Whenever a prince or princess broadcasts from their own home, it’s often an exciting chance for people to sneak a peek inside a royal abode. But when fans tuned in to see Prince Charles video-chatting from his residence in April 2020, they got a little more than they bargained for. In fact, many royal watchers were surprised – perhaps a little disturbed – by the contents of one particular photo frame that sat on the heir to the throne’s shelves.
At the time, Charles was launching the new NHS Nightingale Hospital London – making him the first member of his family to ever do so via video link. He was communicating from his Scottish countryside residence of Birkhall, which is part of the Balmoral estate and used as a summer home by the prince and his wife Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall.
And the speech that Charles delivered from Birkhall was a moving one. Speaking to all those involved in the creation of the hospital, he remarked, “If I may say so, I was enormously touched to have been asked to open the Nightingale Hospital… It is without doubt a spectacular and almost unbelievable feat of work in every sense – from its speed of construction in just nine days, as we’ve heard, to its size and the skills of those who have created it.”
“[It is] an example, if any one was needed, of how the impossible could be made possible and how we could achieve the unthinkable through human will and ingenuity,” Charles continued. “The creation of this hospital is above all the result of an extraordinary collaboration and partnership between NHS managers, the military and all those involved to create a center on a scale that has never been seen before in the United Kingdom.”
Speaking directly to the camera, the heir to the British throne continued, “On behalf of the nation, I want to say a very big thank you to the planners, the builders, the Armed Forces, the generous companies and organizations [that] have donated equipment and services and all the support staff who have made this possible.”
And, naturally, Charles thanked the people who’d be operating the hospital as well. “We are in an immense debt of gratitude to the doctors, the nurses, the technicians, the staff currently working in the health service and those coming out of retirement and the voluntary workers who will be working within it,” he said.
Charles also mentioned the historical figure who had given the new medical facility its moniker, adding, “The name of this hospital could not have been more aptly chosen. Florence Nightingale, the lady with the lamp, brought hope and healing to thousands in their darkest hour… It is symbolic of the selfless care and devoted service taking place in innumerable settings with countless individuals throughout the United Kingdom.”
“Ladies and gentlemen, as the wonders of modern technology can only do so much and I can’t quite reach, perhaps I could invite Nightingale’s head of nursing Natalie Gray on my behalf to unveil the plaque to declare NHS Nightingale Hospital open,” the prince concluded. The plaque was then revealed to warm applause.
And Charles’ words were largely received positively. One viewer responded to the address by writing on Twitter, “Listening to his speech, [he] came across as king in waiting. I sincerely hope this isn’t for many years, but when that day arrives, we will have a most worldly, wise, experienced, qualified king in our midst, and we should be grateful for this in years to come.”
Yet the speech wasn’t the only noteworthy aspect of the broadcast, as Charles’ video also gave fans a rare chance to pore over the interior of Birkhall – one of the most private of the British royal family’s properties. In fact, the home – which dates back to the 1700s – has only really been seen before on the 2018 BBC show Prince, Son and Heir: Charles at 70.
And when the documentary cameras went inside Birkhall, they allowed the audience a look at its interior decoration. Viewers noticed in particular that there were a lot of photographs of the prince and his family, with one snap having appeared to have been taken at the baptism ceremony of Prince Louis.
A few other details are known about Birkhall, though. Originally, the property belonged to Queen Victoria, and ever since then it’s been passed down through the royal family. In her youth, the Queen even used to vacation at Birkhall with her sister, Margaret. Then it became the Queen Mother’s residence until her death, upon which it was given to her grandchild Charles.
But even though Birkhall’s inner workings are largely kept under wraps, Charles did nonetheless discuss its gardens with Country Life magazine back in 2013. “It is such a special place – particularly because it was made by my grandmother,” he said. “It is a childhood garden, and all I’ve done, really, is enhance it a bit.”
The prince, who was actually the guest editor for that edition of Country Life, added, “My gardening style is to try to work with the spirit of the place and to have enough time to walk round and round until a vision of how it should be comes to me. Sometimes, I see it in a dream.”
