Harry and Meghan have arrived to the Invictus Games opening ceremony at the Zuiderpark stadium in The Hague – where the prince will give a speech to more than 500 competitors from 20 nations and their families.
Meghan rocked an elegant white top with high waisted black trousers and a simple gold necklace, while Harry opted for a grey suit and open-collared white shirt.
The royal couple walked hand in hand as they approached team members and stopped for a chat and some photos – before taking their seats to hear a speech from Prime Minister of the Netherlands Mark Rutte.
It comes after they spent the day meeting injured military veterans before hitching a ride on mini Land Rovers, with their Netflix crew in tow to capture every moment.
Their arrival to tonight’s ceremony came after national teams walked out to a live military band – with Ukraine receiving a huge standing ovation.
The team, who were granted special permission to compete from President Volodymyr Zelensky amid the Russian invasion, waved to the cheering crowds while the band’s cover of Euphoria by Loreen blasted through the rafters.
Team Canada and Australia have also entered, with the latter walking out to a cover of Journey’s Don’t Stop Believing.
Tonight’s ceremony features live performances from the Kaiser Chiefs, along with Dutch singer-songwriter Anneke van Giersbergen and Hague-based rock band DI-RECT.
The Games will run until next Friday and will see more than 500 competitors from 20 nations battle it out in events including archery, athletics, wheelchair basketball and sitting volleyball.
The annual event was founded by Harry, with the first ever edition being held in London back in 2014, followed by the US, Canada and Australia.
The Hague was supposed to host the 2020 Games but it was pushed back to this year due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex attends the Invictus Games opening ceremony at Zuiderpark in The Hague
Meghan rocked a white top with high waisted black trousers and a simple gold necklace, while Harry opted for a grey suit and open-collared white shirt
Competitors at the Invictus Games record the moment Harry and Meghan walk out to the stadium during the opening ceremony
Meghan holds Harry’s hands as the royal couple attend the opening ceremony of the Invictus Games on Saturday night
Meghan and Harry clap and cheer after taking their seats during the opening ceremony of the Invictus Games
Meghan, Duchess of Sussex and Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex look on during the Invictus Games The Hague 2020 Opening Ceremony
Harry and Meghan stop and chat with competitors from Team Netherlands after arriving to the opening ceremony of the Invictus Games
Prince Harry embraces a member of the Netherlands team at the opening ceremony of the Invictus Games
The beaming couple hold hands while they are cheered as they arrive to Saturday’s ceremony in The Hague
Prime Minister of The Netherlands, Mark Rutte speaks during the Invictus Games The Hague 2020 Opening Ceremony
Dutch Princess Margriet (C) fist bumps an athlete of the Dutch Invictus team prior to the opening ceremony
The Ukrainian team arrive for the Invictus Games opening ceremony at Zuiderpark – where they were met with a huge standing ovation
Italy enter the venue while more than dozens of musicians from the live military band play on
Harry and Meghan smile at competitors from Poland and Belgium as they make their way to their seats
Ukrainian team members were granted special permission to leave their war torn country and compete by their President Volodymyr Zelensky.
Earlier today, Harry and Meghan’s Netflix film crew couldn’t let a good moment go to waste, as they frantically scampered after the Duke and Duchess of Sussex while they met injured military veterans and hitched a ride on mini Land Rovers on the first day of the Games.
The royal couple were all smiles as they dressed down for their second appearance at The Hague in Holland, with Meghan swapping out a crisp white pant suit for blue jeans, a dark box jacket and pump shoes while Harry wore a black T shirt and chinos.
A large group of Americans in the crowd called out to the duchess and she responded with a smile and wave, with shouts of ‘Meghan, over here’ from spectators hoping to get her attention as she walked with other dignitaries to the centre of the course.
She then watched as Harry was driven in a white Land Rover through a water obstacle on the course during The Land Rover Driving Challenge.
Later Meghan and Harry larked about as they hitched a ride on the back of two mini Land Rovers driven by children.
The duke pumped his fists in the air as he was driven round the small course in the toy-style car by Scarlett Vroegop, the four-year-old daughter of a Dutch competitor at the Invictus Games.
Meanwhile Meghan giggled and waved at fans as she was driven by four-year-old Mya Poirot, who is also the daughter of a French competitor, while clutching a Canadian flag.
The couple then posed for photos with family members of the two kiddie drivers. After chatting with other competitors, the couple were driven away in a Land Rover defender.
Meghan will tomorrow give a reading of her children’s picture book The Bench before flying back to her £11million Californian mansion on Monday.
