Sunday, 24 September 2017

Meghan Supports Her Prince at Invictus Games Opening Ceremony!

The 2017 Invictus Games kicked off in style tonight with a fantastic opening ceremony. As hoped for, Meghan is in the audience supporting Prince Harry.

Meghan has called Tornoto her home and has spent much of her time there over the past six years when Suits is filming in the Canadian city. For Harry, he has poured so much work, thought and time into ensuring the Invictus Games is a continued success. During a meeting with Governor General David Johnson he described Toronto as a "home from home". No doubt, Meghan's incredibly proud of everything he has achieved, and Harry's delighted for her to have the opportunity to see it first hand.

The appearance comes a mere two weeks after Meghan's Vanity Fair interview, in which she told the publication: "I can tell you that at the end of the day I think it’s really simple...We’re two people who are really happy and in love." Many observers predicted the interview was a precursor to the Games - introducing Meghan on her own terms.

Meghan enjoying the ceremony.

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We had hoped to see the couple sitting together, but I expect that will come at a later date during the games. The focus tonight is rightly very firmly on the competitors. Where did Meghan sit? Royal Central has the exact seating details.

Royal Central

Meghan sat with her close friend Markus Anderson, who reportedly introduced her to Harry.

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Prince Harry sat beside First Lady Melania Trump and Governor General David Johnson.

The Opening Ceremony is a two-hour event designed to welcome and honour competitors and their families from seventeen competing nations. The show featured hundreds of cast members, including men and women from the Canadian Armed Forces, in stunning performances, masterfully combined with the pageantry of elements such as the Parade of Nations and the raising of the official flag.

The Tenors performed "under the sky" as the conclusion of the National Flag Tour was celebrated.

The Invictus bracelets were programmed to light up with the music according to Royal Central. Below, we see Meghan admiring hers.

The 48th Highlanders of Canada & the 400th Squadron Mass Pipes and Drums performed the “Glendaruel Highlanders” & “The Atholl Highlanders”.

Ontario-born actor and comedian Mike Myers spoke about the beauty of Canada.

There was a memorable moment when CEO of the Invictus Games 2017 Michael Burns addressed the audience and paid a heartfelt tribute to Harry for making it all possible. It was very special, as you'll see. Harry's expression says it all.

High profile performers included Alessia Cara, Sarah McLachlan and Laura Wright.

There wasn't a dry eye in the house when Captain Trevor Greene, a retired soldier, who was terribly injured in Afghanistan,  spoke about the importance of family. "I had a choice to make. I could either give up, or believe in myself. I chose to believe in myself."

During an inspiring speech, Harry said: "In a world where so many have reasons to feel cynical and apathetic, I wanted to find a way for veterans to be a beacon of light, and show us all that we have a role to play; that we all win when we respect our friends, neighbours, and communities."

The text of Harry's moving speech:

'Hello Toronto, bonsoir le Canada. Merci beaucoup pour votre hospitalit√©. Trevor and his family are what Invictus is all about. Invictus is about the dedication of the men and women who served their countries, confronted hardship, and refused to be defined by their injuries. Invictus is about the families and friends who faced the shock of learning that their loved ones had been injured or fallen ill - and then rallied to support them on their journey of recovery. And above all, Invictus is about the example to the world that all service men and women - injured or not - provide about the importance of service and duty. 
The true scale of this example was brought home to me when I left Afghanistan after my first deployment there in 2008.  As I was waiting to board the plane, the coffin of a Danish soldier was loaded on by his friends. Once on the flight, I was confronted with three British soldiers, all in induced comas, with missing limbs, and wrapped in plastic. The way I viewed service and sacrifice changed forever. 
And the direction of my life changed with it. I knew that it was my responsibility to use the great platform that I have to help the world understand and be inspired by the spirit of those who wear the uniform. In a world where so many have reasons to feel cynical and apathetic, I wanted to find a way for veterans to be a beacon of light, and show us all that we have a role to play; that we all win when we respect our friends, neighbours, and communities. That's why we created Invictus. Not only to help veterans recover from their physical and mental wounds; but also to inspire people to follow their example of resilience, optimism, and service in their own lives. We made a great start in London in 2014. 
We took it to the next level in Orlando last year. And over the next week - in this year as we celebrate Canada's 150th anniversary - Toronto is going to put on a games that draws the attention of the world. More competitors, more sports, more nations, more friends, more families and more people watching at home than ever before. With the people in this arena tonight - and those watching across Canada and around the world - we have the biggest crowd Invictus has ever enjoyed. 
In the days ahead, I know many of you will be experiencing Invictus for the first time. I hope you're ready. I hope you're ready for some fierce competition. I hope you're ready to see the meaning of teamwork that proves anything is possible when we work together. I hope you're ready to see courage and determination that will inspire you to power through the challenges in your own life. I hope you're ready to see role models in action that any parent will want their children to look up to. And I hope you're ready to see lives change in front of your eyes. 
Before I close I want to speak directly to the competitors. For the next week, we entrust you with the Invictus spirit. You have all come such a long way. Some of you have cheated death and come back stronger than before. Some of you have overcome emotional challenges that until very recent years would have seen you written off and ignored. And now you are here. On the world stage. Flags on your chests. Representing your countries again. Supporting your teammates. And looking up into the stands, and into the eyes of your friends and families. You are all winners. Please don't forget to love every second of it. 
Don’t forget about our friends who didn’t come home from the battlefield. Don’t forget those at home who still need our support. And don't forget that you are proving to the world that anything is possible. You are Invictus. Let's get started.'

