30 June 2021

Harry makes surprise WellChild visit ahead of Diana statue unveiling

30 June 2021

The Duke of Sussex made a surprise visit to congratulate WellChild award winners – the day before he is set to join his brother the Duke of Cambridge at the statue unveiling in honour of their mother.

Harry who welcomed his second child, daughter Lili, at the start of the month, told how “as a father of two, I feel all the more connected, inspired and in awe of the resilience of these families”.

The duke, who is back in the UK for the first time since the Duke of Edinburgh’s funeral, visited Kew Gardens in west London on Wednesday to meet the seriously ill children and young people at the private garden party and afternoon tea.

The Duke of Sussex, Ed Sheeran and Anne-Marie at the WellChild Awards

He was joined at the award ceremony by celebrities including Ed Sheeran, Ronnie Wood, Amanda Holden, AJ Pritchard and Abbie Quinnen, as well as singer Anne-Marie who performed an acoustic set.

The duke, dressed casually in a light blue jumper and dark trousers, met each winner in turn to present them with their awards, and spoke to them about how the last 18 months has been for them and their families.

In a statement released by WellChild, Harry said: “Since becoming patron of WellChild in 2007, this organisation and the people within it have held an extraordinarily special place in my heart.

“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.

Harry at the socially distanced garden party

“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.”

He added: “The health of our children, of all of us, could not have been more on the forefront of our minds during the past year.

“And, throughout this time, the WellChild community has set an example for how to show up and act with compassion for each other.

“I could not be prouder to be here, to meet this year’s WellChild Award winners, to thank the nurses and doctors for all they do, and to celebrate these amazing families.”

The WellChild awards

Harry returned from California alone for his trip to the UK and had been isolating at Frogmore Cottage in Windsor.

WellChild is a cause that has long been important to the duke.

He retained his private patronage of the organisation despite his move to the US.

The duke was stripped of his royal patronages given to him by the Queen and his honorary military positions.

WellChild supports seriously ill children and young people in the UK to ensure they have the best chance to thrive – properly supported at home with their families.

Diana’s 60th birthday (PA Wire)

In December, the duke held a special video call with past winners of the WellChild awards, which recognise the achievements of children living with serious illnesses.

He described them as “unbelievably inspiring”.

Last year’s ceremony was cancelled because of the Covid outbreak.

Harry’s troubled relationship with William has been well documented, but the pair are set to gather together in the gardens of Kensington Palace on Thursday on what would have been Diana Princess of Wales’s 60th birthday.

The brothers jointly commissioned the statue of their mother in 2017 – the 20th anniversary year of her death in a car crash – when their relationship was in a better place.

Commonwealth Day 2019 (PA Archive)

Harry, 36, quit as a senior working royal last year and has since raised a string of allegations about the royal family, the most damning being a claim of racism.

The royal brothers and Diana’s close family, thought to be her siblings, will attend the unveiling, along with the statue committee and others involved in the process of erecting it in the palace’s Sunken Garden.

Ian Rank-Broadley, who has a long track record of creating images of the royal family, was chosen to craft the statue, and he will be among the invited guests, along with Pip Morrison, who redesigned the Sunken Garden where the monument is located.

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