But it seems the royal couple couldn’t go anywhere without being followed by a Netflix camera crew filming their every move for an upcoming documentary with the streaming giant about the Games – including their meet-and-greet at the Zuiderpark.
Critics have accused the couple of ‘cashing in’ on the Games by allowing Netflix, with whom they have signed a $100million deal, into private meetings.
Some fear they are also ‘exploiting the Queen’, saying their top secret trip on Thursday for ‘clear the air talks’ with the elderly monarch and Prince Charles at Windsor Castle was to please their American producers and ‘spin’ their side of the row.
The Games mark the couple’s first public return to Europe since they acrimoniously quit as working royals and plunged the Crown into crisis.
Harry and Meghan are pictured reacting during a driving challenge at the Invictus Games, April 16, 2022
Harry and Meghan are driven in small Land Rovers on the first day of the Invictus Games, April 16, 2022
Meghan is seen during the Jaguar Land Rover Driving Challenge on day one of the Invictus Games, April 16, 2022
The Duke of Sussex being driven during the Jaguar Land Rover Driving Challenge at the Invictus Games, April 16, 2022
Prince Harry is pictured stepping out of a Land Rover after taking part in the Jaguar Land Rover Driving Challenge during the Invictus Games in The Hague, The Netherlands, Saturday April 16, 2022
A Netflix crew is seen filming a meet-and-greet that Harry and Meghan have with Invictus Games athletes
The Duke and Duchess of Sussex are pictured smiling for a group photo at the Invictus Games in Holland, April 16, 2022
Prince Harry is pictured reaching out to shake hands with a British athlete at the Invictus Games, April 16, 2022
The duchess laughs as she is driven in a small Land Rover while clutching the Canadian flag, April 16, 2022
Harry talks to a child driving a mini Land Rover during the Invictus Games at Zuiderpark, April 16, 2022
Meghan smiles and waves at a crowd as she takes a ride in a mini Land Rover in The Hague, April 16, 2022
The Duke of Sussex driving during the Jaguar Land Rover Driving Challenge at the Invictus Games, April 16, 2022
The Duchess of Sussex attending the Jaguar Land Rover Driving Challenge during the Invictus Games
Meghan embraces Harry as they talk to competitors at the Invictus Games in The Hague, April 16, 2022
The Duke and Duchess of Sussex attending the Jaguar Land Rover Driving Challenge, April 16, 2022
Meghan was all smiles as she shook hands on the first day of the Invictus Games in The Hague, April 16, 2022
Land Rover Defender 110 is seen during the Jaguar Land Rover Driving Challenge on day one of the Invictus Games
Harry waves from the passenger side of a Jaguar Land Rover during the driving challenge, April 16, 2022
The Duchess of Sussex watches the Duke of Sussex on the Jaguar Land Rover Driving Challenge
Meghan is pictured giving out hugs as Harry stands by on the first day of the Invictus Games, April 16, 2022
Harry also gives a hug while Meghan beams at Zuiderpark in The Hague, Netherlands, April 16, 2022
Harry gives a hug to a woman and her child on the first day of the Invictus Games, Holland, April 16, 2022
Harry and Meghan attend the Land Rover Challenge at Zuiderpark, April 16, 2022
The Duke and Duchess of Sussex attending the Jaguar Land Rover Driving Challenge, April 16, 2022
Meghan was seen smiling and laughing on the first day of the Invictus Games in Holland, April 16, 2022
Harry could be seen listening to Meghan intently on the first day of the Games in The Hague, April 16, 2022
The duke and duchess meet competitors during the Invictus Games in The Hague, Saturday April 16, 2022
Harry and Meghan intently watch the Land Rover Driving Challenge at the Invictus Games, April 16, 2022
Harry is pictured standing with folded arms as he watches the driving challenge at the Invictus Games, April 16, 2022
The event was supposed to be yellow carpet, but Harry and Meghan decided to attend in the last 48 hours
After their arrival to the Games, Harry and Meghan were seen hanging out with the Ukrainian team at the tournament
A Netflix crew are pictured following the royal couple at the Zuiderpark in The Hague, Holland, April 15, 2022
Harry and Meghan ‘told the Queen she will hug Archie and Lilibet ‘in the near future” in ‘very cordial’ secret meeting… while William and Kate ski in the Alps
The Queen is yet to meet her great-granddaughter, 11-month-old Lilibet, who was named after Her Majesty’s childhood nickname. Archie – seventh in line to the British throne – is now two years old, and reports have previously hinted at the Queen’s sadness at not having the chance to spend more time with him
Prince Harry and Meghan Markle have promised the Queen that she will get to hug her great-grandchildren Archie and Lilibet ‘in the near future’ during a ‘very cordial’ secret meeting on Thursday, according to reports.