Reporters said Meghan watched "intently" as Harry spoke.

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Meghan left after Harry's speech accompanied by protection officers. Very interesting (and perhaps telling of an engagement) to see she has Scotland Yard protection.

Rebecca English Twitter Feed

Are you familiar with Invictus? What are the games about? How is Harry involved? Following his ten years of service with the British Army, which saw him rise to the rank of captain and undertake two tours of Afghanistan, Prince Harry was determined to create an expanded international version following his inspirational visit to the Warrior Games in Colorado in 2013. There, he saw how the power of sport could help wounded members of the armed forces physically, psychologically and socially.

The Invictus Games are an international sporting event for wounded, ill and injured servicemen and women, both currently serving and veterans. The Games use the power of sport to inspire recovery, support rehabilitation and generate a wider understanding of, and respect for, those who serve their country. The word Invictus is Latin for unconquerable. It embodies the fighting spirit of the wounded, injured and ill service personnel and what these tenacious men and women can achieve, post-injury.

The first Invictus Games took place in March 2014 at the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park in London, United Kingdom. The 2014 opening ceremony was attended by Prince Harry, Prime Minister David Cameron, Prince Charles, Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, Prince William, and Frederik, Crown Prince of Denmark. The event also included a recorded message from former First Lady of the United States Michelle Obama. The second games were held in Orlando, Florida in 2016. This year the games move to Toronto - a place where Harry has been spending quite a bit of his free time over the past year. Below, the games mascot VIMY :)

More on the choice of location:

'Hosting the Games in Canada in 2017, the year the country celebrates the 150th anniversary of its Confederation, will provide a unique opportunity for Canadians to commemorate the ill, wounded and injured soldiers, along with their families.
Canadians actively look for ways to express their gratitude toward its military personnel, and the Invictus Games will provide an ideal forum for what we know will be an unprecedented outpouring of support.'

"I AM the master of my fate. I AM the captain of my soul," are the last two lines of the Invictus poem by William Ernest Henley.

The Games are a true shining example of the power a member of the Royal family has to take on a project they are passionate about and not only see it reach its fruition, but help thousands in the process.

Since Harry arrived in Toronto on Friday, he's been working tirelessly to promote the Games and meet as many involved as possible. From participants and their families...

To excited members of the public...

....and the Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau (Meghan has met the PM several times through her work as a counsellor with One Young World). The PM said: "The Invictus Games are a unique and powerful way to honour those who have sacrificed so much on behalf of their country. They represent the best and deserve our gratitude forever. Over the next eight days, the Invictus Games will put the spotlight on the strength and resilience that characterised their service. Sophie and I wish every competitor the best of luck."

There were lighthearted moments on the eve of the game.

And Harry was taken for a spin by the daughter of one of the competitors :)

Meghan looked effortlessly chic tonight. The amazing HeavenQRF identified Meghan's jacket as the bordeaux Mackage Baya Leather Jacket. The $690 piece is described as "This supple leather Mackage moto jacket has a classic moto feel, with exposed zips at the pockets, cuff gussets, and placket. Fold-over collar and notched lapels. Snap-flap ticket pocket." It's available at ShopBop. It's also available in black at Nordstrom.

It very much looks like Meghan's v neck midi dress is the Artizia Wilfred Beaune Dress in 'truffle'. The $185 piece is made with a beautiful chiffon and features a wrap silhouette. It's interesting to see a touch of sartorial diplomacy from Meghan - both Mackage and Artizia are Canadian brands.

Meghan carried a matching clutch.

And a look at tonight's jewellery.

