Fact check: No, Queen Elizabeth II was not laughing at a prank played by Prince Philip

Nayeli Lomeli, USA TODAY
·4 min read

The claim: Prince Philip dressed as a palace guard to trick Queen Elizabeth II

On April 9, Buckingham Palace announced the death of Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh and husband of Queen Elizabeth II. Shortly after, a misleading post about the prince and queen went viral on Facebook.

The Facebook post was an image of the queen laughing next to Prince Philip in uniform.

Along with the image was a caption saying, "The time Prince Phillip dressed as a palace guard to trick the queen."

Reader comments included "He was definitely a character" and "I love that expression on her face... a genuine smile."

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At the time of publication, the post had nearly 250 shares and more than 500 reactions. USA TODAY was unable to reach the user for comment.

Queen Elizabeth II was not pranked

The reason behind the queen's laugh in the image was not a prank. It was actually a swarm of bees.

In an interview with BBC News, photographer Chris Young, who was working with the Press Association in 2003 and caught the moment on camera, spoke about the incident.

He was the only photographer at the event, which featured the Queen's Company Grenadier Guards ceremonial review.

Philip was Colonel of the Grenadier Guards at the time, a position he held from 1975 to 2017, and he was getting ready to escort the queen. That's when they saw guests surrounded by the bees and could not help themselves from sharing a chuckle. Young said he knew he had to capture their reaction.

"I recognized that it was a human moment," said Young in the interview 18 years later.

He said the queen was "giggling like a little girl" and the prince was laughing, too.

A clipping from the Edmonton Journal from April 16, 2003, shows the image taken by Young.

"Queen Elizabeth giggles as she and Prince Philip watch bees swarm around guests on the lawn of Windsor Castle, west of London, on Tuesday, just before the queen's Company Grenadier Guards ceremonial review. A beekeeper removed the swarm before the ceremony started," reads the caption.

The Windsor Star also reported on the incident: There was only one victim of the swarm, a former sergeant major was stung on the forehead. He was treated by a royal nurse and the ceremony took place as planned after the royal beekeeper, Peter Sheppard, removed the bees.

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The prince's outfit

So if it wasn't a prank, why was Philip dressed in a guard's regalia?

As colonel of the guards, the prince wore this uniform on several other occasions.

For example, in 2007, he wore it as he joined the queen and Princess Anne on the balcony of Buckingham Palace to watch a flyover during the annual Trooping of the Colour parade.

On June 13, 2015, the prince wore the uniform as he and the queen left Buckingham Palace by carriage to attend the Trooping the Colour ceremony at Horse Guards Parade in London.

Our rating: False

The claim that a photo shows Prince Philip dressed as a palace guard to prank Queen Elizabeth II is FALSE, based on our research. The prince and queen were laughing at a swarm of bees that surrounded guests shortly before the start of a ceremonial review at Windsor Castle in 2003. The prince was in uniform because he was the Colonel of the Grenadier Guards at the time. He wore the uniform on other occasions as well.

Our fact-checking sources:

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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Fact check: Prince Philip did not prank Queen Elizabeth II