Princess Haya mourns 'inspiration' Queen Elizabeth

·4-min read
Britain mourns Queen Elizabeth

By Alan Baldwin

WINDSOR, England (Reuters) - Princess Haya bint Hussein of Jordan, whose family has enjoyed a long friendship with the British royals, paid tribute to Queen Elizabeth as a woman she looked up to for inspiration.

"I think we’ll never, ever see a queen like that (again) and we never have before," the half-sister of Jordan's King Abdullah told Reuters at her country home near Windsor in rare public comments.

Haya, 48, whose high-profile custody battle with the ruler of Dubai, her ex-husband, concluded in London in March, recalled the kindness of the queen after her mother died in a helicopter crash in 1977 and later when King Hussein died in 1999.

"I remember after my late father died, and my late mother died, Her Majesty was kind enough to have special words for my younger brother and I and to make sure that we were alright," she said.

"She's been for me, as everyone else, a constant thread in nearly every aspect of our lives. I think there was not a decision made or a time when I didn't think ‘what would Her Majesty do?’ or ‘What would Her Majesty say?’.

"She was, I think, to all walks of society and to so many people around the world ... an example and an inspiration to look up to. And I did so like so many others."

The princess fled Dubai for Britain in April 2019 and fought the bitter and expensive three-year custody battle with Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum at the London High Court. The court awarded her sole responsibility for looking after their children.

She was educated in independent schools in western England before studying at Oxford University.

A love of horses and equestrian sport provided a common bond between the princess and Queen Elizabeth.

Haya competed as a show jumper at the 2000 Sydney Olympics and served two terms as president of the International Equestrian Federation. She is also a royal vice-president of the Royal Windsor Horse Show, of which the queen was patron and attended every edition since its inception 79 years ago, including as recently as in May.

"I think that what I feel is just a huge amount of sorrow for the world, which is a different place without her in it," said Haya, speaking after being approached by Reuters.

"Also for the people of Britain, who’ve lost one of the world’s most amazing monarchs and a part of their lives since we can all remember."

DERBY MEMORIES

Recalling their mutual love of horses and racing, the princess highlighted a favourite painting, not one that she owns, depicting Queen Elizabeth with her first Derby runner Aureole at Epsom Downs four days after her coronation in 1953.

The young monarch is dressed in pink, facing the chestnut thoroughbred with its three white socks and blaze, on a sunlit afternoon.

The work by Alfred Munnings, which sold at auction to an unknown buyer for more than 2 million pounds ($2.30 million) in 2016, is an image of personal pleasure and public duty.

"You see the Munnings painting and you see a woman and a monarch who was able to just share with people an occasion, the glory of watching a magnificent animal do what it does best," the princess said.

"I do think that she (the queen) found in horses and horse sport a way that she could connect with people."

Aureole finished second, the closest the queen ever got to winning the Derby, Britain's most prestigious flat horse race.

Princess Haya triumphed as an owner in 2008 with New Approach, and was invited to tea with the queen after the race.

"When Her Majesty invited me to the Royal Box, she asked me genuinely ‘How did it feel? How does it feel?’ And I was able to share that with her," she said.

"But I did wish at that point, and never stopped praying, that her majesty would win the Derby.

"And I think that the place she's in now, she'll win every Derby."

($1 = 0.8715 pounds)

(Reporting by Alan Baldwin; Editing by Alison Williams)