The games run for the next week, I suspect we'll see the couple on at least a couple of occasions :)

Sunday, 10 September 2017

Harry and Meghan to Make "Official Debut" at Invictus Games Later This Month!

Following Meghan's surprise interview with Vanity Fair, which made headlines all over the world during the week, I anticipated we would see some interesting reports and stories regarding the couple's future in the Sunday papers and thankfully that is very much the case. The VF story has proved a divisive move. My own take on it is this; we are in very different territory with Meghan than previous royal girlfriends. She's already an established and known public figure. In many ways, doing the interview provided an opportunity to take control of the narrative and present an accurate portrayal of herself. Certainly, I have no doubt this was done with Harry's full knowledge and likely a level of involvement from Kensington Palace. I imagine it's one of several carefully planned steps arranged to introduce Harry and Meghan to the public on their terms before an engagement announcement. 

Vanity Fair

Camilla Tominey reported the follwing in the Sunday Express:

Aides rubbished reports as “incorrect” that the Queen had been unhappy with the coverage, as one of Meghan’s closest confidantes revealed she spoke to the US magazine with Harry’s full approval. 
 'A royal source revealed: “Behind Palace gates everyone is expecting an announcement. It’s a case of when not if. The consensus is there will be a wedding next year.” 
The friend, who wished to remain anonymous, rallied against suggestions Meghan was courting publicity, saying: “She hasn’t spoken for a year and all she did say was that she was in a relationship and in love. Any suggestion that she is milking this for publicity is ridiculous. Of course Harry knew all about it, the palace okayed it.”
A royal insider also confirmed Harry’s closest aides at Kensington Palace were told about the interview and gave it their full approval. “The Palace knew about it and sanctioned it,” said a well-placed source. “Meghan hadn’t done much in the past year. She’d been very quiet but there is an understanding that this is not a sustainable position for her to be in as an actress. She has a career and media work is an inevitable part of that.'

A friend told Tominey:

“She has said on numerous occasions she doesn’t want be a lady who lunches. She is actually very low maintenance. She appeared on the front cover of Vanity Fair without any mascara on and insisted there was no airbrushing of her freckles. Most cover girls take hours getting ready for such shoots but Meghan was only in hair and make up for 30 minutes. What you see is what you get with Meghan. She’s not at all Hollywood. Yes, she’s beautiful but she’s got brains, she’s smart and engaged.” 

Roya Nikkhah wrote an insightful article for The Sunday Times in which she revealed Meghan has returned to Toronto "She is thought to have a contract until the end of the year, leaving open the possibility of an engagement announcement before Christmas, with a royal wedding next year". Roya also notes Harry is eager to pursue a modern royal marriage "allowing Meghan to pursue charitable interests and career options. One source said Markle was unlikely to become an Identikit Duchess. The source added Harry will push hard for this: "I don't think the Queen will stand in the way of a more modern kind of royal marriage; she back her grandsons to the hilt. Palace courtiers must not stand in the way. If Harry is frustrated on this, it will be the royal family's detriment." In terms of a career, I could easily see Meghan forging a royal role slightly different to the norm. Aside from her duties on behalf of the Queen, I think she will want to continue and expand on her roles including UN women's advocate. I also envisage Harry wanting to do more work in Africa, something both might explore in the early years of their marriage.

Vanity Fair

The Mail on Sunday reports on 'Operation Princess', claiming the Palace is making plans for Meghan to join the Firm:

'Significant changes are even afoot within the palace itself, changes which will open up the possibility of a new family home at Apartment 9 for Harry and Meghan.
They currently stay in Nottingham Cottage, a small two-bedroom house in the palace grounds. It has become clear that Royal solicitors Harbottle & Lewis, which acts for Prince Charles, William and Harry, has been asked to represent Meghan, too. And it is understood that Kensington Palace has been playing a key role in reducing the actress’s publicity commitments to the TV legal drama Suits, an apparent clearing of the decks and part of what some are calling ‘Operation Princess’.

If the Vanity Fair interview could be perceived as 'Stage One' of the official unveiling of the couple, what's next? Roya Nikkhah reports "Meghan Markle is to join Prince Harry at the Invictus Games in Canada later this month. It will be the couple’s first public appearance at an official event. The American actress will join him in Toronto during the week-long Paralympic-style games for war veterans, founded by Harry." This move makes perfect sense in so many ways, not only have royal watchers pinpointed the event as the ideal venue for their debut, it's perfect for Meghan. Toronto is home turf for the Suits star who has called the Canadian city home for years. I believe, we can expect to see several appearance from Meghan over the week. The opening ceremony takes place on Saturday, 23 September, at 7.30 p.m.

