A Canadian shopkeeper who shared a hug with and served the Duke of Sussex before Christmas has said she is glad the royal has returned “home”.
Lilaberry, the home decor store owned by Chris Stephen, is located in Sidney on Vancouver Island, close to where the Duke and Duchess of Sussex are staying with their son, Archie.
In December, the shop received a visit from Prince Harry while he was reportedly on the lookout for festive decorations.
Ms Stephen, who said she has had a soft spot for the prince since watching him at the funeral of the late Diana, Princess of Wales, said the “emotion came flooding back” when he walked into her establishment.
“And I asked and I was granted the opportunity to give him a hug and it’s a gift that I will cherish and carry in my heart forever,” she told PA news agency.
“It was very special, he was very lovely, and very accommodating and just a nice young man. Just a very, nice, pleasant young man.”
Ms Stephen said that when she heard the news that Prince Harry had returned to Canada, she “immediately thought, ‘Oh good, I’m glad he’s home’. I don’t have to worry about him”.
“And when I say worry about him, worry about the press and all the nastiness and negativity that seems to be out there,” the shopkeeper explained.
“People passing opinions, who you would think they live under the same roof and know all the ins and outs of what they’re going through.”
Ms Stephen added that she believes the paparazzi need to give the Duke and Duchess of Sussex space now they have made their plans to step away from their royal duties known.
“The paparazzi needs to go home and leave them alone and let them do what is coming natural to them and wanting to be independent and raise their child in peace and be able to do what they want to do and not be hounded. I think it’s time,” she said.
The shopkeeper also said that Prince Harry has an open invitation to come round to her home for dinner, where he would be served “a good old Canadian barbecue”.
On Wednesday 22 January, an interview with the Duchess of Sussex’s father, Thomas Markle, aired on Channel 5.
In the programme, titled Thomas Markle: My Story, the 75-year-old spoke about his absence from the May 2018 royal wedding, the way in which he has been portrayed in the media and how he learned of his daughter’s pregnancy over the radio.
The retired television lighting director also confessed to lying to Prince Harry about staging paparazzi photographers of himself in the days leading up to the royal wedding.
After reports emerged that Mr Markle had staged the pictures, he received a phone call from the Duke and Duchess of Sussex asking if he had done so, a claim that he initially denied.
“I lied to Prince Harry. I’m not proud of that but I did,” he said.