The Duke and Duchess of Sussex made a flying visit to Windsor to meet Her Majesty and Prince Charles for a peace offering, before travelling to The Hague today for the start of the Invictus Games in The Netherlands. The couple flew to London from their home in California, where their two children are believed to currently be.
According to The Mirror, senior royal sources described the meeting as ‘very cordial’ and ‘incredibly warm and good natured’.
Harry and Meghan reportedly opened the door to return from the US for the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee celebrations, and told her of their plans to visit again so she can spend time with the children.
News of Harry and Meghan’s promise came after it emerged earlier that the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge are currently away holidaying in the French Alps with their children – just as the surprise visit occurred.
Video showed them yesterday cuddling a cute baby, before an emotional Harry was comforted by Meghan as they took their seats outside the US Embassy for the start of the Games, which were founded by the duke to aid the rehabilitation of injured veterans.
After first being held in London in 2014, it was at the Games that he and Meghan chose to make their first public appearance as a couple when it was held in Toronto, Canada, in 2017. The Games in The Hague were originally due to take place in 2020 but were postponed because of the pandemic.
Yesterday the duke and duchess made their first public appearance together in Europe since Megxit yesterday as they broke cover at the Invictus Games – with a Netflix film crew in tow – after their secret detour to Windsor to meet the Queen and Prince Charles.
Pictures showed the Netflix film crew standing apart from the dozens of photographers covering Harry and Meghan’s arrival at the Zuiderpark in The Hague.
The couple have signed a multi-million pound deal with the streaming giant, and a documentary about the Games – entitled Heart of Invictus – will be the first documentary series to be co-produced by Netflix with the Duke and Duches’s own company, Archewell Productions.
The couple walked into the event at the Zuiderpark in The Hague hand in hand, and were seen placing their hands on each other’s backs as they greeted people on what was their first joint appearance in Europe since they moved to California after they acrimoniously quit as working royals in 2020.
Last night it was reported that Meghan’s favoured make-up artist Daniel Martin, who created her natural look for her wedding in 2018, had also arrived in The Hague ahead of the Sussexes. In a post on Instagram, he wrote ‘Are you ready?’ next to a video recording of a sign for the Games.
Yesterday, the Mail revealed how Meghan and Harry had secretly flown into the UK on Wednesday, before travelling to see the Queen.
It is understood that the couple flew into the UK from LA on a commercial airline along with their private bodyguards on Tuesday night, arriving on Wednesday afternoon, and staying at Frogmore Cottage.
They were seen by fellow first class passengers on the flight, but news of their presence on British soil did not begin to emerge until they were spotted by locals and visitors while out walking at Windsor on Thursday.
They managed to fly out again later that same day without a single photograph being taken, despite Harry’s ongoing legal action at the High Court in which he claims he does not feel safe bringing his family to the UK.
It is understood the Sussexes had at least one meeting with the Queen and also met with Harry’s estranged father, Prince Charles, who was at Windsor on Thursday morning to stand in for the elderly monarch at the annual Royal Mandy service.
Both the Queen and the Prince of Wales are known to want to keep lines of communications with Harry and Meghan open and cordial in the hope that one day relationships can be repaired.
William and Kate did not meet with the couple but that is because they are away skiing with their children.
The Sussexes then travelled on to The Netherlands, where they were cheered and applauded as they arrived at the reception at the Games.
The Ukrainian non-governmental organisation Come Back Alive, which is raising fund to assist the Ukrainian army, yesterday presented Harry with one of its calendars and tweeted a photo of him looking earnest as he held it yesterday.
The Sussexes are both expected to appear at the Games’ opening ceremony today (Sat), with the Duke staying in the Netherlands for the entire week-long event. A spokesman for the Sussexes confirmed earlier this week that Meghan will be at the ‘first few days’ of the international competition.
Ahead of the Sussexes’ arrival in the Netherlands, there has been much debate about what their security arrangements will be there.
