‘Once served, always serving’: Prince Harry tells of hardship of ‘hanging up your uniform’ as he speaks to armed forces veterans at Endeavour Fund Awards – weeks after being stripped of his own military titles in Megxit deal
- Prince Harry attended the Endeavour Fund Awards at Mansion House in London
- Event with Meghan was first public royal duty together since Megxit crisis began
- He told veterans last night: ‘I feel lucky to be able to count myself as one of you’
- Harry and Meghan have four further engagements over the next several days
The Duke of Sussex told wounded, sick and injured members of the armed forces last night that ‘hanging up your uniform is an incredibly hard thing to do’.
Prince Harry attended the Endeavour Fund Awards at Mansion House in London last night to recognise the sporting and adventure achievements of the military.
The Duke thanked them for their support at the event, which was the first time he and wife Meghan have gone on a public royal duty together after the Megxit crisis.
And he told the veterans at a reception that he has ‘always got your back’ at one of his final events before he quits royal life with Meghan.
Harry, who served with the Blues and Royals and the Army Air Corps, spoke of the honour of serving his grandmother amid reports of tensions between the royals.
Prince Harry speaks at the Endeavour Fund Awards at Mansion House in London last night
He said: ‘Being able to serve Queen and Country is something we all are rightly proud of, and it never leaves us. Once served, always serving!
‘Leaving the military and hanging up your uniform is – we know – an incredibly hard thing to do…unless of course it’s blue in colour…
‘But being forced to hang it up due to injury, beyond your control, can be even more difficult to accept.
‘It can take time and effort to recognise the fact that it is something that happened to you, rather than something that’s wrong with you – so please don’t ever forget that.’
Harry added: ‘I feel lucky to be able to count myself as one of you; and am deeply proud to have served among you as Captain Wales.
‘A lot of you tonight have told me you have my back, well I’m also here to tell you, I’ve always got yours.’
The Duke and Duchess of Sussex arrive at Mansion House in London for last night’s event
The Duke and Duchess pose for a group picture at the Endeavour Fund Awards last night
The couple will step down as senior royals on March 31 following four further public appearances in the coming days, which will conclude next Monday.
What are Harry and Meghan’s engagements for the rest of March?
The Duke of Sussex will be at the official opening of the Silverstone Experience today with motor-racing champion Lewis Hamilton.
The couple will also attend the Mountbatten Music Festival at the Royal Albert Hall tomorrow before Meghan undertakes an engagement for International Women’s Day the following day on Sunday.
They will both attend the Commonwealth Service at the Royal Albert Hall next Monday, where they will be reunited with Harry’s brother Prince William and his wife Kate – who are currently on tour in Ireland.
Despite quitting a senior royals, Harry is expected to attend the London Marathon in April in his capacity as patron. The Duke and Duchess will also attend the Invictus Games in Holland in May.
Meghan and Harry were earlier pictured in London yesterday leaving the exclusive Goring Hotel – the Queen’s favourite restaurant – after having lunch there.
And Harry waved to well-wishers outside Buckingham Palace on Tuesday as he was driven away in a Range Rover after a series of internal meetings with his team.
It came after they had a ‘heart to heart’ for four hours in her private apartments at Windsor Castle on Sunday about his imminent departure from the Royal Family.
Harry is said to have requested the meeting, and the Queen – who last saw her grandson during their showdown at Sandringham in January after Harry broke the news that he and Meghan were quitting – was happy to agree.
The Queen is believed to have told her grandson that she was keen to keep the door open for him and Meghan to return and stressed that he would be welcomed back from Canada at any time.
Harry, who has always enjoyed a warm relationship with his grandmother, was apparently keen to ‘clear the air’ before he and Meghan formally step down as working royals on March 31.
He has been staying at Frogmore Cottage, the couple’s home on the Queen’s Windsor estate, since returning to the UK last week to undertake a handful of final official engagements.
The Duchess of Sussex also spoke at the Endeavour Fund Awards at Mansion House last night
The Duke and Duchess of Sussex smiles and cheer during a marriage proposal last night
He and Meghan have agreed to pay back £2.4million in taxpayer funds used to rebuild the property in light of their decision to relocate to North America.
Harry and Meghan congratulate happy couple after surprise marriage proposal
The Duke and Duchess of Sussex congratulated a veteran and his new fiancee after they got engaged in front of the royal couple.
