Fact Check

Did Queen Elizabeth Once Prank American Tourists?

They apparently did not recognize her, according to the former royal protection officer who shared the story.

Published Sep 20, 2022

 (PolizeiBerlin/Wikimedia Commons)
Image Via PolizeiBerlin/Wikimedia Commons
A former royal protection officer said Queen Elizabeth once pranked a pair of American tourists who did not recognize her and took photographs with them.

Fact Check

As Queen Elizabeth II was laid to rest on Sept. 19, 2022, in Windsor Castle in London, personal stories about her grew very popular on the internet. One memory shared earlier this year by her former Royal Protection Officer, Richard Griffin, went viral.

He claimed that the Queen once pranked a group of American tourists at Balmoral Castle, her estate house in Scotland. A clip of his interview on Sky News went viral:

The story began with the Queen's propensity to take picnics at the estate around lunchtime with just her protection officer in tow. Griffin said:

There were two hikers coming towards us, and the Queen would always stop and say hello. And it was two Americans on a walking holiday. And it was clear from the moment we first stopped that they hadn't recognized the Queen, which is fine. The American gentleman was telling the Queen where he came from [...]. And I could see it coming and sure enough he said to her Majesty: “And where do you live?”

She said, 'Well I live in London, but I've got a holiday home just the other side of the hills.” And he said, “How often have you been coming up here?”

She said, “I had been coming up ever since I was a little girl, so over 80 years.” And you could see the cogs ticking. He said: “Well if you've been coming up here for 80 years, you must have met the Queen?”

And as quick as a flash, she said “Well I haven't but Dick here meets her regularly.” So the guy said to me, “You’ve met the Queen, what’s she like?” And because I was with her a long time, and I knew I could pull her leg, I said, “Oh, she can be very cantankerous at times, but she's got a lovely sense of humor.”

The next thing I knew, this guy comes around, puts his arm around my shoulder, and before I could see what was happening, he gets his camera, gives it to the Queen, and says, “Could you take a picture of the two of us?” Anyway we swap places and I took a picture of them with the Queen, and we never let on, and we waved goodbye and Her Majesty said to me, “I'd love to be a fly on the wall when he shows those photographs to their friends in America — and hopefully someone tells him who I am.”

Griffin was speaking to Sky News during the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee celebrations in June 2022, marking 70 years of her reign. The encounter presumably took place more than a decade ago, as the Queen pointed out that she had been coming to Balmoral for around 80 years.

Griffin, according to The Telegraph, was the Queen’s personal protection officer from 1999 until 2013. As he described in the above interview, he worked for the royal family for around three decades, in various capacities. After the state funeral, he was invited to attend a smaller committal service at St. George’s Chapel in Windsor Castle, along with staff and the family.

The queen possessed a dry wit and "sense of the ridiculous," royal historian Robert Lacey told the BBC on the occasion of her 96th birthday in April 2022. "Laughing things off has been an important survival technique."


“‘A Great Sense of Humour’: But What Makes the Queen Laugh?” BBC News, 20 Apr. 2022. www.bbc.com, https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-61067187. Accessed 20 Sept. 2022

Edwards, Christian and Lauren Said-Moorhouse. “Why the Royal Vault Isn’t the Queen’s Final Resting Place.” CNN, 19 Sept. 2022, https://www.cnn.com/2022/09/19/uk/queen-royal-vault-king-george-chapel-intl-gbr/index.html. Accessed 20 Sept. 2022.

“‘My God, It Was Emotional’: Former Royal Protection Officer Reflects on Attending Queen’s Service.” Sky News, https://news.sky.com/video/my-god-it-was-emotional-former-royal-protection-officer-reflects-on-attending-queens-service-12701616. Accessed 20 Sept. 2022.

"Platinum Jubilee: Richard Griffin on the Queen’s Sense of Humour." Sky News, 6 June 2022. www.youtube.com, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Uw9g1Q74t4s. Accessed 20 Sept. 2022.

“Queen Elizabeth’s Family and Staff Attend Historical Committal Service at St. George’s Chapel.” People. https://people.com/royals/queen-elizabeth-family-staff-attend-committal-service-st-georges-chapel-windsor-castle/. Accessed 20 Sept. 2022.

Ward, Victoria. “The Men Who Guarded Queen Elizabeth II’s Life Are Invited to Final Farewell.” The Telegraph, 13 Sept. 2022. www.telegraph.co.uk, https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2022/09/13/queen-elizabeth-iis-former-police-protection-officers-invited/. Accessed 20 Sept. 2022.

“What Queen Elizabeth Said When Asked ‘Have You Ever Met the Queen?’” Reuters, 8 Sept. 2022. www.reuters.com, https://www.reuters.com/world/uk/what-queen-elizabeth-said-when-asked-have-you-ever-met-queen-2022-09-08/. Accessed 20 Sept. 2022.

Nur Nasreen Ibrahim is a reporter with experience working in television, international news coverage, fact checking, and creative writing.

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