A 99-year-old Australian woman who self-proclaimed herself as Prince Harry’s “biggest fan” has died from pneumonia, just days after receiving a birthday card from the British royal.
War veteran Daphne Dunne died on Monday in her home after a two-month battle with pneumonia.
A royal spokesman told PEOPLE that Prince Harry and Duchess Meghan are “deeply saddened by the news and they are thinking of Daphne’s family at this time”. The spokesman also said the couple is planning to write to Dunne’s family.
Dunne first met the Duke of Sussex in 2015 at the Sydney Opera House, where the young royal spotted her wearing a Victoria Cross, which had been earned by her husband Lieutenant Albert Chowne for his service in World War II.
“He asked me about the Victoria Cross — he said he recognised that and wanted to know all about it,” Dunne told The Daily Telegraph.
She joined the Australian army for the war and earned her own medals as well.
Since then, Dunne said she had had “a very special friendship” with the prince, BBC reported.
According to PEOPLE, Dunne met the royal twice before his latest visit to Sydney with wife Duchess Meghan last year.
In the October visit, Dunne reportedly congratulated the duchess on her pregnancy, saying it was just “what Harry needs”. Duchess Meghan also told the war widow: “Harry has told me all about you and your special bond, it's so lovely you came to see us, thank you.”
It was just last week that the prince sent Dunne some well wishes for her 99th birthday. The message read: “Dear Daphne, My wife and I send our warmest wishes to you on the occasion of your 99th birthday on Friday. We hope you have a wonderful celebration surrounded by family and friends and that you’ve managed to escape hospital.”
Dunne’s family published a statement on her death on Instagram on Tuesday. “It is with the saddest of hearts that I would like to share the news that our most beloved mum and nanna, Daphne Dunne, passed away peacefully yesterday morning,” the statement read.
“She spent a large part of her life representing the women of the Australian Army and her two husbands Lt. Albert Crowne VC MM and John Patrick Dunne, ensuring that their service to Australia was never forgotten.
“It is fitting that Daphne passed away on the first of April as it is a month of renewal, remembrance and reunification with her loved ones that passed before her. We love you mum/nanna/Daphne, always and forever.”