Welsh Guards veteran Danny Holland popped the question to Lauren Price during the Endeavour Fund Awards at Mansion House in London.
Welsh Guards veteran Danny Holland popped the question to Lauren Price
Mr Holland, 29, from Wrexham in North Wales, got down on one knee on stage after winning the recognising achievement award.
Sitting just metres away on front row seats were Harry and Meghan who, like most of the audience, were caught off guard by the announcement.
Meghan smiled and placed her hands in the centre of her chest, while Harry applauded the couple.
Mr Holland’s partner Ms Price, 24, said yes.
Speaking last night, Mr Holland said: ‘With winning (the award) as well, there was no better time to do it.
‘Although she always said she didn’t want it with a lot of other people around.’
Ms Price said they were both invited to speak to the duke and duchess privately after the ceremony finished.
She said: ‘They just congratulated us. They asked us how we felt and if I was expecting it. They said they were really happy for us.’
Mr Holland was left with mental health difficulties after being hit by an improvised explosive device in Afghanistan.
He is now a racing driver, supported by Mission Motorsport, and is working towards becoming an instructor to help others in their rehabilitation.
It is understood that he and his grandmother shared a light lunch and tea as they discussed his future on Sunday.
The Queen was left deeply upset after Harry and Meghan decided to suddenly announce their plans to step down and move abroad in early January in an apparent effort to bounce the Royal Family into agreeing to their demands to retain the trappings of royal life, while pursuing independent commercial careers.
And the couple were taken aback when Buckingham Palace made clear its displeasure and insisted that Harry would have to relinquish his HRH title as a non working royal and hand back their official patronages and his military positions, as well as dropping their plans to market themselves as ‘Sussex Royal’.
The Queen is said to be ‘very sad’ that she sees so little of Harry and Meghan’s son Archie, her great-grandson.
The meeting at the weekend was said to have been ‘productive and positive’. One source said Harry was seen leaving ‘deep in thought’.
But the couple have decided to leave Archie in Canada, meaning his British family haven’t seen him for more than four months.
Last autumn, American ex-actress Meghan opened up about her struggles with royal life in an ITV documentary filmed on their Africa tour.
She said she had tried to cope with the pressures by putting on a ‘stiff upper lip’ but she was not prepared for the intensity of tabloid interest.
‘It’s not enough to just survive something, that’s not the point of life. You have got to thrive,’ she added. Meghan told presenter Tom Bradby: ‘Not many people have asked if I’m OK.’
The Sussexes attended the previous annual Endeavour Fund Awards ceremony in February 2019, when the duchess was heavily pregnant with Archie.
They had last been seen together on an official engagement on January 7 when they visited Canada House in London to thank the nation for hosting them during their festive break in the Commonwealth country.
The following day, sixth in line Harry and former Suits star Meghan plunged the royal family into a period of turmoil when they announced they wanted to step back as senior royals and become financially independent – a move dubbed Megxit by the press.
Prince Harry smiles as he takes the stage at the Endeavour Fund Awards reception last night
The Duke and Duchess of Sussex sign the guestbook at the Endeavour Fund Awards last night
A summit of senior royals was later convened by the Queen at Sandringham to discuss the issue, with Harry sitting down for talks with his grandmother, father the Prince of Wales and brother the Duke of Cambridge.
The countdown to Megxit: Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s last four engagements before their time as working royals ends
Today: Silverstone Experience (Harry)
Today, Harry will join British Formula 1 driver Lewis Hamilton at the official opening of the Silverstone Experience.
The much-anticipated museum – which the Duke has been backing for years – will tell the story of the past, present and future of British motor racing.
Harry official launched the project for the £19.3million visitor attraction in March 2018 and is the patron of the museum in Northamptonshire.
Tomorrow: Mountbatten Music Festival (Harry and Meghan)
The couple will also attend the Mountbatten Music Festival at the Royal Albert Hall, which see the Royal Marines showcase their musicianship and pageantry.
The Duke of Sussex at the Mountbatten Festival of Music at the Royal Albert Hall in London in March 2019
The festival takes places over two days – March 6 and March 7 – at the venue in London, with Harry expected to attend the Saturday evening performance.
This event will also be Harry’s last engagement as Captain-General of the Royal Marines, before he loses this title as he steps down as a senior royal.
March 8: International Women’s Day (Meghan)
Meghan is expected to undertake an engagement to mark International Women’s Day on March 8, although no specifics have yet been revealed.