The room from which Charles gave his Nightingale Hospital speech appeared, though, to be his rarely seen office in Birkhall. Keen-eyed royal watchers therefore scanned the background to see which photographs the Duke of Cornwall had deemed worthy of inclusion in the room. And there were quite a few dotted around, it transpired.
A photo subsequently released by Clarence House of Charles recording his speech also provided a good view of the office. And this snap contained a detail that viewers of the video wouldn’t have been able to see. It appears that Charles had fixed his tablet in place using a book he himself had written: Harmony: A New Way of Looking at the World.
And the Clarence House post also lets the curious take a closer look at the photos behind Charles. One depicted the Queen, Charles’ mother, as an infant back in the 1920s. Another was of the prince and his sister, Princess Anne – reportedly the sibling he likes the most – as children. That snap was taken when the royal family were holidaying in Malta in the mid-1950s, and the prince and princess happen to be wearing adorably coordinating clothing.
Other images appeared to be of the royal family on more public occasions. For instance, a photograph of Charles, Prince William and Prince Harry in military garb during a commemorative Royal Air Force event could be seen sitting on the Duke of Cornwall’s piano. Elsewhere, set aside from the other frames, there was a photo taken just after the prince’s 2005 marriage ceremony.
And some viewers may have been rather relieved to see a shot of Harry in the background, as his decision to step away from his family is said to have caused some dissent within the ranks. Famously, at the beginning of 2020, Harry and his wife, Meghan, revealed that they would effectively be retiring from royal duties. Instead, the couple would be dividing their lives between North America and the United Kingdom as they raised their son, Archie.
Unfortunately, though, Charles was said to be livid about the development. According to a January 2020 report by The Sun, an anonymous insider claimed that both the prince and his son William had been “incandescent with rage” about Harry’s announcement. Allegedly, the two royals also believed that they’d been “stabbed in the back” –especially as Harry apparently hadn’t hashed out any of the details of the move with his relatives.
That said, the tricky situation seems to have been resolved after some discussion. On January 13 the Queen released a statement that read, “My family and I are entirely supportive of Harry and Meghan’s desire to create a new life as a young family. Although we would have preferred them to remain full-time working members of the Royal Family, we respect and understand their wish to live a more independent life as a family.”
Then, after that, another anonymous source told The Sun, “Of course everybody, Prince Charles included, would rather that Harry and Meghan had remained as part of the royal family. Charles, in particular, felt that the work and causes Harry and Meghan were embarking on could be really served by remaining within the royal household.”
“But like any loving father, now Harry has made his decision Charles is keen to support him,” the insider continued. “Since Harry came back, he has seen his father, and they have discussed what Harry wants to do in the future. Harry hugely respects his father’s opinion and has welcomed the advice he has given him.”
And not only was Harry represented on his father’s office wall, but Meghan and Archie were as well. Another image showed the whole family together at Louis’ baptism – prior to Archie’s birth – with Meghan standing beside her husband. Atop the piano, there was also a shot of Charles with his youngest grandchild.
There were other interesting items within the prince’s office, including several expensive-looking ornaments. Also seen in view were flowers – probably from the garden – and a photograph of Charles’ niece Zara Tindall riding her horse. But alongside these items was something rather strange.
During the video broadcast, a mysterious image appeared right behind Charles. This seemed to be a monochrome silhouette in a frame, although someone could also have been cut out of a picture. Maybe it was an artistic statement of some kind? Regardless, Twitter immediately got on the case. And, of course, jokes soon followed.
Writer Richard Littler took it upon himself to tweet a close-up picture of the mysterious frame, captioned simply with the words “What the…” Then, in reply to the post, people shared Photoshopped memes where the empty space was replaced with something amusing. Images of Tiger King star Joe Exotic and actor Tom Baker were pasted into the void, for example, as well as an unflattering picture of Prince Philip.