Camilla Tominey notes Toronto is also hosting this years We Day charity concert, there's apparently some speculation the couple might make an appearance there. Harry previously participated in the event when it was held in London, with Cressida Bonas watching on. I'm on the fence about this one because logistically Harry will want to devote as much time as possible to Invictus.

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The Sunday Express article concludes with "It is thought the couple will spend Christmas together". I have a feeling we're in for a very interesting Autumn :)

Tuesday, 5 September 2017

Meghan Tells Vanity Fair: "We're Two People Who Are Really Happy And In Love"

"We're two people who are really happy and in love". These are the romantic and telling words Meghan Markle shared with contributing editor Sam Kashner for an astonishing interview for Vanity Fair. In the incredibly open piece Meghan discusses her relationship with Prince Harry, the challenges of her newfound fame, her background, her life as an actress and more.

Sam Kashner begins with this insightful part recalling the rainy day she interviewed Meghan in June:

'Meghan Markle was going to London. She had a week’s hiatus before returning to Toronto to film the 100th episode of Suits, a surprise-hit series on the USA Network, now in its seventh season. On a rainy afternoon in June, Markle came to her front door and welcomed me into her home, on a quiet, tree-lined street in Toronto. Markle was wearing a red, knee-length floral dress (“Erdem, a designer I’ve been wearing for years”), with her rescue dogs, Bogart and Guy, wagging their tails beside her. A slim brunette with a lightly freckled, glowing complexion and an upturned nose, she looks like the sun-kissed California girl she’s always been.
Markle had prepared a lunch of organic greens, a crusty bread to be dipped in olive oil, and pasta tossed with chilies bought from “a little place called Terroni, which they have in L.A. and in Toronto. They’re really hot, but if you’re good with heat, then I think they’re going to be your new favorite thing . . . I’ll give you a little jar to take home.” Her warmth is genuine. She seems to be the happy genius of her home of seven years. “Seven Canadian winters!” she exclaims about her time filming Suits. “A long time for someone who grew up in Southern California.” She has tried to make her Canadian house look like a California bungalow, exposing the hardwood floors and letting in as much light as possible.
Markle suggested that we move outside into the small garden behind the house, where she opened up even more about the object of her affection, her “boyfriend,” as she calls the prince.'

Of course we all want to know exactly what Meghan said about her relationship with Prince Harry, so we'll start with that fascinating portion of the interview: “We’re a couple,” she explains. “We’re in love. I’m sure there will be a time when we will have to come forward and present ourselves and have stories to tell, but I hope what people will understand is that this is our time. This is for us. It’s part of what makes it so special, that it’s just ours. But we’re happy. Personally, I love a great love story.”

Meghan confirmed the couple met in July 2016 and were introduced by friends: “I can tell you that at the end of the day I think it’s really simple,” she says. “We’re two people who are really happy and in love. We were very quietly dating for about six months before it became news, and I was working during that whole time, and the only thing that changed was people’s perception. Nothing about me changed. I’m still the same person that I am, and I’ve never defined myself by my relationship.”

Discussing the new level of fame, Meghan credits the support of those around her in helping her deal with the challenges it has presented: “It has its challenges, and it comes in waves—some days it can feel more challenging than others,” she says. “And right out of the gate it was surprising the way things changed. But I still have this support system all around me, and, of course, my boyfriend’s support. I don’t read any press. I haven’t even read press for Suits. The people who are close to me anchor me in knowing who I am. The rest is noise.”

Meghan's friends, Suits actress Abigail Spencer and designer Misha Nonoo contributed:

'A close friend is the actress Abigail Spencer, who has been a Suits cast member. When asked why she thinks Harry was drawn to Markle, Spencer says, “She’s got warm elegance, though her style is hard to pin down. It’s classy and timeless. When you’re talking to her, you feel like you’re the only person on the planet. And it’s just wonderful to see her so in love.”.
 Another close friend is the Bahrain-born fashion designer Misha Nonoo. They met in Miami through a mutual friend and immediately bonded. “Her greatest strength is her compassion for others,” says Nonoo. “Much of the work she does is unseen by the public.'

Kashner continued: "One thing Markle noticed about how she was perceived was that “at almost every photo shoot they would airbrush out” her freckles. “I’ve always loved my freckles,” she now says, so when she was photographed for V.F., she was “thrilled to work with Peter [Lindbergh] because he rarely retouches and he believes in such little makeup. I gave him a big hug and said, ‘I am so excited to work with you because I know we will finally be able to see my freckles!"

