In the past month or so, much has been made about the decision to broadcast the Duke and Duchess of Sussex’s interview with Oprah Winfrey, as the Duke of Edinburgh lay ill in hospital.
But it was another interview, given by Prince Harry to James Corden a few days before, that revealed the most truth about the close relationship between Prince Philip and his grandson.
“Both my grandparents Zoom,” said Prince Harry at the time. “We’ve Zoomed them a few times, they’ve seen Archie running around. My grandfather, instead of, like, pressing ‘leave meeting’, he just goes doof.” At this point, Harry laughed, as he mimicked his grandfather slamming down the laptop lid. “I’m like, okay, bye!”
That insight did not generate the excitable, scandalous headlines of the Oprah interview a few days later, but it did show how close Prince Harry has continued to be to his grandparents, despite rumours of a “royal rift”.
It was an anecdote that pointed only to a generational gulf that many families will have experienced during the pandemic; and yet the Dukes of Edinburgh and Sussex had plenty to talk about when technology permitted, and they were in contact until the end.
If there was a fissure within the royal family, it most certainly wasn’t between Harry and his grandparents – he revealed to Oprah that the Queen and Prince Philip were not behind the racist remarks discussed during the interview.
Prince Harry’s intention with Oprah was never to hurt his grandparents, only to explain why he chose to move and step back. And it is unlikely the unflappable Duke of Edinburgh – veteran of World War II – was much bothered by the interview with Winfrey.
The Queen’s late consort had seen a multitude of family tragedy before he had even reached adulthood – a mother committed to a psychiatric hospital, a sister killed along with her children in a plane crash. One imagines that recent events rather paled in comparison for the stoical Duke.
Besides, there was an unshakeable bond between grandfather and grandson, born partly from their joint passion for the military. Both had served in the British Army during wartime; it was the Duke of Edinburgh who introduced Prince Harry to the Guinea Pig Club, an incredible organisation of which he became president in 1960.
Set up in 1941, the Guinea Pig Club was made up of RAF World War II veterans who suffered extensive injuries after being badly burned when their planes were shot down.
Led by surgeon Sir Archibald McIndoe, they underwent pioneering plastic surgery, paving the way for medical research and groundbreaking operations ever since.
A new version, called the CASEVAC Club, after its members who experienced “casualty evacuation” when they were seriously wounded in Afghanistan or Iraq, was created in 2017. On VE Day last year, it was Prince Harry who appeared on The One Show to highlight the work the organisation does.
“Those individuals who signed up chose to serve and then had life-changing injuries, [but] they didn’t stop there,” said Prince Harry of veterans involved in both clubs. “It’s incredibly impressive and at the same time so incredibly uplifting.”
On Friday, Air Vice-Marshal Chris Elliot of the RAF Benevolent Fund paid tribute to Prince Philip. “He was the President of the Guinea Pig Club… [they] were stoic and resilient in the face of great danger and adversity – qualities The Duke admired and shared.”
Even stripped of his military titles, Prince Harry will be determined to continue the inspiring work of his grandfather.
And the young Duke’s work with the likes of the CASEVAC Club and the Invictus Games may just end up being one of Prince Philip’s most enduring legacies.
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