Friday, 22 April 2022

The Invictus Games 2022: A Week Where Memories Are Made

Prince Harry has been making the most of every moment during the Invictus Games. We saw three days of joint appearances for the Sussexes before Meghan returned to Archie and Lili in California. Before we take a look at updates from the Duchess' events, let's catch up on just some of the highlights of Harry's week.

The Invictus Bench

A central theme of this year's games has been the Invictus bench. A simple yellow bench has served as an incredibly effective tool for communication, for conversations and even the beginning of new friendships. It's a place to meet new people, to share a story or perhaps a burden. The Invictus Games hope it will begin a tradition worldwide.

Of course, Meghan's book The Bench was inspired by watching Harry with Archie sitting on a bench she gifted him for Father's Day. I imagine the idea of taking benches to Invictus was a long discussed one between Harry and Meghan.

CEO of the Invictus Games The Hague 2020 Conny Wenting sat down on the bench with Harry to discuss the possibility of yellow benches becoming a global addition. Conny Wenting said: "For our opening ceremony, we have chosen three symbols that represent important values. During the opening and at each venue where matches will take place, we have placed a yellow chair. This chair will remain empty. It provides a place for loss and mourning, and we commemorate those who are unable to join us for these Invictus Games. Furthermore, there is the Life Line, which symbolises others’ helping hands. The bench is an important meeting place, where one could move forward in their healing process by sharing their story. And to listen to the stories of others." Dutch Mayor Jan van Zanen is hoping to see one of the benches installed in the reception area of city hall.

Harry joined two Dutch and two Ukrainian competitors in the Invictus Games in painting one of the permanent benches in the garden yellow. 

Prince Harry's interviews...

To coincide with the games, as per usual, we saw Harry give several interviews. Speaking to the BBC's Alex Jones and JJ Chalmers (more on JJ shortly) Harry praised Team Ukraine : "The whole world is definitely behind them. But again, is that enough, you know? When you get to see them and speak to them, and see in their eyes, the experiences and the things that they’ve seen just in the last few weeks, it’s really hard It’s emotional to think that they all jumped in the bus, firstly they have to make the decision to come, which was hard enough anyway, then they jumped on the coach, probably slept all the way." Harry said he struggled the day before the opening ceremony, considering how best to convey their journey.

Harry continued: "I genuinely, after three years, thought we might be able to put it in a box, put it on a shelf and just leave it until we would need to bring it out again, but the state of the world right now, there’s always going to be a need for it as far as I can tell."

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Harry featured on the cover of People magazine this week.

In an exclusive interview, he told the publication there is nowhere you can feel more embraced and supported than with the Invictus family.

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Speaking about the games and their role in his relationship with Meghan, he added: "The Toronto Games were our first time out and about publicly in an official way. We were dating at the time, so it was a lot to take in, but fortunately, we were with the perfect community for that. Now, five years later, here we are in the Hague at the fifth Invictus Games, as parents of two and living in the U.S. I had always wanted to share these incredible moments with someone special, and to have Meg by my side means everything."

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More from People:

'Ken Fisher — the chairman and CEO of Fisher House, a charity for military families — adds that Prince Harry and Meghan also have a positive effect on the athletes.

"I see the looks on people's faces when he and Meghan walk into a room. Everything changes. Everything lights up," he says. "And there's so much darkness in these [military families'] lives. The life they bring in, it's healing."

Harry told People he always knew he would leave the army before starting a family: "Being a dad certainly adds another emotional layer to it. When I was in the Army, I promised myself I would be out before having a wife and kids, because I couldn't imagine the heartache of being apart for so long during deployment, the risk of possibly getting injured and the reality that my family's lives could be changed forever if that happened."

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I've noticed he's especially attentive to the little ones at Invictus as he's missing his own "two little people".

