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Prince William, Duke of Cambridge and Queen Elizabeth II watch a flypast of Spitfire & Hurricane aircraft from the balcony of Buckingham Palace to commemorate the 75th Anniversary of The Battle of Britain on July 10, 2015 in London, England.
Max Mumby/Indigo—Getty Images

Prince William says his grandmother, Queen Elizabeth II, was an important figure for him after his mother Princess Diana died.

In an interview with Sky News ahead of Elizabeth’s 90th birthday, William called his grandmother a “strong female influence” in his life. “Having lost my mother at a very young age, it has been particularly important for me that I had somebody like the Queen to look up to and who has been there and has understood some of the more complex issues when you lose a loved one,” he said.

William was just 15 when his mother died in a car crash, and he seldom speaks about this aspect of his relationship with his grandmother—whose response to the tragedy drew criticism from some quarters.

The Duke of Cambridge also shared a fond memory of his grandmother from his childhood: After he and his cousin Peter nearly injured cousin Zara, Elizabeth was “the first person out and running across the lawn in her kilt. She came charging over and gave us the most almighty bollocking.”

Hopefully no royal bollocking will be in order as the family celebrates Elizabeth’s birthday on Thursday.

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