birthday.
While the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge were working in London, where they had to dodge questions about the embittered prince’s latest claims from broadcasters, the monarch enjoyed a low-key day at Sandringham.
She was seen being driven round her beloved 20,000-acre Norfolk estate in sunglasses and a scarf with her dogs in the back of the car, enjoying the spring sunshine.
It was a typically low-key day for the head of state who, like her late husband, Prince Philip, shies away from any great fuss or celebrations. Significantly her closest aide, Angela Kelly, was seen driving on to the estate to join her – in what some might see as a pointed gesture of defiance to Harry.
In yet another controversial interview with a US broadcaster, the Duke of Sussex claimed on Wednesday one reason he flew to the UK last week to see his grandmother – for a supposedly private meeting – was because he wanted to make sure ‘she’s protected and got the right people around her’.
His controversial comment caused not just derision that it came from a man who has spent much of the last two-and-a-half years abroad and has caused his grandmother so much heartache, but also speculation as to who he could be referring to.
Prince Harry opened up to NBC about his private relationship with the Queen a day before her 96th birthday
The Queen happily chatted as she went for a drive on her 96th birthday, which she is celebrating at Sandringham today
William and Kate declined to answer a question about Prince Harry’s comments about his need to ‘protect’ the Queen as they left the Disaster Emergency Committee in north London (pictured)
Kate is tipped to replace Prince Andrew as the next Colonel of the Grenadier Guards
The Duchess pictured on March 17
The Duchess of Cambridge is tipped to be the next Colonel of the Grenadier Guards, replacing Prince Andrew who was stripped of his military titles in January.
Kate, 40, would be the first female colonel of the regiment in 80 years since the Queen, then Princess Elizabeth, held the role in 1942.
The royal colonel will typically be present at medal parades, events in the presence of the Queen and regimental gatherings, dinners and galas.
The revelation comes as the Duchess is lined up to stand in for the Queen at the Sovereign’s Parade at the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst.
A senior royal source confirmed: ‘It’s being seriously considered.’
Harry is known to have a historical hatred for the so-called ‘men in grey suits’, the senior courtiers who advise the Queen.
But the Queen is also surrounded by a tight-knit and intensely devoted circle of mostly long-standing servants.
They are led by Miss Kelly, a former dresser promoted to the position of ‘personal assistant, adviser and curator’ to the Queen.
Harry famously fell out with the Liverpool docker’s daughter over Meghan’s choice of tiara for their wedding.
He accused her of being deliberately obstructive to his fiancee, while supporters of Miss Kelly say Harry was rude and short-tempered, effectively telling her: ‘What Meghan wants, Meghan gets.’
Miss Kelly is rarely photographed, which led to many a wry smile in the royal household yesterday after she was seen in a car going to see the Queen on her birthday, hours after her grandson’s remarks.
All three royal households were united yesterday in determination not to be dragged into a public slanging match.
They believe it is pointless and undignified and want to help keep lines of communication open with him for his grandmother’s sake.
Charles is said by some to be ‘weary’ of the constant wranglings but buoyed by the fact he got to see his son last week.
Clarence House said it would ‘not be drawn into commenting on a private meeting’ but one source said Charles and Camilla had appeared ‘pleased’ after getting to see Harry and Meghan at Windsor.
William and Kate were forced to avoid questions on Harry’s comment as they visited the Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC) in London.
As they left, a broadcaster called to William: ‘Sir, does the Queen need protecting?’
The couple did not stop or respond.
William is likely to be irritated at being put in that position as he and his wife were highlighting the generosity of the British people to the DEC Ukraine appeal, which has raised more than £300million so far.
The Queen’s close friend and confidante Angela Kelly arrives at Wood Farm, Sandringham, for Her Majesty’s birthday today
Prince Charles is said by some to be ‘weary’ of the constant wranglings but buoyed by the fact he got to see his son last week. Pictured, Prince Charles last week at the Royal Maundy Service at St George’s Chapel, Windsor
A new portrait of the Queen which has been released by The Royal Windsor Horse Show to mark the occasion of her 96th birthday today. The monarch is in Sandringham today
Yesterday Harry was in the Netherlands watching events at his Invictus Games. The Queen was praised yesterday as an ‘inspiration’ to so many in the UK and Commonwealth while gun salutes rang out across the capital in honour of her anniversary.
Yesterday it was announced that a 70ft ‘Tree of Trees’ sculpture featuring 350 British native trees will be created outside Buckingham Palace as a centrepiece of the Platinum Jubilee celebrations in June.
The Queen’s Green Canopy initiative has been planting trees in the UK to create a living tribute to the monarch.
Prince Edward and Sophie fly today to the Caribbean for a Platinum Jubilee tour. But the couple have had to cancel their visit to the island of Grenada. Aides offered no explanation, but it is understood there is sensitivity after republican protests during William and Kate’s recent tour to the region.