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And Guy and Pula :)

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During a short sit down with Hoda Kotb from NBC's TODAY, Harry spoke about life in the US: "I think like the biggest concern or the biggest issue that people wrestle with on daily basis that does provide more anxiety for me and for them is the helplessness. We as human beings are compassionate people. But when your life becomes really hard, it can be for some harder to find the compassion for other people. But what I've learned over the years is, certainly for myself, I find healing in helping others. And I think that what's we should really be focusing on."

On being cheeky, Harry laughed and replied: "My cheeky thing? Yeah, I think so. I always try and keep that. The cheekiness is something that keeps you alive. There is just so much to be happy about in the outside world, but there is also so much to worry about. My sort of mantra now every day, and it is a dangerous one, because I need to make sure that I don't have burnout, but is trying to make the world a better place for my kids. Otherwise what is the point of point of bringing kids into this world? It is a responsibility I feel as a parent you probably feel as a parent as well. And we can't fix everything. We know that. But what we can do is be there for each other."

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On recently returning to the UK and spending time with the Queen: "It was great. It was really nice to see her. To be able to see her in some element of privacy was nice. I hadn't had the chance to go back the UK for couple of years apart from those two times. One for my grandfather's funeral and one for unveiling a statue of my mum. Being with her, it was great. It was just so nice to see her. You know, she's on great form. She has always got a great sense of humour with me and I'm just making sure she's protected and has got the right people around her."

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On plans for the future with Meghan: "From my wife's point of view. For the two of us, this is a life she signed up for and we were committed to doing this together as a couple forever. Because of the circumstances, we've now moved that life of service to the States and we'll continue doing what we were doing before. So in that regard nothing's has changed for us. It is just a little bit more complicated to have to sort of restart."

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On Diana watching over him and his family "For me it is constant. It has been over the last two years. More so than ever before. And it is almost as though she's done her bit with my brother and now she's very much, like, helping me. Got him set up. And now she's helping me set up. That's what it feels like, you know? He's got his kids. I've got my kids, you know the circumstances are obviously different. But now, I feel her presence in almost everything that I do now. But definitely more so in the last two years than ever before. Without question. She's watching over us."

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Familiar Faces...

We've seen Harry surrounded by comrades and friends he's known from the earliest days of Invictus. David Wiseman is a leading figure in the Invictus family and has worked alongside Harry for a number of years. He's currently the Director of Grants and Programmes at the Invictus Foundation. Affectionately known as 'Wisey', the ex-soldier was shot on the battlefield in Afghanistan. Competing in swimming at the Invictus games meant the world to David. "We've fought together, we've been wounded together, we've repaired together and now we're competing together."

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Speaking at the Toronto games, he said, "You've seen how actively Prince Harry has been involved this week in Toronto, but what you haven't seen is how involved he is behind the scenes - he's driving this. It's his focus and his passion." David was central to the creation of HeadFit, a collaboration between the Ministry of Defence and Harry via Heads Together (he worked with Harry at the Royal Foundation during that period). Recently, David's UK-based social enterprise, Peak State Mental Health Fitness, was introduced to BetterUp.

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Earlier this week, David told Harper's Bazaar: "When Prince Harry is around veterans, when he’s around other service personnel, he really comes alive, and that’s entirely down to his own background: 10 years of service, two tours of duty in Afghanistan. He’s one of us."

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Former Invictus Games medalist JJ Chalmers is helming the BBC's coverage of Invictus this year. He's doing an incredible job and this week noted Harry is "the happiest I've seen him in ten years". JJ told British Forces Broadcasting: "I get to work on a number of crown jewel sports occasions like the Olympics and the Paralympics – but none of them really compare to this and I think the reason is because the medals are secondary."

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Additionally, Harry and Meghan have been surrounded by close team members -- some who were there when Invictus was a fledgling idea. Clara Loughran worked for Harry from 2015 and became a trusted aide for both him and Meghan. On her wedding day, Clara handed Meghan her bouquet as she walked down the aisle. Married to former Kensington Palace communications secretary Nick Loughran, who moved to the private sector in 2016, she was awarded the Royal Victorian Order for her service by the Princess Royal last year.