Speaking on a panel to mark International Women’s Day last year, she said she would like her first child to be a feminist, regardless of whether they are a girl or a boy.
Speaking on a panel to mark International Women’s Day, Meghan said she had recently been watching a documentary on feminism.
She told an audience at King’s College London last March: ‘One of the things they said during pregnancy was ‘I feel the embryonic kicking of feminism’.’
March 9: Commonwealth Service (Harry and Meghan)
Harry and Meghan will both attend the Commonwealth Day service at Westminster Abbey the next day with the Queen and other senior members of the Royal Family.
Earlier this month it was revealed that the Queen had requested that Harry and Meghan attend the annual service with the rest of the royals.
The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge (left) with the Duke and Duchess of Sussex (right) as they attend the Commonwealth Service at Westminster Abbey on March 11 last year
The event will likely see the Duke and Duchess of Sussex reunite with Prince William and Kate, a year after they were pictured smiling together at the 2019 service.
But the Sussexes have severed professional ties with the Cambridges by pulling out of the Kensington Palace household and their joint charitable foundation.
It was eventually announced they would give up royal duties, split their time between Canada and the UK, with the majority spent in North America, no longer be known as HRHs, and their lives as working royals would end on March 31.
Tonight, Harry will join Formula One world champion Lewis Hamilton at the official opening of the Silverstone Experience, a museum about British motor racing.
Harry and Meghan will attend the Mountbatten Festival of Music at the Royal Albert Hall on March 7 and the following day the duchess will mark International Women’s Day.
The duke and duchess will join the Queen and other royals at the Commonwealth Day service in Westminster Abbey on March 9, their last official appearance as HRHs.
Also during last night’s speech, the Duke told the audience ‘Meghan and I are so happy to be back with you’, with both handing out awards during the evening.
The Endeavour Fund is a body set up by the Royal Foundation to finance inspiring sporting and adventure projects aiding the recovery of veterans.
The duke added many of the servicemen and women had told him they ‘had his back’ and was keen to offer his own support.
He said: ‘I feel lucky to be able to count myself as one of you; and am deeply proud to have served among you as Captain Wales.
‘A lot of you tonight have told me you have my back, well I’m also here to tell you, I’ve always got yours.’
He added: ‘You have all had to demonstrate physical and mental strength that I doubt you even realised you had.
‘Never underestimate what your actions, your choices and your resilience means to others.
‘You should all be tremendously proud of what you’ve achieved and the positive service you continue to provide to so many.
‘To see you guys excelling and uplifting others while doing it makes me incredibly proud and grateful to all of you – because you don’t have to do it, you choose to do it.’
Arriving at the venue, Meghan wore a bright blue Victoria Beckham dress and linked her arm under Harry’s as he held an umbrella above their heads as they walked inside.
Meghan took to the stage to present the ‘Celebrating Excellence’ award, which is given to those who achieve excellence in their chosen sport or adventurous challenge.
She said: ‘It is very nice to be back [at the event], it is the third year. As you all know I can feel it is just the most inspiring space.
‘I will say, watching the [nomination] videos all the way in Canada, we had the same moment as you, where each of us [said] ‘how are we going to choose.’
Prior to the ceremony, the couple mingled with guests, which included television star Ross Kemp, during a reception event.
At times, the duke was very animated as he joked with award nominees, while Meghan asked questions and listened intently, clutching her purse by her side.
Ex-Royal Marine Lee Spencer, who holds the world record for the fastest unsupported row across the Atlantic Ocean despite losing his right leg in an accident, won the award, which was collected by his wife.
Meanwhile, Harry presented Army veteran Tom Oates with the final prize of the night, the Henry Worsley Award, which is given to an individual who has best inspired others through adversity.
Mr Oates lost his fiancee weeks after returning back from Afghanistan when she was struck by a car in front of him.
He now supports others with metal health difficulties and regularly speaks about his own experiences at events.
The Endeavour Fund’s new community impact award was presented by actor and journalist Ross Kemp to the Superhero Tri Series, which provides swim, cycle and run events that are open to all people regardless of their age.
‘Meghan and I are so happy to be back here with you: The Duke of Sussex’s speech at the Endeavour Fund Awards reception last night
Harry speaks last night at the Endeavour Fund Awards at Mansion House in London
It’s great to see so many familiar faces altogether in one room and thank you to everyone who made this evening possible. Meghan and I are so happy to be back here with you, to celebrate each and every one of you for your achievements, your service and your resilience.
