Prince Harry today raced through his first public appearance since he and Meghan quit – dodging any questions about their future at a highly-orchestrated Buckingham Palace event that could be his last job as a senior royal.
The Duke of Sussex launched the 2021 Rugby League World Cup and betrayed little sign of the abdication turmoil that has engulfed him and caused major tensions with his 93-year-old grandmother, his father Prince Charles and brother Prince William.
Harry had looked serious and was glued to his phone as he was swept into the palace in his Jaguar at around 11am – hours after he released a video urging men to avoid ‘grinning and bearing it’.
The Duke also appeared stern as he arrived in the palace garden but his face finally lit up as he watched children play tag rugby on the Queen’s lawn and giggled as he was told: ‘We started without you’. He joked back: ‘Look after the grass though, yeah? Otherwise I’ll get in trouble’.
Then he appeared to laugh out loud when the assembled royal media, which he and Meghan despise, asked how talks about his future were going. He ignored the question, striding back into the palace without saying a word – a poignant end to what could be his swansong as a frontline royal before moving to North America.
It was only when he was inside he relaxed and clowned about, even indulging in banter with Australian comedian Adam Hills, who Harry told: ‘Your beard is fantastic. It is so beautiful. I’ve never seen that. And I’ve seen some beards’.
And the sports-mad prince later played to the crowd during the tournament’s draw, making them laugh out loud as he turned his back while swirling the balls as he picked his beloved England’s opponents – to prove he wasn’t cheating.
But organisers helped him avoid an awkward photo opportunity by ensuring he was unable to draw Canada in the women’s event, the country he plans to move to and where Meghan and Archie are already living for the foreseeable future.
Harry managed to crack a wry smile after mixing the balls as he hosted the Rugby League World Cup 2021 draws at Buckingham Palace in what could be his final full royal engagement in his current role
Harry would carry out the draws for the men’s, women’s and wheelchair tournaments – but was spared the embarrassment of pulling out Canada – the country he plans to move to with wife Meghan and son Archie
Harry’s face lights up as he meets local children in the Buckingham Palace gardens as he hosts the Rugby League World Cup 2021 draws at his grandmother’s house
Prince Harry arrives at Buckingham Palace looking at his phone as he appears for the first time since quitting as a senior royal – and it could even be his swansong if no deal is struck with the Queen
Harry was also introduced to two ambassadors for the global tournament – James Simpson, England and Leeds Rhinos wheelchair rugby league star, who made him laugh as he said: ‘We started without you’.
Prince Harry in the Buckingham Palace gardens this morning – the first time he has been seen since he and Meghan quit as senior royals. Talks over their futures continue today
The Duke of Sussex spoke to youngsters given the rare chance of playing rugby league on Her Majesty’s lawn
Harry gave the children a thumbs up as he left and said: ‘Look after the grass – or I’ll get in trouble!’
The Duke of Sussex was asked about his future with his wife and son in Canada but refused to answer before heading back into the palace
Meghan Markle ‘impromptu’ drop-in at another Vancouver women’s group to discuss ‘climate justice for girls’
The Duchess of Sussex enjoys coffee and makes notes as she meets with the Justice for Girls group in Canada yesterday
Meghan Markle has popped up again in Vancouver to support a feminist climate change group called ‘Justice for Girls’.
The Duchess of Sussex visited campaigners who said the former Suits star, who donned a cashmere sweater she wore on the show, discussed ‘issues affecting women’ including how rising global temperatures and the justice system ‘disproportionately’ hits women and girls around the world.
Her latest appearance was on Tuesday afternoon, after she visited the Downtown Eastside Women’s Center in Vancouver by sea plane having lefty Archie with his nanny at the family’s £10.7million bolthole on Vancouver Island, but was only publicised on the ‘Justice for Girls’ Twitter account last night.