The couple were clapped and cheered as they walked to the reception for competitors and their families
Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, wore a white suit today as she attended a reception ahead of the start of the Invictus Games
Beaming Meghan drew gasps of admiration from competitors who had waited over an hour in the evening sunshine for her appearance
Harry and Meghan on the yellow carpet ahead of the Invictus Games in The Hague
Prince Harry gets a de-brief: Duke poses with BUDGIE SMUGGLERS gifted to him by cheeky Australian Invictus squad
A sheepish Prince Harry posed with skimpy budgie smugglers gifted to him by the cheeky Australian Invictus squad
The Duke of Sussex laughed as athletes representing Team Australia presented him with a pair of swim briefs, as shown in photos from the reception shared by Aussie Invictus on Twitter
A sheepish Prince Harry posed with skimpy budgie smugglers gifted to him by the cheeky Australian Invictus squad.
The Duke of Sussex laughed as athletes representing Team Australia presented him with a pair of swim briefs, as shown in photos from the reception shared by Aussie Invictus on Twitter.
Harry even appeared to stretch out his new green-and-yellow budgie smugglers, emblazoned with ‘Team Aus Down Under’ on the back, to make sure that they are the right size for him.
Team Australia said it wanted to keep up the ‘tradition of gifting stunning new budgie smugglers to the Duke’ – a nod to the 2018 Invictus Games, when Harry tried to wear similar briefs over his jeans.
Prince Harry donned the Budgie Smugglers over his jeans and posed for a picture with smiling Invictus Games competitors and paralympian Dylan Alcott (right)
The royal inspected his gift and gave them a stretch before trying them on over his clothes
After his grandfather died in April last year, Harry returned for the funeral. He was said to have wanted to travel to the UK for the thanksgiving service, along with his family.
But sources suggested his legal position could have been ‘undermined’ if he had travelled from the US. Harry brought a High Court claim against the Home Office after being told he would no longer get the same degree of personal security when visiting the UK, despite offering to cover the costs himself.
The couple have reportedly taken a private security team with them to The Netherlands and will be protected by in-country officials after being designated VVIPs – Very Very Important People – by the Dutch authorities, according to reports.
A spokesman for the Netherlands’ Ministry of Justice and Security said: ‘We never comment or give any details concerning possible individual security measures. A general statement would be that we take appropriate measures that are in line with our security threat assessment.’
It comes after critics accused the couple of ‘cashing in’ on the Games by allowing Netflix, with whom they have signed a $100million deal, into private meetings.
Some fear they are also ‘exploiting the Queen’, saying their trip this week for top-secret ‘clear the air talks’ with the monarch and Prince Charles was to please their American producers.
The couple have signed a multi-million pound deal with the streaming giant, and a documentary about the Games – entitled Heart of Invictus – will be the first documentary series to be co-produced by Netflix with the Duke and Duchess’s own company, Archewell Productions.
Last night, it was suggested the couple’s highly secretive meeting with the Queen may feature in the forthcoming documentary about the international sporting event for injured or sick military personnel and veterans founded by Harry.
Meghan chose a crisp white suit by Valentino for a reception to welcome friends-and-family of the Games, wide legged trousers and a double-breasted jacket. The blazer is currently on sale for £2,100, with the matching trousers costing a further £1,100. Meghan carried a clutch bag which is also said to be from Valentino and is currently priced at £2,200. The couple walked into the event at the Zuiderpark in The Hague hand in hand, and were seen placing their hands on each other’s backs as they greeted people on what was their first joint appearance in Europe since they moved to California after they acrimoniously quit as working royals in 2020.
Yesterday, the Mail revealed how Meghan and Harry had secretly flown into the UK on Wednesday, before travelling to see the Queen.
It is understood the couple flew from LA on a commercial airline along with their private bodyguards on Tuesday night, arriving on Wednesday afternoon and staying at Frogmore Cottage.
It is understood the Sussexes had at least one meeting with the Queen and also met with Harry’s estranged father, Prince Charles, who was at Windsor on Thursday morning to stand in for the monarch at the annual Royal Mandy service.
According to The Mirror, senior royal sources described the meeting as ‘very cordial’ and ‘incredibly warm and good natured’. Harry and Meghan reportedly opened the door to return from the US for the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee celebrations, and told her of their plans to visit again so she can spend time with the children.
The Queen is yet to meet her great-granddaughter, 11-month-old Lilibet, who was named after Her Majesty’s childhood nickname. Archie – seventh in line to the British throne – is now two years old, and reports have previously hinted at the Queen’s sadness at not having the chance to spend more time with him.
News of Harry and Meghan’s promise came after it emerged earlier that the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge are currently away holidaying in the French Alps with their children – just as the surprise visit occurred.
William and Kate are understood to be staying in the resort of Courcheval, with a picture circulating online of them watching their eldest son Prince George enjoy a skiing lesson.
Royal correspondent Robert Jobson said that it was ‘significant’ that the couple were not involved in the meeting between Harry and Meghan and other senior royals.