For some, the military community represents a brotherhood or sisterhood that no other organisation can provide, and for others it’s a way of life which you never want to leave. For a lot of us, it’s both.
Being able to serve Queen and Country is something we all are rightly proud of, and it never leaves us. Once served, always serving!
Leaving the military and hanging up your uniform is – we know – an incredibly hard thing to do…unless of course it’s blue in colour…
But being forced to hang it up due to injury, beyond your control, can be even more difficult to accept. It can take time and effort to recognise the fact that it is something that happened to you, rather than something that’s wrong with you – so please don’t ever forget that.
The Endeavour Fund came from seeing the gaping hole that can be left after taking off that uniform.
The power that sport and adventurous challenge plays in recovery, yes; but most of all – the chance to be part of a team again while attempting to achieve unthinkable challenges – as if being shot or blown up wasn’t enough, you guys continue to impress, inspire and challenge what it means to have a life changing injury.
You have wanted to push yourselves harder than you’d ever done before. Not just for the thrill, or the experience, but to prove to yourself, to your family and your mates that anything is possible when you put your mind to it. Physical strength means little without actual mental fitness, and you have proven that time and time again.
Oh, and there’s the part of inspiring quite literally millions of people and raising money while doing it too! At the end of the day, you’re awesome, and I love working with you… well most of you….
You have all had to demonstrate physical and mental strength that I doubt you even realised you had. NEVER underestimate what your actions, your choices and your resilience means to others.
You should all be tremendously proud of what you’ve achieved and the positive service you continue to provide to so many. To see you guys excelling and uplifting others while doing it makes me incredibly proud and grateful to all of you – because you don’t have to do it, you choose to do it.
To our winners, Tom, Lee, Danny, Superhero Tri, and to all our nominees – you are fantastic representatives of our armed forces, and a credit to your country.
I know a lot of you are far too humble to acknowledge it – I guess that’s part of the training – so even if it’s just for tonight, please let yourself enjoy the applause and admiration, because you truly deserve it.
The Endeavour Fund is not just about recovery, it’s about discovering a new way of living – finding a new sense of purpose and you have most definitely found that.
86% of Endeavour participants have told us their injuries forced them to re-evaluate their own sense of identity, the very essence of who they are. And understanding this is behind the DNA of both The Endeavour Fund and the Invictus Games.
Which is why 84% also say their experience with us helped them rebuild a positive definition of who they are. We should not underestimate how powerful this can be.
Nearly two-thirds of those involved in endeavours last year had no previous engagement with sport post injury, and the fact they now have is thanks to people like you going out, finding them, and encouraging them to get involved and daring themselves to achieve what they thought was impossible.
Not only are you the Masters of your own fate, but you are helping others find theirs and I’ve seen this repeated over and over again.
From Walking With The Wounded working in Lesotho – to Deptherapy and our partnership with Super Hero Tri Series – I want to thank you al for using your endeavour experiences to help others outside of our community.
The Endeavour Fund has grown into something much greater than I could ever have imagined. It has flourished thanks to the dedication and hard work of the Endeavour Fund team, and I’d like to recognise and thank them, and thank everyone who’s worked on it or supported us and the guys over the years.
I firmly believe that there is an even greater future ahead. Our ambition is to build on what has been achieved – to expand the Endeavour Fund further so that its impact can be felt around the world.
For this reason, I am very pleased to announce that we are looking at opportunities to create a much closer working relationship with the Invictus Games Foundation.
More will be announced in due time but it’s been made possible by the generous support of some specific people, so thank you.
Invictus proves that when we bring people together from around the world – men and women who have fought together side-by-side – to have the opportunity to enhance their recovery through a shared experience of sport and challenge, is something that breaks through cultural difference, through skin colour and through bias, and is truly amazing.
It is my hope that in the future, this Invictus spirit will not only be spread at the Games themselves, but regularly, consistently and continuously through new worldwide Endeavour opportunities.
I know for many of you, your journey is not over. But by keeping this community together, we can do more amazing things, at a time when it is so desperately needed….and it works!
I feel lucky to be able to count myself as one of you; and am deeply proud to have served among you as Captain Wales.
A lot of you tonight have told me you have my back, well I’m also here to tell you, I’ve always got yours.
Congratulations to all the winners, to the amazing nominees, and to the families and friends who support all of us – without whom none of this would be possible, and too often are forgotten.
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