Clara now co-owns an advisory partnership with another former Sussex employee, Beth Herlihy.

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Beth worked as Meghan's assistant private secretary during her time in London and played an important role in organizing tours and assisting in coordinating projects. Beth previously led the events team at the Royal Foundation of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, bringing to life their charitable campaigns. Clara and Beth are two key figures involved in this year's Invictus Games.

James Holt (to the far right) has been one of Harry and Meghan's most trusted aides since they became engaged. James's career has taken him from Downing Street to the Palace, and most recently he has moved from London to LA to join the Sussexes at Archewell Foundation as Executive Director.

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Because Invictus means no one gets left behind...

Jelle van der Steen of Team Netherlands, a former marine, was absolutely determined to support his teammates despite having an operation just last week. A very moved Prince Harry reached out to grab his hand.

The Guardian reports:

'Play was held up at the Invictus Games on Thursday by a late arrival to the wheelchair basketball. Jelle van der Steen, a mainstay of the Dutch national side, had to make a late withdrawal from the tournament after he was hit by illness and forced into surgery. But as his teammates prepared for tip-off in The Hague the former marine was escorted on to the court – in his hospital bed – so he could share the moment. The Netherlands went on to beat Canada 23-10.

It was an incident that sums up the event, which is being staged this year for the fifth time. It sees former service people who experienced life-changing injuries in the line of duty compete in a number of adaptive sports. The Invictus Games is not short on spirit, endeavour or camaraderie, and in the Netherlands this spring – the event ends on Friday – it has grown in scale and prominence once again.'

Photographer Chris Jackson has been covering the events and said the moment summed up the "Invictus Spirit".

At Invictus, it isn't about gold, silver or bronze...

...the rewards come when your friend or teammate makes it to the finish line.

It's extending and accepting the hand of friendship.

Because you know the Invictus community is there for you, by your side.

Cheering in the stands.

Sometimes the biggest supporters are the smallest.

And that includes furry friends, too. When Joyce van den Waardenburg from Team Netherlands won bronze, she placed the medal on Rhône for his loyal service and companionship.


It is words of encouragement from those spurring you on every step of the way.


This is Invictus.


Meghan Moments We Missed...

Additional photos from several events Meghan attended were shared by various official accounts over the past several days. The British Embassy in the Netherlands posted several photos of Meghan's visit to the Embassy tent for 'Story Hour'.


Meghan revealed she was enormously excited to visit the tent and interact with the little ones, as she was missing Archie and Lili so much. 


Meghan shared a very interesting nugget on Archie's name, revealing she and Harry were torn between the name and their son's middle name Harrison during a conversation with RAF nursing officer Sherry McBain and her son Harrison. Sherry described Meghan as "open", "very friendly" and added her son was "over the moon" to show her his artwork.


The Duchess joined an arts and crafts session -- choosing to paint the Ukraine flag and writing 'peace'.


Meghan with Poppy, whose dad is participating in the games.


Meghan with Invictus athlete and storyteller for the day, James Stride.



'British Army veteran James Stride told the Daily Mail that Meghan was "quite chatty and told me she was missing her children. She said she wanted to be with children as she was missing her own."

Stride read from the book Hairy Maclary from Donaldson's Dairy to the group — and Meghan shared that she knew the story well.

"Meghan told me she was familiar with the book and one that she read to her own children," he said. "She was very friendly, and the book was well known by her family."'

A previously unseen photo from Harry and Meghan's brunch with Team UK, shared by competitor Lucy Holt.


They also took the opportunity to catch up with Team Canada.


We finally saw those high-res photos from the Invictus Games Foundation reception.

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The Valentino dress is stunning with the red lip.