The brothers’ relationship is understood to be at rock bottom since Harry pressed the nuclear button on his royal life, while Harry and his wife were criticised for skipping Prince Philip’s memorial service in Westminster Abbey last month.
Speaking to MailOnline, Meghan’s acid-penned biographer Tom Bower sensationally branded the Sussexes ‘the Royal Family’s worst traducers’ and accused the couple of ‘exploiting an old, unwell woman to boost their credibility and coffers’.
Netflix is expected to send a camera crew to follow Harry and Meghan when they meet the Ukraine team at the Invictus Games for injured military veterans in The Netherlands for their documentary about the Paralympic-style games.
But critics have accused the royal couple of ‘cashing in’ on the Games by allowing Netflix, with whom they have signed a $100million deal, into private meetings. And royal experts believe the VVIP status given to the couple will allow Netflix to portray the couple in a favourable light, as they deal with the fallout from their bombshell interview with Oprah last year.
The van travelled down Windsor High Street yesterday preceded by two police motorcyclists (left) and a four by four behind, in what could be the couple’s security escort
Talking about Harry and Meghan’s summit with the Queen and Charles, Mr Bower said: ‘I have no doubt it was all done for their Netflix documentary. The Queen’s advisers failed to protect her from being exploited by the Royal Family’s worst traducers, while the Sussexes exploited an old, unwell woman to boost their credibility and coffers.’
Mr Jobson told the Mirror: ‘Hopefully, in time the royal brothers too can break bread and end this new war of the Wales’s, which is in danger of turning into one of the fictional soap style dramas Meghan used to star in. For William to do that, however, Harry will have to show that he (and his team of PR image gurus and advisers) can keep their counsel at this early and delicate stage. If not, this promising development would all have been for nothing.’
Other experts suggested that the surprise face-to-face meeting with the Queen, who will be 96 next Thursday and has experienced a series of health problems recently, was an ‘olive branch’ after considerable tension between the Sussexes and royal family.
Ingrid Seward, editor-in-chief of Majesty Magazine, said the visit would have made the Queen very happy despite the couple’s highly publicised criticism of the royals. In their interview with Oprah, they accused an unnamed senior royal of racism.
Harry and his father have spoken only rarely over the past two years and he heavily criticised Charles in last year’s tell-all Oprah interview in California last year for failing to support him and allegedly cutting the duke off financially.
The claims were disputed by supporters of Charles, who say he has been left desolate by his younger son’s rejection. He is also said to be deeply concerned about Harry’s memoirs, due to be published later this year, which he fears will be further used to settle scores.
Meghan will carry out a ‘secret reading’ of her picture book The Bench for children at the Invictus Games before jetting back to California
Meghan Markle is set to stage a ‘secret reading’ of her debut book The Bench to children at the British Embassy tent at the Invictus Games tomorrow before jetting back to her luxurious £11million mansion in California, insiders have revealed.
The Duchess of Sussex last year proudly announced that she was inspired to write her £12.99 children’s pictured book after writing a poem for Prince Harry’s first Father’s Day in June 2019, the month after their now two-year-old son Archie was born.
Upon its release last year, The Bench topped the New York Times Bestsellers List for children’s picture books, but sold just 3,212 copies in the UK its first week – behind books by footballer Marcus Rashford and TV personality Richard Osman at the time.
Early reviews for the book were not universally positive, though one cooed that ‘the book’s storytelling and illustration give us snapshots of shared moments that evoke a deep sense of warmth’. Another described it as ‘soothing, loving, although a little schmaltzy in places’.
A woman in a London bookshop poses with the children’s book The Bench by Meghan, June 8, 2021
Harry and Meghan made their first public appearance together in Europe since Megxit yesterday as they broke cover at the Invictus Games – with a Netflix film crew in tow
Insiders have told The Sun that Meghan will carry out a ‘secret reading’ of the book to children at the British Embassy tent on the Games park in Holland, where they are filming a Netflix documentary about the competition for injured military veterans. It is not known if the reading will feature in the new programme, entitled Heart of Invictus.
Today, the couple will both speak on stage at the opening ceremony later. They are set to address the audience at the televised event in The Hague, which will be attended by members of the Dutch royal family and the country’s prime minister.
Early reviews for The Bench were not universally positive, though one cooed that ‘the book’s storytelling and illustration give us snapshots of shared moments that evoke a deep sense of warmth’. Another described it as ‘soothing, loving, although a little schmaltzy in places’.