Meghan also recalled auditioning for Suits and the support she received from her parents:

When she auditioned for the role, Markle showed up in black jeans, a plum-colored spaghetti-strap top, and heels. It suddenly occurred to her that for the screen test she needed to look less casual and more like a lawyer. She dashed into an H&M and bought a little black dress for $35. Sure enough, she was asked to change into the dress, which she hadn’t even tried on. Thank God it fit.
“My parents had been so supportive,” she told V.F., “watching me audition, trying to make ends meet, taking all the odds-and-ends jobs to pay my bills. I was doing calligraphy, and I was a hostess at a restaurant—and all those things that actors do. My father knew how hard it is for an actor to get work, so he above all people was so proud that I was able to beat the odds.”

Speaking about growing up: "What’s so incredible, you know, is that my parents split up when I was two, [but] I never saw them fight. We would still take vacations together. My dad would come on Sundays to drop me off, and we’d watch Jeopardy! eating dinner on TV trays, the three of us. . . . We were still so close-knit.” When she turned 18, she left for Northwestern University, in Evanston, Illinois—becoming the first person in her family to graduate from college—and double-majored in theater and international relations. In line with her international-relations major, Markle worked at the U.S. Embassy in Argentina her senior year, “so I had been in a completely different world and then suddenly jumped into this one."

Meghan discussed growing up feeling like "a question mark, an absolute incomplete":

'Markle’s parents “crafted the world around me to make me feel like I wasn’t different, but special,” as she wrote in a 2015 essay for Elle. As dolls in the 1980s were generally sold in sets of black and white, for Christmas one year her father bought “a black mom doll, a white dad doll, and a child in each color. My dad had taken the sets apart and customized my family.”
Problems began in the seventh grade, when she had to complete a mandatory census by checking one of four boxes: “white, black, Hispanic, or Asian.” The pale, freckled, curly-haired Markle felt that to choose either white or black would be a rejection of one of her parents. Her teacher told her to check “Caucasian” because she looked white, but she couldn’t. She ended up leaving the boxes unchecked. “I left my identity blank—a question mark, an absolute incomplete—much like how I felt,” she once said.'

"One of the strongest bonds Prince Harry and Markle share is their philanthropy. For Markle, it began at an early age. Her mother, Doria Ragland, made sure that her little girl knew about the greater world and its political and economic challenges when she was growing up in Los Angeles. Markle thinks her social awareness began during the South-Central riots, in Los Angeles, sparked by the police beating of Rodney King, in 1991, and the subsequent riots in 1992, when she was 11 years old. “They had let us go home [from school] during the riots and there was ash everywhere.” As the ash from street fires sifted down on suburban lawns, Markle remembers, she said, “Oh, my God, Mommy, it’s snowing! “No, Flower, it’s not snow,” Doria answered. “Get in the house."

Meghan wore a selection of simple, classic and monchrome looks for the shoot. However, she also sported a stunning gown. The talented ladies at Meghan's Mirror have identified it as the Carolina Herrera Mikado Bustier Tulle Ball Gown. Made in Italy, the piece is from the Resort 2018 Collection.

Royal reporter Rebecca English commented on the piece.

Rebecca English Twitter Feed

When the engagement was mentioned, Rebecca responded "100%".

I think there is absolutely no question this piece was done with Harry's full knowledge and support. In many ways, it very much feels like a pre-engagement 'Get to know the real Meghan' article. So much has been written, so many false rumours continue to do the rounds daily... This was a wonderful opportunity for her to have her say. Meghan was very open in the interview and above all, it's simply wonderful to hear how happy and in love they are. I thought this quote particularly interesting regarding future plans "I’m sure there will be a time when we will have to come forward and present ourselves and have stories to tell, but I hope what people will understand is that this is our time." The articles noted Meghan's achievements - she's the first person in her family to graduate college and worked in the U.S. embassy in Argentina during senior year. Meghan and Harry's shared interest in philanthropic initiatives stood out as another important part of the piece, something that will serve them in the good stead in the future. Meghan has experience working with charities and global organisations, relationships that could be fostered and continued in the royal family. The natural, pared back styling and photographs worked beautifully with the tone of the interview. I thought it an excellent read, you can view the full article here. You can view a behind-the-scenes video from the photoshoot here (with thanks to Solid Moonlight). What are your thoughts on the piece?

Since the interview, Harry and Meghan enjoyed three blissful weeks in Botswana and returned to Kensington Palace together last week. Emily Andrews noted they spent the weekend away together. By all accounts, it's going incredibly well and I very much look forward to a special announcement, I don't about you, but I think it's coming sooner rather the later :)