Prince Harry: Don’t Judge People on Their ‘Past Pain’

Piroschka Van De Wouw/Reuters
Piroschka Van De Wouw/Reuters

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Harry and Meghan’s glowing Invictus farewell

Prince Harry gave a resonant and emotional speech at the closing ceremony of the Invictus Games Saturday, as he told competitors they had shown that people should not be judged by their past pain, “but rather instead on their ability, how they show up, and who they are in the present.”

“So many of you and your loved ones have been to the darkest places imaginable,” Harry said in his speech. “But your mission to heal and grow has been a shining example to us all. You’ve shown us the power in not defining people by assumption, their backstory or past pain—but rather instead on their ability, how they show up, and who they are in the present.”

Harry’s Pet Project Overshadowed as Royal Support Ebbs Away

If that was also a veiled reference to how he feels unfairly judged, Harry then told the competitors: “So many of you have told me that hit you right here. For many of you the uniform you’ve been wearing this past week will give you a new story to tell. And for others it may give your old uniform new meaning. But I’m here to remind you that after all of this, you don’t need to rely on a uniform, nor should you feel lost without one. Because everything you need is already within you.” (Harry was stripped of his military titles when he and Meghan exited their senior royal roles, which was particularly “demoralizing” for him, authors Omid Scobie and Carolyn Durand wrote in their book Finding Freedom.)

Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex, and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex attend the closing ceremony of the Invictus Games Düsseldorf 2023 at Merkur Spiel-Arena on September 16, 2023 in Dusseldorf, Germany.

Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex, and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex attend the closing ceremony of the Invictus Games Düsseldorf 2023 at Merkur Spiel-Arena on September 16, 2023 in Dusseldorf, Germany.

Chris Jackson/Getty Images for the Invictus Games Foundation

Harry added, “You have opened people’s hearts, through your vulnerability, through your resilience and your sheer abilities. You have shown us that joy can emerge from struggle.”

“After this week, know that you are all leading the way for defining human potential and human decency,” Harry said. “We value you, we need you, and the world does too. Next year—we’ve got a lot to look forward to—the Invictus Games Foundation 10-year anniversary—yes, 10 years. And then it’s off to Vancouver Whistler 2025... Bring it on.”

Harry founded the Games in 2014 for injured, sick and wounded service-people and veterans. At the closing ceremony, he and Meghan Markle—she in a stunning green strapless Cult Gaia dress with floral leather appliqué and silver detailing—cheered and clapped as the U.S. team walked onto the stage as Bruce Springsteen’s “Born in the USA” played. Meghan flew to join Harry at the Games, held in Dusseldorf, earlier in the week.

“We’ve all witnessed the true impact sport has had on your recovery,” Harry said. “But you will never truly know the impact your actions this week have had on millions of people around the world.”

Happy birthday Harry, sort of

Harry looked as happy as we have seen him for many years this week, especially when it came to celebrating his 39th birthday on Friday. The night before, he went out with Meghan and key members of his team and sunk six beers at a traditional restaurant.

The day of his birthday was spent in the stadium of the Invictus Games, where he was serenaded by the crowd and competitors with a rendition of “Happy birthday” during the seated volleyball quarter-finals, where a compère asked: “Is there anybody here celebrating their own special occasion today? Anyone’s birthday? Oh, I think it is someone’s birthday. A certain Prince Harry, the Duke of Sussex, 39 today. Happy birthday! Let’s sing along.”

Britain's Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex and his wife Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, attend the sitting volleyball finals at the 2023 Invictus Games, an international multi-sport event for injured soldiers, in Düsseldorf, Germany September 15, 2023.

Perhaps it will come as no great surprise to learn however, that Harry was not the recipient of birthday wishes from his family. There were no birthday messages on social media from his brother, father, or the official Royal Family account, which instead was posting merrily about other family members’ activities.

Sources at the palace told the Telegraph that they do not send birthday congratulations to non-working members of the royal family anymore. However, the fact is that they did send them to Harry up to 2021, and Harry’s 2022 birthday fell during the official period of mourning for the late Queen Elizabeth.

