February 26, 2024
The former personal footman for the late queen said Harry and Meghan took off for California when she had planned for them and their children to come to tea and enjoy birthday cake.

On the first anniversary of the death of Queen Elizabeth II, a source for Prince Harry and Meghan Markle is denying a claim by the late monarch’s onetime footman that they snubbed her invitation to celebrate Princess Lilibet’s first birthday and that they left the UK after attending her Platinum Jubilee without saying good-bye.

“Even on Lilibet’s 1st birthday, the queen didn’t see her,” Elizabeth’s former personal footman Paul Burrell told the Mirror in an interview published Friday. “She saw (Lilibet) the day before. But on her birthday, the queen had a birthday cake made with one candle in it. And they never turned up. That candle was never lit.”

However, a source close to the Duke and Duchess of Sussex told Page Six that there is “no truth” to Burrell’s claims.

“They did see the Queen to celebrate Lili’s birthday,” the source said, speaking on behalf of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex.

LONDON, ENGLAND – JUNE 03: Meghan, Duchess of Sussex and Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex arrive at the National Service of Thanksgiving at St Paul’s Cathedral on June 03, 2022 in London, England. The Platinum Jubilee of Elizabeth II is being celebrated from June 2 to June 5, 2022, in the UK and Commonwealth to mark the 70th anniversary of the accession of Queen Elizabeth II on 6 February 1952. (Photo by Chris J Ratcliffe/Getty Images) 

The California-based couple, who are estranged from most members of the royal family, said they stayed in contact with the 96-year-old monarch until her death on Sept. 8, 2022. Harry, in particular, has described the “special relationship” he had with his grandmother and has talked about how he and his American wife were a great source of delight and comfort to the queen in the last two years of her life.

The Duke and Duchess of Sussex traveled to the UK in June 2022 to attend some of the events related to her Platinum Jubilee — on the same weekend as Lilibet’s first birthday.

Harry and Meghan publicized the birthday celebration they held for their daughter on June 4, 2022 — a Saturday. Reports say they hosted a relaxed garden party at Frogmore Cottage, the home they occupied near Windsor Castle when they were senior working royals. A few other royal family members attended the intimate gathering, including Harry’s cousins Zara Tindall and Peter Phillips and their respective children.

But King Charles, Prince William and Princess Catherine did not attend, which wasn’t necessarily a sign of their estrangement from Harry and Meghan. Charles, William and Catherine also were reportedly busy with Jubilee-related events.

On that Saturday, the queen also was scheduled to attend the Epsom Derby in Surrey as part of the Jubilee festivities but was forced to pull out due to her ongoing health issues, Page Six said. The next day, she asked Harry and Meghan if they’d like to come to tea at her home at nearby Windsor Castle to celebrate Lilibet’s birthday, Burrell told the Mirror.

“She asked if maybe they’d like to come up for tea again and was told they’ve gone,” said Burrell, who also was butler for the late Princess Diana. “‘What do you mean they’ve gone?’ she said. ‘They’ve gone back to America.’ ‘Oh no, they never said goodbye.’”

Burrell told the Mirror that the queen was “confused” that Harry and Markle decided to leave the UK so quickly. They had also brought their 4-year-old son Prince Archie on that UK trip.

“How could you offend our queen?” Burrell said. “Well, I don’t understand anyone that could do that. Not her family, why would you want to?” he said.

Elizabeth’s team made sure the royal family acknowledged her great-granddaughter’s first birthday, with a post on social media.

“Wishing Lilibet a very Happy 1st Birthday!” read the tweet from the Royal Family account.

From their official @KensingtonRoyal account, William and Kate Middleton also acknowledged Lilibet’s birthday, by tweeting: “Wishing a very happy birthday to Lilibet, turning one today! .”

However, the Prince and Princess of Wales did not issue 2nd birthday wishes for Lilibet this past June, an indication of the bitterness and anger that has arisen between William and Harry, following Harry’s public criticisms of his brother and the rest of the monarchy in interviews, his memoir, “Spare” and the Sussexes’ Netflix docuseries.

Critics of Harry and Meghan will see Burrell’s claims as bolstering those made by a close friend of the queen. In an interview in June, the friend, who remained anonymous, told the Daily Beast that Harry caused his grandmother anguish when she was dying and in physical pain. He mostly did so by the way he and Meghan went public with their various grievances against certain members of the royal family and the institution she had represented for 70 years.

In the final months, the queen’s health declined to the point that “she couldn’t see very much, she couldn’t hear very much, and she was easily confused,” the friend said in the interview with the Daily Beast.

“That was the time for Harry and Meghan to bite their tongue,” the friend told the Daily Beast. “Instead they produced this unending stream of incredibly hurtful films and interviews attacking her life’s work. For Harry to announce he was writing a memoir when his grandmother was not just recently widowed but actually dying herself, as he must have known she was — well, the cruelty of it takes the breath away.”

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