Prince Harry meets a lot of people in the course of his work. He’s a very popular man, after all, and he’s expected to go out and meet his fans whenever appropriate. Many of the royals meet their subjects when out and about, in fact; Queen Elizabeth II is even estimated to shake at least 44,000 hands annually. But despite the sheer number of people whom Harry has encountered over the years, he still remembered one in particular while at an event in Sydney.
That trip to the Australian city took place in June 2017, and Harry was there to promote the Invictus Games. The games provide the chance for injured and disabled armed service personnel to compete in their favored sports, and Harry came up with the idea himself after serving in the British armed forces.
Yes, Harry is a veteran, having joined the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst in 2005. And after years of being dubbed “the party prince” by the tabloids, he apparently excelled as a military man. In April 2008, for instance, he was promoted to lieutenant; in 2011, meanwhile, he became a captain. Then, the following year, Harry was deployed to Afghanistan as a helicopter co-pilot.
Furthermore, Harry’s experiences as a pilot in a war zone made him determined to do something for his fellow soldiers. Indeed, seeing people being flown home with missing limbs, about to return to lives that were forever changed, may have affected the young prince deeply. Certainly, once his service was over, he was sufficiently inspired to go to work on what would become the Invictus Games. He chose that title because “invictus” means “unconquered” in Latin.
And Harry’s 2017 trip to Sydney was a very well-publicized event. The city would be hosting the fourth Invictus Games in 2018, and the prince was going to officially launch the countdown. His trip would take in ceremonies, receptions, a meeting with prime minister Malcolm Turnbull, a sailing demonstration and more. And, of course, there would also be thousands of well-wishers lining the streets to greet him.
There was just one small problem – it was pouring with rain. But that didn’t put off Harry’s fans, who weren’t going to let a little bit of bad weather stop them from seeing their prince. Armed with raincoats and umbrellas, a huge crowd gathered in Sydney Harbor. And Harry turned up, of course, because a man who’s served two tours in Afghanistan isn’t going to be cowed by the weather, either.
Harry was already soaking wet by the time he reached the crowds, however, and he only had an umbrella to protect him. But as his fans had waited many hours in the rain just to get a glimpse of him in the flesh, he wasn’t about to let them down. So, he started making his way down the road, shaking hands and being affable.
At one moment, however, he seemed to recognize someone: a very old lady who was sitting in a wheelchair. Like Harry, she was only sheltered from the rain by an umbrella – although unlike Harry, she had also brought some beer along in order to keep herself warm. And the young prince was delighted to see her sitting there. “Oh, it’s you!” he said excitedly.
The lady in question was Daphne Dunne, a 97-year-old corporal of the Australian Women’s Army Service. She had achieved a lot – and suffered a lot – in her almost century-long life. And she had met Harry once before, when he’d visited Sydney in May 2015. Then, he had gravitated towards her when he’d noticed the Victoria Cross that she was wearing.
The Victoria Cross had been posthumously awarded to Daphne’s first husband, Lieutenant Albert Chowne. He was a World War Two soldier who is still remembered in his native Australia; a street in Canberra and a community hall in Sydney are both named after him. He died in 1945, aged just 25, during a battle in Papua New Guinea.
What’s more, Lieutenant Chowne’s conduct during the conflict was heroic. The young man, already known for his bravery, was part of a platoon taking back a knoll occupied by Japanese forces. On seeing his fellow soldiers being killed all around him, he charged forward and destroyed two machine gun posts with grenades. However, Chowne was mortally wounded and died shortly afterwards.
Posthumously, Lieutenant Chowne was awarded the Victoria Cross for “most conspicuous bravery, brilliant leadership and devotion to duty,” the London Gazette reported in September 1945. But the story was still a tragic one. And, devastatingly, news of Daphne’s husband’s death only reached her a few days later, on her birthday. She had received red roses from him – a birthday gift – shortly before she found out that he was dead.
And a heartbroken Daphne told the Sydney Morning Herald in September 1945, “I am proud for [my husband], but it doesn’t make up for everything. I would rather he had remained just ordinary and was alive. He was a wonderful man and a grand husband. I have no plans for the future. It is all dead to me now.” But the future came anyway. And Daphne lived out the rest of her life always taking care of her husband’s medal.
When Daphne met Harry in 2015, then, she told him her story. “He asked me about the Victoria Cross – he said he recognized that and wanted to know all about it,” Daphne explained to The Daily Telegraph. And, as it happens, Prince Harry had done more than just talk to her. Indeed, before he’d left her side in order to greet other people in the crowd, he’d kissed her on the cheek.
What’s more, that picture of the sweet kiss was photographed and seen all around the world. “It was wonderful,” Daphne said when asked by The Daily Telegraph the following day about what it had been like to meet Harry. “Harry’s just a really natural guy, and I think he’s a lot of fun.” So, of course, she may very well have been thrilled when Harry recognized her again in 2017 and went to hug her.
And as well as the hug, Prince Harry had another kiss for her as well. “This time, I got a kiss on the opposite side, so it wouldn’t be lopsided,” Daphne proudly told the Daily Mail. “He was so pleased to see me, and he worked out in his own mind that it’s just gone two years [since we last met].”
Daphne added to the Daily Mail, “[Harry]’s worth waiting for, even in the pouring rain.” And that seemed to be a sentiment shared by all the other people who’d waited at Sydney Harbor, many of whom had held up cheeky signs asking Harry for his hand in marriage. Daphne continued to the newspaper, “[Harry] was lovely… He asked if I ever take my medals off, and I said, ‘Yes, to go to bed.’”
Unfortunately, though, Daphne didn’t have as much time to talk to Harry as she had done before. She didn’t even have time to offer him some beer, she told the Daily Mail. But she was still so happy that she’d gotten to see the prince again. And Daphne appeared on the Australian morning show Sunrise the next day to talk about the experience.
“Oh he’s lovely, I feel like his grandma,” Daphne told the show’s presenters. “I got my kiss. I said to him, ‘Now I’m right.’” The hosts also asked her how she felt about Meghan Markle, Harry’s American girlfriend, and the prospect of the pair getting married. “As long as she’s nice to him,” Daphne replied. “It’s his choice, and as long as she does the right thing, why shouldn’t he?”
And of course, Harry did choose to marry Meghan. The engagement was announced on November 27, 2017, and royal fans all over the world celebrated the good news. The wedding itself, meanwhile, is set to take place on May 19, 2018, at St George’s Chapel in Windsor – and perhaps a certain 97-year-old Australian lady is on the guest list.