A further review said: ‘One wonders how any publisher could have thought fit to publish this grammar-defying set of badly rhyming cod homilies, let alone think any child anywhere would want to read it. But that’s planet Sussex for you, where even the business of raising a family is all about the brand.’
In Meghan’s debut book The Bench, one illustration shows the entire Sussex family in the garden of their Californian mansion.
Harry and Meghan are pictured smiling and waving as they arrive at the Invictus Games in Holland, April 15, 2022
Harry can be seen feeding their rescued battery hen chickens – who also featured in the couple’s bombshell interview with Oprah Winfrey earlier this year – with son Archie, two, with their two dogs, beagle Guy and black Labrador Pula, running around in the grounds. And Meghan can been seen amidst her vegetable patch with a baby in a sling around her chest.
Another illustration features a bearded ginger father – who bears a resemblance to the duke – cradling a smiling baby on a bench under a tree. The text reads: ‘This is your bench, where life will begin, for you and our son, our baby, our kin.’
In another illustration, a father and son duo each wear pink tutus while performing ballet poses. The accompanying words read: ‘You’ll love him. You’ll listen. You’ll be his supporter.’
Alongside a picture of a father and son playing with toy dinosaurs, Meghan wrote: ‘When life feels in shambles, you’ll help him find order.’
A father using a wheelchair also features in The Bench. He is drawn fixing his son’s shoes alongside the text: ‘This is your bench, for papa and son.’ It continues on the next page alongside a father and son wearing turbans: ‘To celebrate joys and victories won.’
In and out in 15 tense minutes: RICHARD KAY on the sombre reunion between Meghan, Harry and ‘broken-hearted’ Charles – the first since Megxit and THOSE Oprah allegations – which came at the Queen’s command and may decide Duke and Duchess’s future as Royals
By RICHARD KAY, DAILY MAIL EDITOR AT LARGE
Only the weather was the same. A bright sun shone from a blue sky just as it did on that May morning almost four years ago when Prince Harry took his new bride home through cheering crowds to Windsor Castle in a horse drawn carriage. Everything else had changed.
This time, husband and wife retreated behind the blacked-out windows of a people carrier for the short drive from their former home, Frogmore Cottage, to the castle.
And instead of thousands of well-wishers lining the route there was a rather modest turn out of spectators gathering for the spectacle of the Maundy Thursday service at St George’s chapel.
Ahead of Harry and Meghan were two meetings of sombre gravity that will almost certainly have determined their long-term status within the Royal Family – as future participants or as mere observers.
Harry’s offer of breaking his long flight from Los Angeles to the Hague in Holland, where he is attending his Invictus Games, with a stop-over in Windsor to see his grandmother a year after their last encounter at Prince Philip’s funeral, was warmly welcomed by the Queen. The timing was significant.
To the Queen, Easter’s promise of spiritual renewal and forgiveness – such an important time of year to her – represented an opportunity.
But there were strings attached: ahead of meeting the Queen, Harry would first have to see his father.
Prince Charles, Prince of Wales with Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex during Trooping the Colour in London
Just as in the crisis over Megxit when she insisted that the Sussexes’ departure from Britain was overseen by Prince Charles, the Queen was again demonstrating that she had her own red lines.
And since the Prince of Wales was also at Windsor – along with the Duchess of Cornwall – where he was standing in for his mother to distribute Maundy money to community figures, there were no logistical obstacles.
Today all sides agreed that if there is to be a reconciliation between Harry and his family then these meetings were a crucial first step. It is understood that Harry and Meghan met Charles around at around 10am for 15 minutes.
According to a source Camilla joined the meeting midway through.
Charles and Camilla then left the castle together for St George’s. In many ways this was the most important of the two meetings. Harry and his father have been barely speaking in recent months.
He heavily criticised Charles in last year’s toxic interview with Oprah Winfrey for failing to adequately support him and also accused him, wrongly, of cutting him off financially.
And Charles is said to be deeply concerned about Harry’s memoirs, due to be published later this year, which he fears will be used to settle more scores.
Against such a background he was understandably anxious about yesterday’s meeting with Harry.
Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex attend a reception ahead of the start of the Invictus Games
As one long-standing friend of his told me: ‘He loves his son and he has been broken-hearted by everything that has taken place, although he fears history repeating itself with Harry just as it did with Princess Diana. But he also wants to keep the door open and keep talking, something he still regrets not doing with Diana.’
After saying their farewells to Charles, Harry and Meghan moved on to the Queen’s private apartment where I am told the atmosphere was a lot less edgy.
Even though she has been both mystified and at times upset by many of Harry’s words and deeds in the past two years, her grandson is something of a favourite.