Today it emerged she broke cover at the vulnerable women’s centre after a ‘mysterious’ email from a Hotmail account arrived asking if she could visit drop in. It came from Meghan’s ‘assistant’ – not a royal aide, according to the centre’s boss Kate Gibson.
Stood next to his rugby hero Jason Robinson and former Olympic rower Dame Katherine Grainger, now head of UK Sport, Harry did give a short speech, but didn’t mention his current woes, talking instead about the importance of sport and how good it is for mental health.
He said: ‘First of all it’s an honour to be standing next to two sporting legends. From my perspective, from the experience I have had through my younger years, but also through Invictus and all the sporting events I am lucky enough to go to or watch…the input it has on young people and the community as a whole is remarkable.
‘Not only do I continue to see sport changing lives, but it’s saving lives as well. Whether it’s rugby league or sport in general – everyone, given the opportunity, it needs to be in everyone’s life’.
Harry has kept a low profile and has locked down in Frogmore Cottage, Windsor, since he went ‘nuclear’ eight says ago and told the Queen he wants to step away from duties. He plans to emigrate with his wife and child to Canada – who are currently 5,000 miles away in Vancouver.
And depending on whether a ‘Megxit’ deal on money, titles, duties and the Sussex brand can be struck with his grandmother, today’s sport event is certainly his last date in the royal diary for the forseeable future.
Today he urged men suffering from mental health problems to avoid ‘grinning and bearing it’ ahead of his first major royal engagement since the bombshell last Wednesday. The rugby league event was set up before Harry ‘went nuclear’.
Harry was at Buckingham Palace – the official residence of his grandmother the Queen, who has now sanctioned his decision – where he was hosting the Rugby League World Cup 2021 draw.
Dozens of photographers lined a mini makeshift rugby pitch on the manicured lawns in the Palace garden, waiting for the duke to arrive.
Harry, dressed in a smart suit and tie, smiled and joked when he was welcomed by the RLW2021’s chief executive officer Jon Dutton and its non-executive director Stuart Cain in the palace gardens.
Canada’s biggest newspaper says Prince Harry and Meghan Markle are not welcome
As Prince Harry prepares to be reunited with his wife and son in Canada, the country’s biggest newspaper has told them they are not welcome to live there.
In a scathing editorial, The Globe and Mail said: ‘Canada is not a halfway house for anyone looking to get out of Britain while remaining a royal.’
Canada’s prime minister Justin Trudeau tweeted before Christmas that Harry, Meghan and eight-month-old Archie ‘were among friends, and always welcome here’.
But yesterday the nation’s most influential newspaper condemned the couple’s ‘vague and evolving plan to move to Canada while remaining part of the Royal Family’, adding: ‘The Trudeau government’s response should be simple and succinct: No.’
Children from a local school gave a rugby demonstration as Harry chatted enthusiastically to the executives.
Harry then joked with the youngsters, telling them to look after the palace grass or he would get in trouble.
Posing for a team picture, he teased them, saying: ‘Some of you are really warm … Some of you haven’t been running around.’
As he headed inside, he quipped: ‘Look after the grass though, yeah? Otherwise I’ll get in trouble.’
The global tournament being staged by the UK is the pinnacle event for rugby league and will take place during October and November in 17 cities across England.
Harry was also introduced to two ambassadors for the global tournament – James Simpson, England and Leeds Rhinos wheelchair rugby league star, and Jodie Cunningham, a rugby league player in the Women’s Super League for St Helens.
In front of the group were 12 children from St Vincent de Paul Catholic primary school in Westminster, playing on a mini rugby pitch.
The youngsters are Westminster champions in tag rugby, a non-contact form of the game, for the last three years.
Mr Simpson made Harry laugh when he said: ‘We started without you’.
One of the reporters shouted out a question to the duke who has had a turbulent week trying to resolve questions about his future role in the monarchy.
The reporter asked: ‘How are the discussions going on your future?’ Harry, who was making his way into the palace, only smiled at one of his entourage and did not reply.
