Duke of Sussex pays tribute to ‘inspirational’ children at WellChild awards

The Duke of Sussex broke down as he paid tribute to “inspirational” children, citing how his own journey into fatherhood meant learning about those with serious illnesses “pulls at my heartstrings”.

Speaking at the WellChild awards in central London, charity patron Harry was overcome with emotion as he praised winners.

He was comforted by co-host Gaby Roslin as he paused, mid-speech, with his voice cracking.

Harry was later joined on stage for photographs with Meghan, the Duchess of Sussex.

He said: “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 squeezing Meghan’s hand so tight during the awards, both of us thinking what it would be like to be parents one day, 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 heart strings in a way I could have never understood until I had a child of my own.”

The Duke and Duchess of Sussex attend the WellChild Awards
The Duke and Duchess of Sussex are given a gift for their son Archie (Toby Melville/PA)

It came as the Duchess confirmed their infant son had spent his first day at playgroup in Windsor on Tuesday – and that he takes after his flame-haired father.

Meghan, believed to be wearing the bottle green dress she wore during her 2017 interview announcing their engagement, told one girl and her mother: “I just took Archie for his first [playgroup] class. It was a lot of fun. He loved it.”

Harry and Meghan were chatting to Milly Sutherland, 11, and her mother Angela from Liverpool.

The Duke and Duchess of Sussex attend the WellChild Awards
The Duke and Duchess of Sussex talk with Milly Sutherland and her mother Angela (Toby Melville/PA)

The 50-year-old said: “She took him to one of these baby classes today and she said they had loads of fun together. She said it was really good fun.”

The mum and daughter asked the couple whether Archie has red hair.

Milly’s mother said: “Meghan said he has and Harry said he definitely is, you can see it in his eyebrows.

“Harry said he’d had no hair for five months, but Meghan told him she had taken him to the playgroup and she said there were other children there with the same amount of hair or even less.”

The Duke and Duchess of Sussex attend the WellChild Awards
The Duke and Duchess of Sussex during the annual WellChild Awards (Toby Melville/PA)

The royal couple spent time with all 10 young winners during an hour-long meet and greet before the ceremony started.

Oakley Orange, 13, from Rochester in Kent, said Harry encouraged the youngster to take part in a bungee jump – much to the surprise of his mother, Lorraine.

Oakley, who had to learn to walk and talk again after suffering organ failure as a seven-year-old, said he interrupted his mother “talking about something long and boring” to give the duke a high-five.

Of the bungee-jump idea, Oakley said: “Harry said I’d have about 10-15 years of thinking it was a good idea before I changed my mind.

“He said he didn’t want to encourage me… but he did, really.

“I’ll get it booked next week. They’re royals, you kind of have to do what they say.”

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