‘He has always had the ability to make her laugh and she loves that about him,’ says a companion.
‘To this day whenever she hears that Harry is on the phone her eyes light up.’ It can be no coincidence therefore, that for once Harry and Meghan’s social media cheerleaders have been unusually quiet about the content of both meetings.
‘Not leaking details is being seen as a way of getting some trust back into the relationship,’ I am told.
This was no last minute visit and had to take account of the Queen’s recent bout of ill-health, which included contracting Covid in February.
It was also the first time Meghan had seen any of her royal in-laws since March 2020. Intriguingly it involved a fifth member of the Royal Family who was not present at either meeting – Princess Eugenie.
The princess who is temporarily living in her cousin’s Frogmore Cottage with her husband Jack Brooksbank and their son August, is thought to have played an ‘encouraging’ role behind the scenes.
She is Harry’s closest royal ally – she and Jack visited the Sussexes in California earlier this year – and is also close to the Queen.
Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Andrew, center right, arrive for a Service of Thanksgiving for the life of Prince Philip
But it was the absence of one other royal figure that was most keenly felt – Prince William, who is on a family skiing holiday.
The Duke of Cambridge has been his brother’s biggest critic, dismayed by allegations of bullying of royal staff and of claims of racism, and as a result a rift has opened up between them.
He has not seen Harry since the two jointly unveiled a statue of their mother outside Kensington Palace last July and contact since has been sporadic.
‘He doesn’t like talking about Harry,’ says a friend of the duke. ‘He says it gives him a headache.’
The breach between them is an open wound that has still not remotely begun to heal. William is especially uneasy about Harry’s book deal amid fears that both he and his wife Kate will be in the cross-hairs.
‘He understands the need for reconciliation and all that, but at the same time he worries about his father being ‘ambushed’ by Harry.’
The Royal Family attending the annual Commonwealth Service in London on March 9, 2020
It is understood Harry and Meghan arrived in Britain on Wednesday after an overnight British Airways flight from Los Angeles. It is thought they did not bring their children, Archie, two, and ten month old Lilibet – who the Queen has still not met.
They were driven to Frogmore where they spent Wednesday night ahead of yesterday’s meetings.
After his failure to attend his grandfather’s memorial service last month – amid an ongoing legal row with the Home Office over the removal of his police protection – Harry’s offer to visit the Queen was being viewed as an olive branch.
Though it remains to be seen if it was a genuine wish for a rapprochement.
‘This has been a deeply troubling time for the Royal Family and the Queen would dearly love to put the recent bitterness behind her.
‘Would she love to see Harry on the Buckingham Palace balcony during the Platinum Jubilee events? Of course, but she knows there has to be reassurance on all sides for that to happen.’
Not since the days of Diana’s collaboration first with writer Andrew Morton and then with Panorama have the royals been quite so destabilised. But there is a pragmatism inside the Palace where aides recognise that Harry had to swallow some pride in making this week’s visit.
Courtiers will be hoping that, having already resolved one highly damaging family issue involving Prince Andrew, they can similarly settle their differences with Harry and Meghan.
Only time will tell if they are successful and confidence is not particularly high.
EXCLUSIVE: Palace ‘trying to bury’ inquiry into bullying claims against Duchess of Sussex – with only ‘four or five’ of Meghan’s team spoken to as part of Royal Household’s official investigation
Buckingham Palace has been accused of ‘trying to bury’ its inquiry into allegations that the Duchess of Sussex bullied her staff.
It is understood that only ‘four or five’ former members of the Sussexes’ team in total have been spoken to as part of the Royal Household’s official investigation into the claims.
The couple would have had up to 25 working for them at times – many of whom could be considered potential witnesses.
But nothing has been heard since last summer by any of those involved in the allegations.
Just over a year since the inquiry was launched, royal officials have so far refused to divulge any of their findings – or even confirm whether the results of the investigation will be included in this year’s annual review, due to be published in June, as previously suggested.
One source told the Daily Mail: ‘This should have been an opportunity to do the right thing. Now it looks like they’re going to do nothing instead.’
The source added: ‘It has been a very difficult situation for all involved, but the Palace is a very powerful institution and there clearly seems to be a cultural problem of not handling bullying, particularly when you consider some of the allegations about the way Prince Andrew is said to have treated his staff over the years.’
Prince Harry and Meghan Markle attend the Tennis together at the Invictus Games in Toronto, Canada
The prince has previously been accused of shouting and swearing at staff and making impossible demands of them over many decades. Buckingham Palace refused to comment last night.