Harry again looked serious during the World Cup draw where he spoke about the power of sport and its positive impact on mental health
Harry poses with St Vincent de Paul Catholic primary school in Westminster, playing on a mini rugby pitch in the Queen’s garden
The Duke of Sussex took questions from the children – which were not recorded – before posing with the primary school children
Harry corpsed after one asked by a young rugby player as the world watched his first royal engagement since he quit
He was visibly enthusiastic when he met the children from Westminster before the draws for the men’s, women’s and wheelchair tournaments
The Prince was supported by Sara Latham, director of communications for Harry and Meghan at Kensington Palace, and David Watkins, their social media advisor
He comfort away from the royal journalists was underlined later when he met representatives from the 21 nations taking part in the world cup, including Adam Hills, an Australian comedian who hosts the Channel 4 show The Last Leg.
Hills, who was born without his right foot, plays physical disability rugby league for Warrington Wolves.
As Harry joined Hills – who he has met before – he looked at the comedian’s beard and said: ‘The beard is fantastic! I love the fact that it is manicured in the middle. It is so beautiful!
‘I’ve never seen that. And I’ve seen some beards!’
Harry also said that he had been invited to appear on his chat show, which often makes fun of disability. ‘I’ve tried to come on to it,’ he said. ‘I’ve had an invitation but we’ve never managed to make it happen.’
He added that the show ‘breaks down barriers every single time’.
Hills said afterwards: ‘He said it is one of the best manicured and styled beards he has ever seen.
‘I said, ‘I promised that I would grow this until Brexit was sorted.’ And that it should be coming off on the 31st of January. And he said, ‘Well, let’s see.’
He also informed Harry that his particular style of beard was known as the ‘Geoff from Byker Grove’. He said: ‘On March 29 last year, when I had planned to shave it off, and amendments kept being made to Brexit, we made an amendment to the beard, and spun a wheel with eight different beard designs. There was the Abraham Lincoln, the Mr T. This was called the Geoff from Byker Grove. I have been stuck with this since March last year. I am genuinely hoping it comes off in three weeks’ time.
‘We have tried to get him on The Last Leg a few times, but it just never quite happens, especially around Invictus. He would be a good person to talk about disability sport.’
Asked about Harry’s mood, he said: ‘I don’t know what it has been like for him this week, but to sit here with a group of rugby league players, talking particularly about Rob Burrow – Rob Burrow is a Leeds player who found out a couple of weeks ago he has motor neurone disease… that for me shows the commitment to duty, and the commitment to rugby league he has. In amongst everything else that is going on in his life, he is aware of this – the rugby league story of the year. He is into rugby league. He knows what’s going on. I have never seen him not in a good place. He is always friendly, always chatty.’
The children – who are tag rugby champions – showed their skills to the impressed prince and dignitaries
The Duke also launched his Mental Fitness Charter today – and rugby league bosses have signed up for their players
As he entered the garden he again looked self-conscious as the world’s media focussed on him after his abdication bombshell
The prince arrived with his team at his grandmother’s London palace as he tries to cut a deal that will allow him to keep his royal status while living outside the UK for much of the year
Jason Robinson said it was ‘brilliant’ to see Harry. ‘I’ve done quite a few things with him over the years. Anything that I have ever seen Prince Harry involved in, he has been amazing. It was nice to see him today. We shook hands he gave me a hug. To have somebody like him to do this draw, at Buckingham Palace, it just does not get any better.
‘What happens between him and his good wife is nothing at all to do with me. What’s great about this is that it does not matter what is going on in the background, wherever he goes he still delivers. He is very respectful, very warm, very endearing. This draw would not have been the same had he not committed to it. We are very grateful for his time.’
Prince Harry’s friends say he became ‘cut off’ from them when Meghan became pregnant
Harry’s friends expressed concern after he ‘cut off’ contact with them while Meghan was pregnant.
Many ‘no longer having his phone number’, according to People Magazine in the US.
