Queen waited with cake for Lilibet’s birthday but Harry and Meghan ‘never turned up’, former staffer claims

A former employee of the late Queen Elizabeth II has claimed that the Duke and Duchess of Sussex ignored the monarch’s invitation to celebrate Princess Lilibet’s first birthday with her.

Paul Burrell, who once served as footman at Buckingham Palace, claimed the royal couple snubbed the Queen when she wanted to celebrate their daughter’s first birthday in June 2022, amid her Platinum Jubilee festivities.

“Even on Lilibet’s first birthday the Queen didn’t see her,” Burrell told The Mirror on 8 September, the one-year anniversary of Queen Elizabeth’s passing. “She saw her 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.”

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle travelled to the UK last year with their two children to celebrate the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee, which marked her 70 years on the throne. It was then that Harry reportedly introduced his daughter to her great-grandmother on the Thursday before her first birthday party, which took place at Frogmore Cottage on Saturday 4 June.

The Queen was set to attend the Epsom Derby in Surrey that day, as part of the jubilee celebrations, but was forced to cancel due to her ongoing mobility issues. Now, Burrell has claimed that the monarch invited Harry and Markle to celebrate Lilibet’s birthday instead, but was snubbed by the couple.

“The next day she asked if maybe they’d like to come up for tea again and was told they’ve gone,” Burrell alleged. “‘What do you mean they’ve gone?’ she said. They’ve gone back to America. ‘Oh no, they never said goodbye’.”

He claimed the Queen was “confused” by the slight and the family’s decision to leave the UK so quickly, adding: “How could you offend our Queen?”

“Well, I don’t understand anyone that could do that. Not her family, why would you want to?” he continued. “She was devoid of jealousy, anger, envy ... She was just a very simple soul. I wish the world could have known her the way I knew her.”

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle attend service of thanksgiving at St Paul's Cathedral on 3 June 2022 (Getty Images)
Prince Harry and Meghan Markle attend service of thanksgiving at St Paul's Cathedral on 3 June 2022 (Getty Images)

However, a source recently told Page Six that there is “no truth” to Burrell’s claims. “They did see the Queen to celebrate Lili’s birthday,” they said.

Paul Burrell began serving as a footman at Buckingham Palace when he was 18, and became the personal footman to the late Queen Elizabeth II one year later. He soon developed a close relationship with the late Princess Diana, acting as butler to the princess until her death in August 1997. Burrell has previously said that Diana described him as her “rock” and “the only man she ever trusted” in subsequent memoirs written by Burrell.

However, the ex-butler came under fire in 2008 during an inquest into Diana’s death, when it was revealed that he secretly copied letters between her and other members of the royal family. Burrell has also been criticised for disclosing private aspects of Diana’s personal life, which he was told in confidence, in his books.

British royal family on the balcony of Buckingham Palace during the Trooping the Colour in June 2022 (Getty Images)
British royal family on the balcony of Buckingham Palace during the Trooping the Colour in June 2022 (Getty Images)

Harry, 38, and Meghan, 42, reportedly celebrated Lilibet’s first birthday surrounded by close friends at their former home - Frogmore Cottage - in Windsor. Her parents later said that they were “incredibly touched” by the many birthday wishes they received for their youngest child.

The couple also released a portrait of Lilibet, taken on her birthday by family friend Misan Harriman. The photo showed Lilibet in a pale blue dress, as she sat on the grass and smiled for the camera.

Lilibet Diana was born on 4 June 2021 at Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital in California, and was named in honour of Queen Elizabeth II and her late grandmother, Princess Diana.

Portrait of Lilibet Diana on her first birthday (PA)
Portrait of Lilibet Diana on her first birthday (PA)

While the royal family sent their well wishes for Lilibet on her first birthday, it appeared that she was “snubbed” by members of the royal family on her second birthday. The official Twitter accounts for the royal family - including King Charles III and Queen Camilla, and the Prince and Princess of Wales - all wished Lilibet a happy first birthday last year. But in June, neither of the official accounts publicly sent birthday wishes to the young royal.

The Independent has contacted representatives for the Sussexes and Buckingham Palace for comment.