However, some attempted to crack the mystery. A reply to Littler read, “If you look closely, there seems to be a faint pencil drawing in that frame – in this pic at least.” Maybe it was a child’s doodle that didn’t show up well on camera? And another individual offered probably the simplest explanation: “Did Charles forget to put a picture in the frame?”
“Prince Charles currently giving a speech,” another social media user wrote. “Empty photo frame in the background? Is this for the lost siblings within the ranks?” This could have been a reference to Charles having a secret twin brother – a jokey plot point in British satirical royal sitcom The Windsors.
Another person quipped, on the other hand, that the empty picture frame depicted “just one of the vampire ancestors.” And, yes, there really is a conspiracy theory that Charles is a vampire. Apparently, he’s a distant relative of Vlad the Impaler – the nightmarish figure who was the real-life basis for Dracula. The prince has also happily talked up Transylvania as a tourist destination in the past.
And the Twitter jokes became weirder and weirder. One person jested, “What many people don’t realize is HRH Prince Charles is trapped inside a picture frame for 70 percent of his life and is only released under the orders of the Queen.” Another wrote, “Something climbed out of that photo and is in the world now. It’s out there. Be afraid. Be very afraid.”
One of the recurring responses was that either Harry or Meghan had been edited out of the photograph – even though, judging by the contents of the rest of the room, that seemed unlikely to be the case. Yet there had been a royal occasion not long beforehand in which the Sussexes were notable by their absence.
In 2019 the Queen delivered her usual Christmas speech to the nation. And just as with Charles’ later broadcast, the monarch was filmed surrounded with family photos. Noticeably, though, none of these images showed Harry, Meghan or Archie.
And during the previous Christmas address, there had been visible pictures on a table of both Harry and Meghan. So, upon seeing that there were no such snaps present for the 2019 speech, some onlookers concluded that this must have been a snub of some kind. Arguments broke out online, in fact, with a number of people claiming that the Queen was sending a coded message about an apparent feud.
Royal expert Ingrid Seward also weighed in on the matter when she spoke to the Daily Mirror in December 2019. On that occasion, Seward claimed that the photographs arranged for the Queen’s speech seemed to “represent the idea of a slimmed-down monarchy” and that “all the media problems with Harry and Meghan must have worried [the Queen].” Even so, the commentator went on, the monarch “would never be so underhand as to deliberately omit their picture.”
And to be fair, the Queen did reference baby Archie in her Christmas speech. “Two hundred years on from the birth of my great-great-grandmother Queen Victoria, Prince Philip and I have been delighted to welcome our eighth great-grandchild into our family,” she said. “Of course, at the heart of the Christmas story lies the birth of a child: a seemingly small and insignificant step overlooked by many in Bethlehem.”
Yet the problem of the missing photographs came up again when Harry and Meghan announced their intention to step down as senior royals. “Prince Harry and Meghan Markle were missing from the Queen’s 2019 Christmas speech,” a fan wrote on Twitter. “Some said it was because… only heirs were [on] display. Now we understand clearly why.”
And anonymous sources who spoke to the media claimed that the absence of any photos of Harry and Meghan from the broadcast had caused strife within the royal family. An insider told The Times that the couple had felt ostracized and had “taken the same message from the fact that there were no images among the framed photographs on the Queen’s desk when she delivered her Christmas Day message.”
Of course, everything now seems to be fine in that department. According to royal observer Katie Nicholl, who spoke to Entertainment Tonight in May 2020, Harry and Meghan had “settled into their [new] lives” in Los Angeles and were now in regular friendly contact with William in particular.
So, maybe the Queen wasn’t sending out any sort of coded message with her omission of Harry and Meghan at all. And, presumably, Charles isn’t signaling anything, either, with the strange blank picture he keeps in his office. On the other hand, if it later turns out that he really is a vampire, a lot of people will be saying “Told you so…”
However, even if you’re an avid royalist, there may still be something that you don’t know about Harry. Yes, while the Duke of Sussex’s life seems to have been dissected pretty exhaustively in the media, a certain item of jewelry that he wears has been relatively overlooked. And, touchingly, he sports the item in question as a tribute of sorts to his late mother, Diana.