The inconvenient truth about Prince Harry and the Queen: Her Majesty has always avoided any accusations of favouritism when it comes to her grandchildren… but insiders insist if there was a ‘special one’ it would be Peter Phillips, writes RICHARD KAY
By Richard Kay for the Daily Mail
On the face of it the clutch of family photographs released to mark the Queen’s 96th birthday are just as they should be, a touching and heart-warming celebration of the monarch as mother, grandmother and great-grandmother.
From a slideshow of images issued by Prince Charles showing him and his mother down the years, to more recent snapshots of the Queen surrounded by the Royal Family’s newest and youngest generation, they are formal and informal, in colour and in black and white. And all have one thing in common — our Queen of 70 years is wreathed in smiles.
But it is the one shared by Prince William on Twitter that perhaps bears the most scrutiny. The picture taken by the Duchess of Cambridge in 2018 shows William’s grandmother and late grandfather Prince Philip crowded together on a comfy sofa at Balmoral Castle with seven of their great-grandchildren.
In a week when Prince Harry has made a none too subtle attempt to carve out an aura of exclusivity in his own relationship with the Queen, it is a powerful — and poignant — rejoinder to set the record straight.
In a week when Prince Harry has made a none too subtle attempt to carve out an aura of exclusivity in his own relationship with the Queen
This is not the first time William appears to have subtly used images to do so — there was a similar pictorial rebuttal not so long ago concerning Harry’s apparent appropriation of their late mother.
For several years, through a combination of natural diffidence and an unwillingness to make relations with his brother even worse than they already are, William had silently watched as Harry cloaked himself ever more firmly in Princess Diana’s legacy.
Harry was at it again this week in his latest U.S. TV interview, making remarks which even the most neutral of royal observers found provocative. Asked if he felt his ‘mum’s presence’, he told NBC’s Hoda Kotb: ‘For me it is constant. It has been over the last two years. More so than ever before.’
He went on to say: ‘It is almost as though she’s done her bit with my brother and now she’s very much, like, helping me. Got him set up and now she’s helping me set up.’
A year ago, Harry used much of his Oprah Winfrey interview to make frequent claims about his mother. On that occasion, he spoke of his belief that she would have been angry at the way he and Meghan had been treated. At one stage he boldly stated of their departure from royal life: ‘I think she saw it coming.’
It may, of course, have been mere coincidence, but exactly a week after that broadcast, William publicised the hand-drawn cards his children, George, Charlotte and Louis, had made for Mothering Sunday. There was a twist, however: the cards were not for Kate but for Diana, William’s mother.
A year ago, Harry used much of his Oprah Winfrey interview to make frequent claims about his mother. On that occasion, he spoke of his belief that she would have been angry at the way he and Meghan had been treated
Inside were expressions of love and loss for the grandmother they never knew. But the cards communicated a wider message — Diana was the mother of two sons.
If this was designed to halt the torrent of comparisons between the wronged Diana and the son who believes he, too, has been the victim of an uncaring institution, William must have been bitterly disappointed.
Harry has barely drawn breath since, frequently invoking his mother’s name with regard to the frustrations he and Meghan have faced, and drawing comparisons between their own unhappiness with royal life and Diana’s. (Although it is worth pointing out that, unlike Harry, Diana, for all her difficulties, did not abandon her country and continued to serve the monarchy.)
And now, the Prince has taken his suggestion of his exceptional place in the family to a new level with the audacious claim this week that he and the Queen enjoyed a unique relationship. ‘We talk about things that she can’t talk about with anybody else,’ he boasted to NBC.
Of all his recent utterances, it is certainly one of the most breathtaking. Not only does it ask us to put aside the controversy generated by his inflammatory remarks about racism within the Royal Family, it also invites us to believe that of all the Queen’s eight grandchildren, he occupies a distinctive position as her favourite.
As one of the Queen’s longstanding staff told me: ‘No longer content to claim a special status with his mother, he now seems to be mythologising his relationship with his grandmother. Would she recognise this description? I very much doubt it.’
Harry has barely drawn breath since, frequently invoking his mother’s name with regard to the frustrations he and Meghan have faced, and drawing comparisons between their own unhappiness with royal life and Diana’s
The Queen has always been scrupulous to avoid any accusations of favouritism when it comes to her grandchildren, but insiders insist that if there was a ‘special one’ it would be not Harry but Princess Anne’s son Peter Phillips, 44, her first grandson.
‘She has always been close to Peter and admires the way he and his sister Zara handled themselves as grandchildren of the monarch but without royal titles,’ says an old friend of the Queen.
‘Like William and Harry and Princesses Beatrice and Eugenie, Peter and Zara were children of broken homes, but were somehow more exposed because of Anne’s decision that they should not have titles. She thinks Peter especially has inherited the resilience that is so characteristic of Anne. She sees him as dependable.’
Prince Philip shared this affection and regarded Peter, outdoorsy and sporty, as the most sensible and level-headed of all his grandchildren. It was into Peter’s care that the grieving William and Harry were entrusted in the days after news of their mother’s death reached them at Balmoral.