The Duke of Sussex stopped contacting many of his old friends some six months into his wife’s pregnancy, creating a feeling of ‘resentment’ among the group, a royal source has claimed.
However, he is believed to still be in touch with Charlie van Straubenzee, his old prep school companion and now godfather to his son, Archie, and they both attended each other’s weddings just months apart in 2018.
Asked if he hoped he still stays in the sport, he said: ‘I am not sure what the future holds, but one thing I am quite certain is that, if you look at what Prince Harry has done to date, he cares about people – physically, mentally. He has gone all over the world – inspiring, caring, looking after people. I don’t think that will change. What capacity he does that, going forward, will be up to it. When you’ve got that in you, it will go wherever he is.’
Jon Dutton, the chief executive of the Rugby League World Cup 2021, said: ‘What today has shown is his passion and enthusiasm shining through for sport, rugby league and inclusivity.
‘He was authentic, engaging, genuinely passionate about what we are doing. He just has such a terrific interest in sport.’
Earlier today the Duke of Sussex made the impassioned plea for men to talk about depression just days after a crisis summit with the Queen at Sandringham in the wake of his decision to quit senior royal duties and move to North America.
In what could be his final official engagement before joining Meghan Markle and baby Archie in Canada, Harry said: ‘It is not just about being physically fit but more importantly mentally strong.
‘The perception of rugby league is that you need to be tough. You can’t show your feelings, you need to grin and bear it.
‘But something like the Mental Fitness Charter will help us make real progress in getting rid of the stigma associated with mental illness,’ he said in a video message for start of a mental health initiative at the 2021 Rugby League World Cup launch.
The prince added: ‘So, I am proud to support the Rugby League World Cup 2021 Mental Fitness Charter.
‘This Charter will build on the brilliant work already happening in rugby league by committing to training and educating all those involved in the tournament, and the wider rugby league family, not only in how they can look after their own mental fitness but also support others to do the same.’
Yesterday the Duke posted an Invictus Games video to announce that the ‘story continues’ with Dusseldorf in Germany hosting his charity sports competition for wounded veterans in 2022.
In what could be his final official engagement before joining Meghan Markle and baby Archie in Canada, Harry said: ‘It is not just about being physically fit but more importantly mentally strong’
Meghan Markle visiting the Justice for Girls group in Canada yesterday, after she was previously seen visiting another women’s rights group in Vancouver
Harry’s appearance followed the first sighting of Meghan since the Sandringham summit.
Prince Andrew faces losing armed guard after Jeffrey Epstein scandal
Prince Andrew could be stripped of his armed police protection after he was forced to stand down from royal duties after the Jeffrey Epstein scandal
Prince Andrew could be stripped of his armed police protection after he was forced to stand down from royal duties after the Jeffrey Epstein scandal.
The Home Office is set to recommend a downgrade of his security amid concerns of the costs involved of round the clock bodyguards.
Sources say bosses ‘cannot write a blank cheque for anyone who does not have a public role in the foreseeable future’ after the Duke of York announced he was stepping down in November.
He was effectively ordered to quit royal duties following his disastrous BBC Newsnight interview over his links to the the late paedophile financier Epstein.
The Evening Standard reports that Scotland Yard has completed a thorough review of his royal protection and ‘conclusions have been reached and recommendations made.’
A final decision lies in the hands of Home Secretary Priti Patel and, ultimately, Prime Minister Boris Johnson.
The recommendations comes as the cost of royal security was thrust into the spotlight after Prince Harry and Meghan Markle announced they were stepping down as senior royals which sparked questions over who would pay for their security detail.
The requirement of providing security for the Duke and Duchess of Sussex in both Canada and the Britain has raised concerns among Met Police chiefs of the soaring royal protection bill budget.
The Duchess, who was absent from the meeting, was seen smiling as she boarded a sea plane on Vancouver Island in Canada yesterday.