Harry is, it’s safe to say, an extremely wealthy man. As a member of the British royal family, he has access to things of which most regular people could never dream. Yet one of his most important possessions is valuable not because of its cost but owing to its sentimental value. In fact, Harry has worn the item for almost two decades now, and he will probably never give it up. It’s a simple piece of jewelry – but to Harry it might as well be worth all the money in the world.
Harry and his brother William had an upbringing that was somewhat unusual for royal children. Why, exactly? Well, their mother, Princess Diana, seemingly swooped in and changed the rules for them. While princes and princesses had traditionally been raised within strict confines, Diana refused to follow suit. For one, she organized her royal schedule around her kids rather than the other way around.
Diana took William and Harry on outings, chose the school that her children would attend and even let them eat at McDonald’s. And, perhaps most importantly of all, she tried to raise them without a feeling of entitlement and encouraged in them a sense of responsibility. When William and Harry were still young, she took them to a homeless shelter, for instance, and she expected them to be kind to everyone they met there.
Diana’s work seemingly paid off too. As William and Harry grew into adulthood, it became clear that they were making charitable efforts a priority in their lives. And one of Harry’s endeavors has been in the fight against HIV and AIDS – a cause that his mother supported while she was alive. In 2006 Harry, together with Lesotho’s Prince Seeiso, co-founded Sentebale – a charity for children with HIV.
Furthermore, both of Diana’s sons have used their weddings to raise money for charity. When Prince William married Kate Middleton in 2011, for example, he requested that well-wishers donate money to chosen charities instead of buying wedding gifts for the couple.
In fact, William and Kate suggested a diverse range of charities for the event. Among them were organizations that use sport and activities to educate children, such as PeacePlayers International and Dance United. Others were environmental charities, including The Zoological Society of London and Earthwatch. And various projects that help people facing grief were also accommodated.
Then when Harry married former actress Meghan Markle in 2018, he followed in his brother’s footsteps. The ceremony, of course, attracted global interest, and once more the bride and groom requested donations in lieu of gifts. Taking inspiration, perhaps, from William and Kate, Harry and Meghan’s choices included environmental, sports-related and bereavement charities.
And thankfully, both royal weddings were tremendous successes in more ways than one. Millions of people tuned in to watch the televised events, and lots of money was raised for charity. But what about after the ceremonies? Well, William and Kate have gone on to have three children together: Prince George, who is third in line to the throne, Princess Charlotte and Prince Louis.
Harry and Meghan, meanwhile, announced their first pregnancy only a few months after their May 2018 wedding. Just as they were heading off on a tour of New Zealand and Australia in October, they broke the news that Meghan was expecting. And the baby’s due date is in spring 2019, the social media accounts of Kensington Palace revealed.
But, of course, there was someone important missing from all of these major events in William and Harry’s lives. On August 31, 1997, Princess Diana was unexpectedly killed, leaving her two young sons bereft. She was involved in a serious car accident in Paris, and the crash claimed her life.
As you can imagine, the media coverage of Diana’s death and funeral was intense. In fact, the royal family – of which Diana was technically no longer a part since her divorce from Prince Charles in 1996 – had never faced anything quite like it. And in the middle of it all were William and Harry, then aged just 15 and 12 respectively.
On the day of Diana’s funeral, William and Harry ended up walking to the rear of their mother’s casket. But in later years, the brothers would express mixed feelings about having done so. “My mother had just died, and I had to walk a long way behind her coffin, surrounded by thousands of people watching me while millions more did on television,” Harry told Newsweek in 2017.
“I don’t think any child should be asked to do that, under any circumstances. I don’t think it would happen today,” Harry went on. And his older brother apparently feels much the same way too. In an interview with the Daily Express in 2017, for instance, he described the procession behind Diana’s coffin as “one of the hardest things [he’s] ever done.”
