How Prince Philip memorably broke protocol in Fiji in 1953

By Meaghan Wray

The Duke and Duchess of Sussex ’s royal tour in the South Pacific has certainly harkened back to tours of the Royal Family’s past – especially the time, way back in 1953, when the Queen and Prince Philip visited during her coronation world tour. Similarly, the tour has been chockfull of reunions with old connections, including one woman, Litiana Vulaca, who served the royal couple tea all those years ago.

Prince Harry chatted with Litiana. Photo: © Dominic Lipinski - Pool/Getty Images

On Oct. 23, she and other local clan chiefs were able to meet Prince Harry – but the duke went straight to her, crouching down to speak with the woman, having heard her story in advance of the meeting. Litiana is now 87 years old, but at the time she met Her Majesty and Philip, she was only 21. Her employer Frances Lilian Charlton, the principal of Adi Cakobau Secondary School at the time, gave her one of her most unforgettable tasks! “I am so happy today because [Harry] talked to me first and he knew all about my story,” she gushed. “I was 21 years old in 1953 and I was working for a lady as a housemaid. She taught me a lot about how to do things, so when the Queen came, they chose me to serve her and the Duke [of Edinburgh].”

Harry planted a tree using the shovel the Queen used back in 1953. Photo: © Dominic Lipinski - Pool/Getty Images

The woman, dressed in a beautiful bright green dress, continued: “I was so frightened the first time, but I was very, very lucky. She was so beautiful, with beautiful skin and clothes. I remember that the duke didn’t use a teaspoon to put sugar in his tea – he picked up the sugar lump with his fingers. I was shocked.” Though this was technically a breach of protocol and etiquette, it was a small one that Litiana had the pleasure of sharing with Philip’s grandson all these years later.

Just a day prior to this heartwarming meeting, the Sussexes made a glamorous appearance on their balcony at the Grand Pacific Hotel, just like Her Majesty did with her husband in 1953. And after meeting Litiana, Harry went solo to unveil a plaque dedicating the Colo-i-Suva forest to the Queen’s Commonwealth Canopy. While there, he also used the same shovel his grandmother did to plant an indigenous Dakua tree at the conservation project, which was inscribed with the words, ‘Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, Lautoka, Fiji, December 18th 1953.’

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