At Gordonstoun, the tough Scottish school where Peter was head boy or ‘guardian’, as it was called, he wore his royal connections lightly. As Anne famously remarked of Peter and Zara: ‘They’re not royal. The Queen just happens to be their grandmother.’ Even when Anne’s marriage to Peter’s father, Captain Mark Phillips, was disintegrating, home life at Gatcombe continued relatively untroubled.
Indeed, its informality was such that as young boys William and Harry liked nothing more than escaping the iciness of Highgrove and their parents’ rows for relaxed Gatcombe and the company of their cousins.
Harry was at it again this week in his latest U.S. TV interview, making remarks which even the most neutral of royal observers found provocative
Even the Queen fell in with this easygoing mood. When they came into her presence, Peter was made to bow and Zara to curtsy. After that show of respect, however, the Queen was treated very much as any grandmother would be.
One afternoon when she was being cuddled on her grandmother’s knee, 18-month-old Zara took hold of the Queen’s necklace and broke the string, scattering the priceless pearls over the carpet. ‘Granny’ voiced no complaint other than a grunt of exasperation, then got down on her hands and knees and, with Peter helping her, picked them up.
Not even the break-up of Peter’s marriage to Canadian Autumn Kelly, which ended last year after 13 years and two children, dented the special relationship between grandmother and first grandchild. And you certainly won’t find Peter Phillips giving credential-burnishing interviews about his relationship with his grandmother.
So what then of the bond between Harry and the Queen? Harry was right about one thing in the interview, recorded during the Invictus Games in The Hague: ‘She has always got a great sense of humour with me,’ he declared.
And there is no doubt their ability to laugh at the same things has underpinned the relationship. But the fact is there has been precious little laughter since Harry and Meghan began releasing their ‘truth bombs’ on the Royal Family from cossetted exile in California.
Presenter Hoda Kotb places her arm on Prince Harry’s shoulder during their chat at the Invictus Games in The Hague
As a small boy, Harry’s misbehaviour often exasperated the Queen, who assumed neither Charles nor Diana nor their nannies were firm enough with him.
In his broadcast, Harry suggested an intimacy with his grandmother that some close to the royals are questioning. ‘She certainly used to worry about Harry, what with his moods and his scrapes, but because, like Prince Andrew, he fought for his country, she has always been enormously proud of him,’ a close figure tells me.
‘She also was always very conscious of his status as second in line to William, just as Princess Margaret was to her. But this didn’t confer any favouritism and after all she has hardly seen him in the last two years.’
The grandson she sees the most is 14-year-old James, Prince Edward’s son who lives nearby.
A figure familiar with the relationship between Harry and the Queen tells me: ‘A wariness has crept in in recent times, just as it did with Princess Diana.’
What then are the things they talk about that, as Harry claimed, ‘she can’t talk about with anybody else’? According to sources, her favourite topic is news of her great-grandson Archie and Lilibet, the great-granddaughter named after her and whom she has yet to meet. ‘She’s also interested in their lives in California.’
According to a Windsor aide, the meeting last week went well. ‘The Sussexes were in a good mood and so too was the Queen, she was pleased to see them.’
Insiders insist that if there was a ‘special one’ it would be not Harry but Princess Anne’s son Peter Phillips, 44, her first grandson
Which makes Harry’s other remarks about the Queen’s security all the more puzzling. His extraordinary claim that he was ‘just making sure she’s protected and has got the right people around her’, sparked fury.
Insiders believe he was referring to figures such as the Queen’s private secretary Sir Edward Young and Angela Kelly, his grandmother’s personal assistant and dresser.
Harry has had issues with both of them. Two years ago, ahead of his acrimonious departure from Britain, he blamed senior courtiers, including Sir Edward, for cancelling a lunch he and Meghan were due to have with the Queen at Sandringham where they had been invited to discuss their plans to step back from royal duties.
And in 2018 he was reported to have rowed with Liverpool-born Ms Kelly over the choice of Meghan’s wedding day tiara.
Coincidence or not, but the redoubtable Ms Kelly was photographed in a car with the Queen at Sandringham yesterday.
The NBC interview was remarkable for Harry’s absence of warm words for anyone but the Queen. Asked outright whether he missed his father and brother, he dodged the question. Just as he did on Oprah, Harry sought to make a distinction between the Queen and the institution of monarchy.
This has infuriated other royal figures who are understandably suspicious of Harry and Meghan for praising the Queen while attacking other family members.
It explains why Harry’s meeting with Prince Charles was both shorter and more fraught than that with the Queen. Nor did it help that, according to an aide, Harry and Meghan were not on time, and the Prince, who hates unpunctuality, had to leave to prepare for the Maundy Thursday service at St George’s chapel after 15 minutes.
When this latest furore calms, it will be remembered not for Harry’s failure to show fellow-feeling for his father and brother, but for the way he aggrandised his relationship with his 96-year-old grandmother. At such a venerable age, doesn’t she deserve better?