What’s more, in the weeks following Diana’s death, it seems that everything became too much for Harry and William – so their concerned father decided that it was time to intervene. Prince Charles took his sons away to Africa, far from the prying eyes of the world’s press. “My dad told my brother and me to pack our bags. We were going to Africa to get away from it all,” Harry told lifestyle magazine Town and Country in 2017.
In fact, Harry ended up falling in love with the African continent. “This is where I feel more like myself than anywhere else in the world. I wish I could spend more time in Africa,” he confessed to Town and Country. “I have this intense sense of complete relaxation and normality here – to not get recognized, to lose myself in the bush with what I would call the most down-to-earth people on the planet.”
And while in Africa, mourning the death of his mother, Harry was apparently given a special gift. That’s right: at some point on the trip, it’s believed that he picked up a gold-and-black bracelet – a souvenir that has stayed with him ever since. He was first spotted wearing the band all the way back in 2001, but he never outgrew it or stored it away.
Indeed, Harry’s bracelet has been present during many of the most important moments of his life. When he announced his engagement to Meghan Markle, for instance, the pair had a photoshoot in the grounds of Kensington Palace. And those who examined the photographs carefully would have noticed Harry’s bracelet on his right wrist.
That wasn’t all, though. It seems that Harry also wore the bracelet for his wedding day on May 19, 2018 – one of the most special events of his life. Yes, when he and Meghan left Windsor Castle for their reception at Frogmore House, Harry waved to the cameras from his car, and the same piece of jewelry could be seen.
And Harry has also been spotted wearing the accessory for events honoring Diana’s work. In 2007, for example, he wore the bracelet while greeting a family from the African country of Angola – where his mother had been heavily involved with anti-mine charities. Indeed, in 1997, not long before her death, Diana had actually entered an area with live mines – albeit under supervision.
But while William and Harry have spent a lot of their adulthoods continuing Diana’s charitable legacy, they appear keen to remember her as a mother too. For example, in 2017 the brothers were involved with an HBO documentary called Diana, Our Mother: Her Life and Legacy, during which they talk about the side of Diana that the media didn’t see.
For one thing, Harry remembers her sense of humor. “Our mother was a total kid through and through,” he reveals during the documentary. “One of her mottoes to me was, you know, ‘You can be as naughty as you want; just don’t get caught.’ She was one of the naughtiest parents. She would come and watch us play football and, you know, smuggle sweets into our socks.”
William, meanwhile, shared how he has given his own children a sense of the grandmother they will never know. “I do regularly bring George and Charlotte to bed and talk about her,” he explains in the film. “[I] just try to remind them [that] there are two grandmas – were two grandmas – in their lives… It’s important [that] they know who she was and [that] she existed.”
“She’d be a nightmare grandma, absolute nightmare,” William went on affectionately. “She’d love the children to bits, but she’d be an absolute nightmare. She’d come and go. She’d probably come at bath time, cause an amazing amount of sea and bubbles and bathwater all over the place and then leave.”
Interestingly, William, too, is thought to own an African bracelet similar to Harry’s – and which he was given on the same trip. But why is he not spotted wearing his as much? Well, in December 2018 Royal biographer Penny Junor told Vogue that William tends to be less sentimental about jewelry than his brother is. Even his wedding ring is not something that he wears, although Kate is reportedly fine with this.
Yet both of Diana’s sons have welcomed their respective wives into the family using pieces of her jewelry. After Diana died, you see, the boys were told that they could pick out anything of hers that they wanted. And Diana’s one-time butler Paul Burrell detailed this event in a 2017 Amazon Prime documentary titled The Diana Story.
According to Burrell, it was William who first picked out his mother’s wristwatch. “I’d like mummy’s Cartier watch – the one that Grandpa Spencer gave to her for her 21st birthday,” Burrell recounted the older prince as having said. Then after that it was Harry’s turn, and the younger boy apparently selected Diana’s sapphire engagement ring.