The Queen had revealed in a deeply personal statement that she had agreed for Harry and Meghan to begin a ‘new life’ as an ‘independent’ family, a move which Meghan is understood to have pushed for just 20 months after their wedding.
Prince Harry is expected to remain in the UK into early next week to hammer out the details of this unprecedented arrangement before heading back to join Meghan and Archie in Canada where they have been staying at the £10.7 million mansion where the family spent Christmas.
The Queen is said to have pressed for her officials find a solution to this abdication crisis within days, however, royal experts say it will take far longer.
The Queen had written in her statement: ‘These are complex matters for my family to resolve, and there is some more work to be done, but I have asked for final decisions to be reached in the coming days.’
The extraordinary meeting convened by the Queen was attended by Prince Charles and Prince William, while Meghan was in Canada with Archie.
There was speculation she had been barred from dialling in on the meeting from Vancouver for security reasons, however Palace sources have said the Sussexes decided themselves ‘it wasn’t necessary for the duchess to join.’
Following the summit, Buckingham Palace confirmed that the Sussexes were to have a ‘transition period’ and split their time between the UK and Canada.
It is not clear how long this period will last, not least because of the complexities involved in their living ‘independent’ of the public purse.
The security bill alone for the Sussexes is estimated at around £1million per annum, meanwhile Harry is thought to draw a salary somewhere in the region of £2.3million each year from his father’s estate, the Duchy of Cornwall.
It also emerged yesterday that Meghan’s father could be a ‘star witness’ when the Duchess takes on Associated Newspapers, the publisher of the Mail on Sunday, at the High Court.
Meghan is seen for the first time since ‘Megxit’ in Vancouver on Tuesday boarding a sea plane. There was speculation Meghan was barred from dialling in on Monday’s Sandringham summit for security reasons, however Palace sources have said the Sussexes thought ‘it wasn’t necessary for the duchess to join’
Ahead of the Sandringham summit it was reported that Prince Harry and his wife had felt ‘bullied’ by Prince William, a claim which was strenuously denied by the brothers in a joint statement (pictured: the Sussexes and the Duke of Cambridge at Buckingham Palace in 2018). But there is a rift between the siblings, according to various sources
Prince Harry plays ‘the naughty kid’ without wife Meghan Markle around, claims body language expert who says Duke’s fast pace shows an urgency to ‘get things done’ as he makes first public appearance since Megxit crisis
The Duke of Sussex plays ‘the naughty kid of the Royal Family’ when his wife Meghan Markle and son Archie are not around, a body language expert said today.
Judi James said the trait was displayed when Harry joked about minding the grass on the makeshift rugby pitch at Buckingham Palace or he would get into trouble.
She added that checking his shoes for mud suggests he sees himself as a ‘naughty or rebellious kid who is currently wanting to be seen on his best behaviour’.
And Ms James said he fiddled with his wedding ring in a move that suggests he is ‘summoning’ the virtual support of Meghan, who is in Canada with their son Archie.
The Duke of Sussex holds his wedding ring in Buckingham Palace gardens in London today
Harry checks his shoes for mud on the grass
She told MailOnline: ‘Yes, it’s a self-comfort gesture that usually suggests someone is coping with potential pressure by ‘summoning’ the virtual support of people who love them, in this case presumably Meghan although the gesture can also suggest he’s missing his son Archie too.’
Ms James added: ‘Overall it was energetic and upbeat body language with Harry’s solo appearance here meaning he’d lost the signs of protective, watchful anxiety without his wife and baby to worry about in front of the Press.’
She also said Harry’s ‘pace of appearance’ contrasted with his brother Prince William and Kate in Bradford yesterday who ‘lingered and slowed’ to greet crowds.
Speaking about him joking around, she said: ‘His joke about minding the grass or he’d get into trouble placed him firmly in empathy mode as the naughty kid of the Royal Family.
‘His body language made him look like that popular supply teacher who can be in charge but also one of the kids themselves.