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Below, the Duke and Duchess with IspS Handa ambassador Brendan Scannell, IspS Handa Director Kevin O'Brien, Former Prime Minister of the Republic of Ireland and IspS Handa Patron Enda Kenny, and Invictus Games Foundation Chairman Charles Allen, Baron Allen of Kensington, CBE.

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The work of the Foundation has been incredibly exciting to follow. I'm looking forward to seeing its next steps.

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A competitor asked Meghan to share a message for his daughter and she was delighted to oblige.

Meghan, Archie and Lili are always on Harry's mind. The team at Losh restaurant hosted an event Harry attended and delivered a speech at (a private function to thank sponsors I believe), and he was presented with a beautifully thoughtful posy -- Meghan's favourites peonies, Diana's much-loved forget-me-nots and lily of the valley for Lilibet.

An accompanying note read: "Some memories are unforgettable, remaining ever vivid and heartwarming."


Tomorrow evening will see the Closing Ceremony and the end of an unforgettable week.

It's been a week filled with new and cherished memories. This post could have been ten fold and it still would only have touched the surface. That gives you an idea of the scale of Invictus.

I'm leaving you with this photo. Brian Andersen is participating in the Invictus Games for the second time. He promised himself above all else he would enjoy the experience and have fun. Sporting his Minnie Mouse ears, it's a nice reminder to all of us, there has to be room for lighthearted moments in everything we do.

34 comments:

  1. Glad it went well unfortunately because Harry said his home is the US the UK papers went crazy on him and because he didn't say he missed his dad and brother due to continued friction he was also trashed in the media and when he said he wanted to protect his grandmother from possible bad people around her they went after him with venom. Maybe he should not have said all he said but I can see the bias whenever he opens his mouth they pounce. It is nice to come here and see the positive work he has done for these great games and to see him happy with Meghan. Thanks for your coverage as always Charlotte. I hope Harry will come to the Jubilee to toast his grandmother whom he clearly adores and vice versa.

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    1. The tabloid media and others will attack whatever Harry and Meghan do. And I don't see that changing no matter what Harry or Meghan say or do. Those people are mad they no longer have access and cannot control the narrative they created about Harry and especially Meghan

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    2. Who really cares what the UK reporters say? They seem to have a very inflated sense of their importance, when at this point most of the world laughs at their unending bitter and petty reporting of the Sussex’s.

      Harry said, in the Oprah interview, that once he realized that the usual reporters were going to say their usual things it was freeing for him and now he just shrugs and moves on.

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    3. One of the crazy "opinions" is that Harry is, once again, going to ruin the Monarchy. Oh, my! It seems to me that a Monarchy and Firm that allows this savagery to continue year after year, with no comment to stop it, weakens the Monarchy.

      R

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    4. Agree with you Lauri and others...
      Charlotte as always, wonderful article!
      The dog barks, the caravan advances...it seems that the redundancy of these poor tabloids leaves us indifferent.

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  2. Thank you so much, Charlotte, for always finding details that aren't easily available. What beautiful coverage of this most moving of events. The love that these wounded warriors have for each other brings tears to my eyes. Harry is right. The whole world needs what the Invictus Games offers.

    The photo of Jelle van der Steen in his hospital bed in the circle with his teammates filled my eyes with tears.

    It's fantastic to see Harry so happy and alive when he can be with other veterans. His love for the wounded is palpable and very moving. I'm thrilled that they love him and Meghan as much as he loves them.

    What a wonderful, inspiring week.

    R

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  3. A lovely summary Charlotte. Well done!

    I am most impressed by the hard work put in by Prince Harry and his team to organise the Games and kudos to the brave participants.

    My favorite moments are the huge bear hugs from Prince Harry.

    Meghan added glamour to the Games with her casual chic attires. Her dressy white top and black pants was very appropriate for the opening ceremony. Her speech and that of Prince Harry's were very inspiring.

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  4. Such a great recap, Charlotte. You do a brilliant job.