But it is understood that senior officials believe it is unfair to accuse them of burying the inquiry and that they are all too aware that the public scrutiny of the issue will not vanish.
Palace aides first announced in March last year that they were launching an internal inquiry into claims that Meghan’s behaviour drove two personal assistants out of the household and ‘undermined the confidence’ of a third.
Staff were said to have been left in tears and feeling ‘traumatised’.
The allegations have been strongly denied by the duchess and her legal team, who have described them as a ‘calculated smear campaign’.
They have insinuated that the claims were made public to undermine her reputation ahead of her bombshell interview with Oprah Winfrey in which she made explosive claims about the Royal Family.
The Royal Household subsequently employed a law firm to investigate the allegations, paid for by the family privately.
The allegations centre on an email sent in October 2018, six months after Meghan and Harry married, by Kensington Palace’s then communications secretary, Jason Knauf.
He wrote to Prince William’s then private secretary Simon Case, who is now the Cabinet Secretary, about her alleged behaviour and asking for protection for the female staff he believed were being targeted.
Describing Meghan’s behaviour as ‘totally unacceptable’, he wrote: ‘I am concerned that the duchess was able to bully two PAs out of the household in the past year.
‘The duchess seems intent on always having someone in her sights [and] I remain concerned that nothing will be done.’
The email was also forwarded to the human resources department. Other witnesses have since come forward to the media to make similar claims. The duchess’s lawyer has challenged the claims of bullying.
What was done about the original complaint is now the subject of the inquiry and the Mail has been told that Mr Knauf is one of those who has been spoken to.
Part of the problem is that the Palace has never before had to deal with an official bullying complaint against a member of the Royal
Queen Elizabeth II’s private secretary Sir Edward Young
Family and so has no precedent on which to act. It also fears that if officials were to investigate the actual detail of the claims about Meghan then they would have her lawyers ‘crawling all over them’.
This is why the household have settled on a ‘procedural’ investigation: how the complaint was handled at the time and whether there are any lessons that could be learnt from this as part of their HR policy, as opposed to the truth of the claims themselves.
Critics say this is an unhelpfully narrow scope of inquiry and have questioned what the investigation will actually achieve.
Just over a year later, and without those interviewed having heard a ‘peep’ for at least six months, critics are now accusing the Queen’s private secretary, Sir Edward Young, of ‘burying’ the report amid a ‘wall of silence’.
‘No-one even knows whether they have formally concluded their work, are considering their findings or are just trying to bury it all, which is actually what the consensus seems to think is happening,’ one source told the Mail.
‘They haven’t even spoken to everyone who was there at the time and will have witnessed what was said to be happening first hand. It just seems like they wish it would all go away.’
Yesterday, Christine Pratt, founder of the National Bullying Helpline voluntary organisation, said that large employers such as Buckingham Palace has as much responsibility to investigate claims of bullying properly as small ones Buckingham Palace had initially planned an internal review investigation led by its own HR department, but later opted to outsource the inquiry to an independent legal firm.
This is believed to have exacerbated tensions with the Sussexes, who were angry about not being given a say in the process.
Launching the inquiry last year, the Palace said it would ‘not tolerate bullying and harassment’ and was ‘very concerned by the allegations’.
But it also made clear the inquiry would be conducted privately – not least because some of those allegedly victimised are said to have suffered from a form of post-traumatic stress disorder – and that the full findings would never be made public.
Prince Harry and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, during last year’s interview with Oprah Winfrey
It said that if it was deemed changes need to be made to its HR procedures as a result then they would be published as part of its publicly available annual review.
Buckingham Palace again refused to comment on any aspect of the investigation this week.
However, in a statement issued at the time the bullying allegations were first aired last year, the Palace said: ‘We are clearly very concerned about allegations in The Times following claims made by former staff of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex.
‘Accordingly our HR team will look into the circumstances outlined in the article. Members of staff involved at the time, including those who have left the household, will be invited to participate to see if lessons can be learned.
‘The Royal Household has had a Dignity at Work policy in place for a number of years and does not and will not tolerate bullying or harassment in the workplace.’
The Sussexes have not been invited to take part in the investigation despite having written to the Palace about it.
But the duchess’s lawyer, Jenny Afia, of Schillings, has previously told the BBC that she believed there were ‘massive inaccuracies’ in the claims.
She said allegations of bullying made against Meghan do not ‘match my experience of her’ and the term was frequently used to denigrate career women.
She added that the duchess denied the claims but did not ‘want to negate anyone’s personal experiences’.
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