Mischief, mirth and mayhem – poignant memories of Queen Elizabeth II’s eight grandchildren

Each and every one of Queen Elizabeth II’s eight grandchildren has been described as her “favourite” over the years.

Yet they all enjoyed an incredibly close bond with the woman they knew simply as “Grannie”.

As the Prince of Wales and the Duke of Sussex led a poignant grandchildren’s vigil around Queen Elizabeth’s coffin on Saturday night with their cousins – Peter Phillips, Zara Tindall, Princess Beatrice, Princess Eugenie, Lady Louise Windsor and James, Viscount Severn – stories have once again begun to emerge about the remarkable relationship they all shared behind palace walls.

Like the time when the late Queen asked Prince Harry to record the first voicemail message on her new mobile phone. Ever the joker, according to royal author Phil Dampier, Harry spoke the following words into the handset: “Hey, wassup? This is Liz. Sorry I’m away from the throne. For a hotline to Philip, press one. For Charles, press two and for the corgis, press three!” The late monarch’s private secretary Robin Janvrin got the shock of his life when he heard it, but she just laughed, having always shared her grandson’s wicked sense of humour.

A few years later, in 2016, she agreed to star in an amusing video responding to Barack and Michelle Obama’s Invictus Games challenge with the words: “Oh really, please.”

Harry said afterwards: “I think it was almost as though you could see that look in her face, at the age of 90, thinking, ‘Why the hell does nobody ask me to do these things more often?”

With the Duke of Edinburgh often playing pranks on his grandchildren, mischief is the word that appears to characterise the relationship between the oldest and youngest members of the House of Windsor.

In a documentary aired after Prince Philip died in April last year, both Harry, 38, and William, 40 revelled in the fact their grandparents used to love it when “things went wrong” on royal engagements. “You can imagine they live a life where everything has to go right the whole time, so when things go wrong, they both chuckle an awful lot,” said William. “Everyone else gets mortally embarrassed, but they love it.”

As her grandson and heir, the Prince of Wales had a special relationship with his late grandmother, which would see him regularly pop over to Windsor Castle for afternoon tea when he was a pupil at nearby Eton College.

As well as helping him to manage his grief following the death of Diana, Princess of Wales, in 1997 – when he was a boarder at the elite school – the late Queen also used their one-to-one sessions to subtly prime him for his role as future king, helping to instil in him her own unwavering sense of duty. Inherently shy like Queen Elizabeth, it is fair to say William has modelled his subtly statesmanlike yet unstuffy approach to royal life in her image.

As her oldest grandchildren, and the children of her only daughter, Princess Anne, the late Queen was always incredibly close to Peter Phillips, 44, and Zara Tindall, 41. She took great pride in Peter being head boy at Gordonstoun, Prince Philip’s alma mata, and of him representing Scotland at rugby at a junior level. Of course, she was also proud of all of Zara’s equestrian achievements having won the Eventing World Championship in 2006 before winning a silver medal at the 2012 London Olympics. But the thing she always used to delightedly tell friends about her granddaughter was that she was a qualified physiotherapist. 

Having been home schooled, Queen Elizabeth was hugely admiring of her grandchildren being educated to degree level (and equally proud of Harry’s 10 years of service in the British Army, which saw him complete two tours of Afghanistan).

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