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  5. Charlotte, you are such a talented writer. It's an honour reading your lines.

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  6. Charlotte you’re the best. Thank you for your continued effort to offer coverage of these events!

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  7. Meghan's chic Navy and White pinstripe blazer looked fabulous combined with the lighter blue blouse, a very stylish outfit, loved it.

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  8. This is a marvelous post and so informative!! Thank you. I am in awe of the effort it must have been to pull off these games. And they are so well respected. The games reach a community of people who cannot attend and are such a glimmer of light in today's world. I have absolutely no patience with these opinions that Harry is causing the Queen heartbreak or that he is causing the demise of the monarchy. The Queen has been in contact with H&M and seen their children on zoom. I find it absolutely shameful that other members of his family have not. Super dysfunctional family. Thank heavens he has the friendship of Eugenie. I cannot give Harry enough praise.

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  9. First of all, Happy 96th Birthday to Her Majesty! hmm the duke and duchess wrap up the invictus game nicelt

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  10. This is a life changing sporting event, like someone said the medal is secondary. The most important part of this event are Healing, friendship, resilience etc. Kudos to the founder, organizer's, volunteers.... The whole world need more of this.

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  11. The entire piece is just wonderfully inspiring. Thanks for the last photo...such fun!

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  12. Harry’s speech at the closing of the Invictus games was very strong and wonderful. This whole week was an inspiration for the world.

    Here are some things that boggle this American’s mind:

    1. If the Invictus Games had been founded by any British citizen other than Prince Harry, they would be touted by all of England with great national pride.

    2. Britain would shower any other founder with awards.

    3. Britain seems to regard itself as the pinnacle of civilization, yet it allows for a tabloid press that is the most uncivilized, savage and brutal that I am aware of anywhere on the planet.

    4. It seems the Royal Family holds a place at the top of the heap of civilized British society.

    5. And yet they allow for and even encourage this crucifixion of one of their own family members, whose megawatt charisma outshines all of them.

    6. How can the Royal Family deceive themselves into thinking that this most savage of spectacles makes them look good?

    R

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    1. Wow ,good comment. I agree. firm has losing .
      Invictus Games are phenomenal success.
      God bless and protect Sussex and Invictus family .

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  13. Charlotte - wonderful coverage highlighting the Invictus games. All due respect to you.

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  14. The Netherlands have organized an absolutely wonderful and impactful event. I'm amazed at the energy and support Harry brought to the event and the individuals competing. It's humbling to think that the event, in Harry's words, is about healing, and what a big responsibility it is and what courage it takes to ensure an environment and event where such can take place. It was wonderful to see the impact that the Games had on the competitors and their friends and family. I'm delighted that Vancouver/Whistler will host the games after Dusseldorf. It hosted a winter Olympic games and will have the facilities and experience to create a great Invictus Games too. It is my impression that the UK was less than very visibly behind their team. If that was the case, it's very sad that while the royal family clothe themselves in military garb on many occasions, they did not think to send their support to their team. Hope I am wrong about this, though. And as always, Charlotte, you are the best blogger and reporter! Thank you for all your hard work. I always enjoy your writing.

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    1. A little bit tricky formal Royal support. I think it would be viewed as trespassing on Harry's patch. Perhaps in the future things might be different.

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    2. I agree with your comment. The royals don't ever seem to show support for each other in the charity sphere I suppose so as not to "trespass" on each other. However, Harry's family and cousins attended the first Invictus games, so I think this is slightly different. It would show support for the veterans, not Harry. Harry himself says its not about him.

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  15. Harry is the image of his grandfather and has the same commitment to service. So lovely to see it.

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  16. There is a lovely video of Harry and the Dutch King clapping and cheering together. I've kinda reached the point where I think Harry can, of course, continue to be on loving family terms with the Queen (like ALL of her eight grandchildren), who served as his mother, and possibly communicate with his father. Evidently their upbringing and circumstances of being an heir and a spare make it hard for the brothers to be warm to each other so they need to just enjoy their families, friends, and select family members. This was a HUGE undertaking by an individual, and the positive response from companies, governments, and hosting royals is amazing.

