Prince Harry's unexpected TV appearance

Prince Harry has surprised fans by appearing in an episode of Thomas the Tank Engine to introduce the show’s special royal episode which marks the 75th anniversary of the character.

Harry reflected on his “fond memories” of watching the show as a young child, saying, “Thomas the Tank Engine has been a comforting, familiar face to so many families over the last 75 years – entertaining, educating and inspiring children on important issues through exciting stories and characters.

“I certainly have fond memories of growing up with Thomas & Friends and being transported to new places through his adventures.

The introduction was filmed in January, before he and Meghan Markle moved to the US, and saw a donation made to charity.

In the episode, Thomas will travel to London for the first time on a mission to take Fat Controller, Sir Topham Hatt, to Buckingham Palace to receive an honour.

A three-year-old Prince Harry holds a Thomas the Tank Engine bag as he shakes the hand of headmistress Jane Mynors as he arrives for his first day of nursery school in 1987. (PA Images)

“I am very proud to have been asked to take part in this special episode. I wish Thomas & Friends a very happy anniversary.”

The episode, which is 22-minutes long, Sir Topham Hatt has been invited to London by the Queen to receive an award for distinguished service to the railway.

A young Prince Charles has asked that Thomas be the engine to bring him.

The episode will have a young Prince Charles and the Queen as well as a new royal train. (PA/Mattel)

Thomas gets lost along the way and meets the royal train, called the Duchess of Loughborough, voiced by Rosamund Pike.

Pike, 41, said, “It is an absolute honour to have the chance to appear in the show.

“I take it as a big responsibility to play Duchess who is a lovely, warm, bubbly sort of effervescent engine that I am incredibly drawn to because she is very anxious to get things right.”

The Duke of Sussex recorded the on camera message in January. (PA/Mattel)
The special episode is part of the 75th anniversary. (PA/Mattel)

Chuck Scothon, of toy company Mattel, said, “Since the beginning, Thomas & Friends has celebrated friendship and teamwork through storytelling which has cultivated fan love across generations.

“In this milestone 75th year, we are releasing more storytelling content than ever before to engage the next generation of fans.

“While families are spending more time at home, we are able to offer new content to enjoy together across videos, books, apps and through music and podcasts and are thrilled Harry, The Duke of Sussex is introducing this special.”