“I remember when I held mummy’s hand when I was a small boy and that ring always hurt me because it was so big,” Burrell claimed Harry had said at the time. But when the princes grew older, Harry decided to commit a selfless act. He gave William their mother’s ring in order that William could give it to Kate.
And when William announced in November 2010 that he was getting married to Kate, he told the press about the engagement ring. He said, “It is very special to me, and Kate is very special to me now as well. It is only right [that] the two are put together.” William added, “It is my way of making sure my mother didn’t miss out on today and the excitement.”
As for Harry, he made sure that Diana’s jewelry was involved in his relationship with Meghan as well. The engagement ring that he gave to her was, you see, made from two stones that had once belonged to Diana. And the largest gem had been mined in Botswana, where Harry and Meghan had vacationed while courting – another nod to Africa.
What’s more, Meghan and Kate have both been seen sporting other pieces of Diana’s jewelry. On the day that Harry married Meghan, for instance, he reportedly gave her an aquamarine cocktail ring that had belonged to his mother. Diana had worn it in place of her engagement ring after divorcing Prince Charles, and eventually it had found its way to Harry.
And when the pregnant Meghan toured Australia with Harry in October 2018, she wore some of Diana’s jewelry then as well. The butterfly earrings that she was photographed wearing had apparently belonged to Diana, who had worn them after Harry was born. Meghan was also spotted with a gold bracelet that Diana had sported as a newlywed.
Kate Middleton, meanwhile, has opted to accessorize her outfits with a lot of Diana’s jewelry too. One of the latter’s favorite pieces – the appropriately named Cambridge Lover’s Knot Tiara – has been seen on Kate’s head in recent years, for one. And she also has a pair of sapphire earrings that belonged to Diana, although they have been reworked into drop-style pieces.
Kate also seems to dress like Diana rather a lot. She wore blue for her engagement photo, for example – just as Diana had worn blue for hers. And when Kate showed the newborn Prince George to the waiting crowd outside the Lindo Wing at London’s St Mary’s Hospital in 2013, she was dressed in a polka-dot dress similar to one that Diana had worn after having Prince William.
But despite such touching tributes, the scars of Diana’s death still remain with William and Harry. In the aforementioned 2017 TV documentary, the sons recall the last conversation that they had with their mother – a phone call – before she died. Both deeply regret that it was such a short and hurried call, too – even though they were, after all, only children at the time.
“Harry and I were in a desperate rush to say goodbye – you know, ‘see you,’” William recounts during the documentary. “If I’d known now, obviously, what was going to happen, I wouldn’t have been so blasé about it and everything else. But that phone call sticks in my mind quite heavily.” And Harry spoke to his mother on the phone that day too.
“It was her speaking from Paris. I can’t really necessarily remember what I said, but all I do remember is probably regretting for the rest of my life how short the phone call was,” Harry said. “Looking back on it now, it’s incredibly hard. I’ll have to sort of deal with that for the rest of my life – not knowing that was the last time I was going to speak to my mum.”
In fact, Harry suffered long-term mental health problems following the death of his mother, and he’s been refreshingly open about them. In a 2017 interview with The Daily Telegraph, he said that Diana’s death had affected him so much that he had “shut down all his emotions” and that William had had to encourage him into therapy.
Indeed, Harry admitted that he was “very close to a complete breakdown on numerous occasions.” Eventually, he did seek help, however, and it worked. “During those years I took up boxing, because everyone was saying boxing is good for you, and it’s a really good way of letting out aggression,” Harry explained.
“And that really saved me, because I was on the verge of punching someone, so being able to punch someone who had pads was certainly easier,” Harry went on. In time, then, and with the help of his brother, he found his way to a better mindset. And the prince has since spoken out about the experience as part of a desire to help break the stigma around mental health.
William and Harry have, it seems, done good jobs of coming to terms with the heartbreaking bereavement that they suffered in their childhoods, with both of them now in the process of building their own families. And ever since the impending birth of Harry and Meghan’s child was announced, bookmakers have been taking bets on what the baby’s name might be. For a girl, the frontrunner is “Diana.”