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    1. The Queen's original "Heir and Spare" - her sister Margaret - had the same problem of feeling passed by once Elizabeth married and had four children which meant Margaret dropped down in the line of succession. It is only natural that both she and Harry found it hard to accept the resulting downgrading of their status. However it is unfair to blame either the Queen or Prince William for these hurt feelings as it was inevitable and both of them have shown a genuine affection for their siblings. There is a lot of evidence to show that the Queen and other senior Royals did their best to welcome Meghan and helped induct her into the family duties, but if course it is difficult for anyone to join such an arcane institution, especially if they come from another country which is not an ancient monarchy. I am sure both Charles and William were devastated that Harry and Megan decided to quit Royal service as they would have helped to modernise the monarchy once the Queen passes on. Charles has clearly shown he wishes to do this - William even more so.
      In these difficult times they all need to pull together if they are to retain public support. The split in the Royal family has been very harmful to the monarchy and benefits none of them, so why would they do it deliberately as some commentators are suggesting?

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    2. Allison in US6 May 2022 at 20:38

      I think a real problem with H&M being part of the plan is that they are told what to do -- it must all fit into the scheme of those who are guiding the heirs. Both Harry and Meghan have causes they would like to help in their short lives and need to be free. All of Harry's cousins are free and seem very happy.

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  17. i am so excited that the new invictus games will be in my hometown of vancouver canada!

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  18. Theresa - Austin, TX25 April 2022 at 14:18

    Just amazing in every way. Some of these captions and photos brought tears to my eyes. Such wonderful coverage...thank you!

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  19. I am wondering whether Charlotte will delight us with a book review of Tina Brown's latest book on the royals, The Palace Papers.

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  20. Kindly ignore my request to review Tina Brown's book. I have just found the review in Guardian and Washington Post. The book is very gossipy and based on narratives established by the tabloids. Not worth reading.

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  21. I read that Harry ridiculed the practice of royalty giving photographs of themselves as gifts and totally agree with this. opinion. It is much better to donate to a worthy cause in commemoration of a royal visit as not everyone wants to display such royal memorabilia. . Harry also says they are bringing up their children in an egalitarian atmosphere which I heartily applaud,, but I am surprised that they still expect to be introduced as Duke and Duchess of Sussex.
    On several occasions Harry has also got into embarrassing situations when he tries to hug women or children from cultures where this is regarded as inappropriate or even offensive. I suggest intimate actions like kissing and hugging are best reserved for family and private occasions. In this democratic day and age bowing and curtseying should also be totally banned everywhere. in favour of a polite handshake or nod. depending on local customs.
    Harry and Meghan need to clarify how they want to be treated and to behave appropriately depending on where they are. All royals should inform themselves about local culture. There is no excuse for inappropriate behaviour at any public event. .

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  22. Wow, what a wonderful summation. Thank you Charlotte for all your hard work.

    A very big salute to Netherlands for hosting Invictus. The country went all out for these veterans and their families. I’m thrilled to read Invictus is heading to Vancouver BC. This makes it accessible for me to attend and perhaps volunteer should there be need!

    These days, it’s important to have some levity, moments where you can cheer, be silly, giggle, relax or laugh at yourself. Your post provided me a lovely 15 minute respite. Blessings to you Charlotte.







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    1. Allison in US2 May 2022 at 21:05

      I may be shallow but the photos of H&M from the weekend just made my day! Meghan looking adorable, Harry playing polo, their friends Nacho and Marcus -- the only thing that could have made me happier is to have been their guest. :)

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  23. Wonderful recap, Charlotte. Such an important event and very nice to see Harry so fulfilled! Glad he and Meghan are doing so well & continuing to support these events. Bravo! -op

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