‘The mud-checking was another gesture that suggested Harry sees himself as a bit of a naughty or rebellious kid who is currently wanting to be seen on his best behaviour.
‘It also suggests he sees himself as a bit of a visitor at the Palace and slightly in awe of the place but with a sense of good humour too.’
Harry refused to answer a question from the Press about how discussions are going on his future within the Royal Family.
The Duke of Sussex fiddles with his wedding ring during his visit to Buckingham Palace today
Body language expert Judi James (seen on ITV’s This Morning in June 2018) said Harry plays ‘the naughty kid of the Royal Family’
And Ms James said: ‘Harry utterly blanked the press question and the one handed barrier gesture had started before it was shouted, so his technique appeared to be to ignore the press and continue as though he hadn’t heard it.’
Ms James said Harry displayed ‘staccato movements’ and had a ‘desire to be relaxed and more active and casual’ in the gardens this morning.
She added that his gesticulation became ‘perky and upbeat’ and he gave a thumbs up to reassure guests before he hosted the Rugby League World Cup 2021 draw.
Ms James told MailOnline: ‘After all the pressures of the last few days Harry’s grin was back at long last in this solo public appearance, along with a splayed chest and signature jaunty walk, although his staccato movements and the pace he set also suggested a man in a hurry to get things done, too.
‘His splaying made him look very much the host at the Palace as he used directive pointing gestures to steer his guests in the garden.
‘His anxiety, self-comfort rituals appeared to have diminished and instead of using the ‘paper clip’ hand as a barrier gesture to suggest a desire to hide as he has in the past, he soon converted it into an unbuttoning gesture as he let his jacket fall open, hinting at a desire to be relaxed and more active and casual here.
The Duke gesticulates and holds his hands out during his appearance at the Palace today
‘His pace of appearance was interestingly in contrast with William and Kate’s behaviour yesterday: as the Cambridges to greet the screaming crowds, Harry kept up a bit of a dash, although he might have been concerned for his guests in the cold weather.
‘His gesticulation became perky and upbeat as he even offered a quick thumbs up gesture at one point, presumably to reassure his guests and himself that everything was going to be alright.’
Harry today carried out his first official public engagement since he and his wife quit as senior royals, triggering a major crisis for the monarchy.
The Duke of Sussex was at Buckingham Palace, the official residence of his grandmother the Queen, who has now sanctioned his decision.
Dozens of photographers lined a makeshift mini rugby pitch on the manicured lawns in the palace garden, waiting for the duke to arrive.
The Duke of Sussex talks with Leeds Rhinos player James Simpson at Buckingham Palace today
Harry, dressed in a smart suit and tie, smiled and joked when he was welcomed by RLW2021 chief executive Jon Dutton and non-executive director Stuart Cain.
Children from a local school gave a rugby demonstration as the duke chatted enthusiastically to the executives.
Royal aides are working around the clock to find solutions to the crisis caused by Harry and Meghan’s plans to step back as senior royals, become financially independent and split their time between the UK and Canada.
The duke chatted to the youngsters from St Vincent de Paul Catholic Primary School in Westminster during a pause in their exhibition match, shaking each of their hands in turn.
He then posed for a group photograph in front of the large crowd of photographers, camera operators and journalists.
One of the reporters shouted out: ‘How are the discussions going on your future?’
Harry, who was making his way into the palace, just smiled at a member of his entourage and did not reply.
The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge made a royal visit together to Bradford yesterday
William speaks to well-wishers as he arrives at the Khidmat Centre in Bradford yesterday
The duke is staying in the UK into next week, taking part in meetings as talks continue on his future.
The Queen, who made a statement supporting Harry and Meghan but expressing her regret, has called for final decisions on the complicated arrangements to be made in the coming days.
Meghan has been staying in Canada with baby Archie, where she has carried out visits to charities in Vancouver including to Justice For Girls, which campaigns for an end to violence, poverty and racism for teenagers.