The Duke of Sussex spoke about his grandmother at annual WellChild Awards, praising the late Queen who died on Sept. 8 last year
The Duke of Sussex, who turns 39 on Sept. 15, traveled from his home in California to the U.K. for the annual awards for WellChild, a charity benefitting seriously ill children that he has supported for more than a decade, on Thursday.
Harry took the stage at the event to present the award for Inspirational Child (aged 4 to 6), making Violet Seymour the youngest honoree of the night. He knelt down to take a photo with her.
He also gave a speech, where he spoke about his late grandmother. Queen Elizabeth died one year ago on Sept. 8 at age 96.
"As you know, I was unable to attend the awards last year as my grandmother passed away," he told the audience. "As you also probably know, she would have been the first person to insist that I still come to be with you all instead of going to her. And that's precisely why I know, exactly one year on, she is looking down on all of us tonight, happy we're together continuing to spotlight such an incredible community."
Last year, Prince Harry and Meghan Markle were set to attend the WellChild Awards in London on Sept. 8 when doctors announced they were "concerned" for Queen Elizabeth's health. They canceled their appearance so Harry could travel to Scotland, where his grandmother died at her beloved summer residence, Balmoral Castle.
Prince Harry is expected to spend the anniversary of his grandmother's death privately. A representative for the couple tells PEOPLE, "The Duke, the Duchess and their family will privately acknowledge and honor the Queen on the anniversary of her passing."
While Prince Harry attended the Wellchild ceremony solo, he told one family that his wife was "very upset that she couldn't be here," Hello! magazine reported.
During his speech, Prince Harry described himself as a "father of two" — referring to son Prince Archie and daughter Princess Lilibet — "and three dogs, so basically five souls." He said he was "acutely aware of the joys and challenges that come with parenting, and that's with kids who aren't facing health challenges."
"To the parent carers in this room, you have my sincerest admiration and respect," he added.
At the end of the week, Prince Harry will head to Düsseldorf for his Paralympic-style contest for service personnel and veterans, the Invictus Games. He will reunite with his wife, 42, in Germany early next week.
At the 2019 awards, Prince Harry and Meghan attended for the first time as parents themselves, having welcomed son Prince Archie, now 4, earlier that year. The Duke of Sussex revealed in his speech that they knew Meghan was pregnant during their visit the previous year (they had yet to publicly share their news), making their visit even more emotional.
"Last year, when my wife and I attended, we knew we were expecting our first child — no one else did at the time, but we did — and I remember…" he said before his voice trailed off as tears welled up in his eyes.
He then put his head down and paused to collect himself as the crowd supported him with applause.
"I remember squeezing Meghan's hand so tight during the awards, both of us thinking what it would be like to be parents one day," he continued. "And more so, what it would be like to do everything we could to protect and help our child should they be born with immediate challenges or become unwell over time."
"And now, as parents, being here and speaking to all of you pulls at my heartstrings in a way I could have never understood until I had a child of my own," Prince Harry added.
Prince Harry continued to support WellChild from California after the family's move in 2020. The Duke of Sussex made a surprise video call to representatives and some deserving kids from the organization in Dec. 2020.
"You know who you are and don't pretend to be anybody else and because of that you inspire every single nurse, every single caregiver, every single mum, every single dad, every single sibling," Harry told them on the call. "You inspire every single day."
In June 2021, shortly after the birth of daughter Princess Lilibet, now 2, Prince Harry attended the WellChild Awards at a private garden party at Kew Gardens in London, where he caught up with pal Ed Sheeran in addition to meeting with the recipients. To keep the event safe for attendees amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the awards were held outdoors.
"Since becoming patron of WellChild in 2007, this organisation and the people within it have held an extraordinarily special place in my heart," he said in a statement. "I wasn't a father at the time, and yet the stories of these children and parents transcended that. I didn't need to be a dad to feel the impact of this invaluable work. Now as a father of two, I feel all the more connected, inspired and in awe of the resilience of these families, who power through indescribable challenges with the support of WellChild."
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Over the weekend, Prince Harry and Meghan enjoyed a night out in Los Angeles when they joined the crowd (and Meghan's mom, Doria Ragland!) at Beyoncé’s Renaissance World Tour show at the SoFi Stadium. In one photo posted on social media, the trio watched the show from a private box overlooking the stadium.
Last week, Prince Harry's Heart of Invictus show premiered on Netflix. In it, former soldier David Wiseman — who now works for the Invictus Games Foundation — said, “Invictus was the best week of my life, and that lives on stronger than ever,” as video rolled of him cycling for gold at the inaugural Invictus Games in London in 2014. “To feel like a rockstar for that week, to have the red carpet rolled out for us — that's what you did, isn't it?"
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