Therefore, the non-mention of the words, “Happy birthday, Harry” from any royal lip will be seen by many as yet another sign of just how badly relations between him and the royals have deteriorated.

William: Next stop, America

How strange to think that William and Harry, who once enjoyed the deepest of fraternal bonds, spent the past week so physically close yet never saw each other. The European situation of last week will be repeated in a different form and continent this week, with Harry due back in California Sunday and Prince William arriving in New York Monday.

The trip will see William focused on regaining control of the narrative from his brother as he makes a two day visit to the Big Apple aimed at ramping up interest in his Earthshot initiative, a prize which offers five £1 million ($1.2 million) prizes every year to individuals and companies developing technological solutions to the climate crisis. The awards will be handed out in Singapore in November.

Britain's Prince William speaks during a visit to Dockhead Fire Station to mark Emergency Services Day (999 Day), in London, Britain, September 9, 2021.

Britain's Prince William speaks during a visit to Dockhead Fire Station to mark Emergency Services Day (999 Day), in London, Britain, September 9, 2021.

Dominic Lipinski/Pool via Reuters

William’s team are using the trip to push a William the Statesman narrative, with a close aide telling CNN: “In addition to unveiling this year’s Earthshot finalists next week, you’re also going to see Prince William sitting down with the UN Secretary-General and other world leaders… This really is the evolution of Prince William as the global statesman.”

William has been buoyed by a recent Gallup poll which cited William as the most politically unifying personality in the United States. A close aide told CNN that the trip is all part of William’s evolution from Duke of Cambridge to Prince of Wales and future King. The aide said: “You’ve started to see this evolution over the last six months, whether it be him sitting down with President Biden in Boston in November, or heading to the Ukrainian border to meet with British troops.”

Maybe the wannabe diplomat could start off with a spot of conflict resolution closer to home?

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Harry gets institutional ‘Well done’

An intriguing piece in the Telegraph this week (reported on by the Royalist) suggested that the Invictus Games was not getting the institutional support it might have expected because of Harry’s squabble with his family.

Ben McBean, a double amputee who inspired Harry to launch the event, told the Telegraph’s royal correspondent Victoria Ward that he understood “both sides” of the conflict between the brothers, but added: “Saying that, they should have just given the lads a shout-out. It’s like when we went to Afghanistan, no one supported the war, but they supported the troops. It’s the same thing.”

Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex and Johnny Mercer attend the sitting volleyball finals at the Merkur Spiel-Arena during day six of the Invictus Games Düsseldorf 2023 on September 15, 2023 in Düsseldorf, Germany.

Ward also said that British team members were disappointed they have not been sent the good wishes of other members of the British establishment, usually sent as a matter of course to competitors in other international sporting events. One source described as a “team insider” said: “The athletes find it bizarre but don’t want to get caught up in the royal crossfire.”

However, Johnny Mercer, the member of the British government with responsibility for veterans, showed his support by sitting with him (and having a beer) as they watched the finals of the seated volleyball.

Mercer went on to unequivocally praise Harry, saying: “You can’t underestimate or underplay the huge impact he’s had on veterans’ care in the U.K. over many years. As a veteran myself, I’m incredibly grateful, but I know that the nation is incredibly grateful for everything he’s done so far.”

This week in royal history

A year ago today, the queen’s grandchildren stood vigil around her coffin at Westminster Hall in London. Prince William stood at the head of the coffin, Prince Harry stood at its foot.

Prince William, Prince of Wales, Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex (obscured), Princess Eugenie of York, Princess Beatrice of York, Peter Phillips, Zara Tindall, Lady Louise Windsor, James, Viscount Severn arrive to hold a vigil to honor Queen Elizabeth II.

Joining them were Zara Tindall and Peter Phillips (Princess Anne’s children), Princess Beatrice and Princess Eugenie, (Prince Andrew’s daughters), and Lady Louise Windsor and her brother, James, Viscount Severn (Prince Edward’s children).

Unanswered questions

Prince William heads to New York for a high-profile trip to publicize the Earthshot Awards this week. Who will he meet? What interviews, if any, will he give? And will it seal, as the palace hopes, his “global statesman” profile?

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