The Duke and Duchess of Sussex dazzled on the red carpet tonight as they stepped out to celebrate the achievements of wounded, injured and sick military veterans who have taken on remarkable challenges.
Harry and Meghan are at the Endeavour Fund Awards in London’s Draper’s Hall honouring those who, despite life-changing injuries, accidents or illnesses, have excelled in sporting and adventure pursuits.
Meghan, 37, dressed her baby bump in almost head-to-toe Givenchy, pairing a crisp white shirt with a side-split skirt and box clutch by the designer, which she teamed with £530 Aquazzura ‘Rendez Vous’ pumps.
The couple’s appearance tonight comes after friends warned of the ’emotional trauma’ Meghan is dealing with following her family’s ongoing public feud and abusive comments made on social media.
Five ‘close friends’ of the pregnant duchess told People this week that Meghan was so distraught with her father Thomas Markle’s behaviour that she wrote to Thomas Markle begging him to stop ‘victimising’ her.
‘I think she will always feel genuinely devastated by what he has done,’ one friend told the magazine.
The group of unnamed friends also voiced their concerns that the strain of her ongoing estrangement with her father, and the stress of dealing with his public rants about her, could well be taking its toll on Meghan and Prince Harry’s unborn child.
‘We worry about what this is doing to her and the baby,’ they said. ‘It’s wrong to put anyone under this level of emotional trauma, let alone when they’re pregnant.’
Another voiced concerns over the ‘global bullying’ Meghan is facing, saying: ‘We want to stand up against the global bullying were seeing (against Meghan). Meg has silently sat back and endured the lies and untruths.’
It emerged last week that Kensington Palace staff are spending hours each week moderating online abuse aimed at Meghan, a former star of the show Suits, and the Duchess of Cambridge.
Inside, the couple looked relaxed and at ease among friends and serving and former armed forces members.
As they moved around the pre-awards party at Draper’s hall, Harry was heard to tell one invitee: ‘There’s a heavy baby in here.’ For her part, Meghan told one guest: ‘He’s going to be the best dad.’
Host for the evening was Ross Kemp, the actor and documentary maker. He said he spoke to the couple about their new Labrador puppy.
Describing Meghan as ‘stunning,’ he added: ‘We talked about how they’ve got a puppy and we got a puppy before we had our first boy. It’s a preparation for nappy changing and pooping basically.’
Kemp looked emotional as Harry praised him for his documentaries he made about soldiers fighting in Afghanistan in 2008-9. ‘He said it changed public opinion in terms of the sympathy towards the soldiers in the ground,’ the actor said.
‘He was saying it helped bring awareness. It was actually nice to be banked by someone like him who’s been there himself and seen and done it.’
‘If you look at A-listers in the world there probably aren’t many bigger than those two. They are down to earth, very warm, very decent human beings who care. They could potentially be a massive catalyst for great change not just in the UK but around the world.’
The first award of the night was the Recognising Achievement Award given by former Olympic rower Sir Matthew Pinsent to Kelly Ganfield, a visually impaired runner who has taken part in two Invictus Games.’
‘Your Royal Highness, you’re absolutely amazing in acknowledging many of us soldiers,’ Ms Ganfield said. ‘And the Duchess of Sussex— you’ve got all this to come.
Earlier, Ms Ganfield met the couple at the reception when Harry had teased her and her running guide Mikael Huggins as he had watched her race in the Invictus Games. ‘He said that Mikael slightly slowed me down and we giggled about that,’ she said.
‘He met me in Bath for the trials with Meghan. She is a total asset to the British public and nation.’
‘She is going to be a mother soon and — yet again from the trials — she saw my daughter Bethany who was two at the time. She is now three. Bethany gravitated to her and [Meghan] kind of gravitated to Bethany. She has cerebral palsy. Meghan was amazing with her. And [Harry] was beaming — but he’s always like that.’
Ms Ganfield recalled how in Bath, ‘His Royal Highness put my glasses on to see what I see in day to day life and he made Meghan put the same glasses on.’
The Endeavour Fund is a body that was set up by the Royal Foundation of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Duke and Duchess of Sussex in order to fund inspiring projects aiding the recovery of veterans.
Since its launch in 2012, the Endeavour Fund has supported 86 different projects that have helped more than 5,000 wounded, injured and sick servicemen and women.
Harry, 34, and Meghan chaired the judging panel which chose the winners who will be announced at the event staged at Drapers’ Hall in the City of London.
They deliberated over three awards: Recognising Achievement, Celebrating Excellence, and the third named in memory of adventurer Henry Worsley, who died trying to complete the first unsupported crossing of the Antarctic.
Worsley, a career soldier and an experienced polar adventurer, undertook the incredible expedition in order to raise money for the Endeavour Fund.
The Duchess of Sussex took to the stage to give the second award — Celebrating Excellence. Before she handed it to Nathan Forster, a former private in the parachute regiment who’s now a pilot of 737 planes, she said, ‘I’m so, so grateful to be back. Last year was my first time coming and it was such a meaningful night.
‘Before the reception Harry and I were talking to all the nominees and in speaking to one of them he said ‘gosh the impact you guys make is huge. It’s so much bigger than you.’
‘No it’s not about us, it’s the ripple effect. And, in true modesty of all the nominees — ‘yes it is about the ripple effect.’ But what I admired in him — and I feel is true about all the nominees — is you don’t have that ripple effect unless each of you is brave enough to make that first wave.
‘It’s so important to remember that because what you’re doing is inspiring so many people — so thank you from all of us for being that inspiration and congratulations to all the nominees.’
Forster, 31, from South Shields, in north east England, was serving in Afghanistan when he seriously injured his left leg following an IED explosion. In five years he has gone from having no experience of flying to being a pilot of 737 jets for TUI taking holidaymakers from the UK to places like Greece, Spain and Tenerife.
‘What began as a challenge just to learn how to fly to do something different t and be part of an expedition. And on the back of that training I said I wanted to fly and the challenge opened the door to decide what I wanted to do in my life,’ he said.
His expedition — set for 2021 — plans to fly a flex-wing plane over Antartica. ‘It’s a bit like flying a motorbike in the sky. That got me into flying and I’ve been lucky enough to forge a career from there and be supported by the airline.’
The last honour of the evening was the Henry Worsley award — which was presented by Prince Harry to Shaun Pascoe, who was an officer commanding the RAF Medical Emergency Response Team on an aircraft. He suffered PTSD after many tours abroad he has since set up a forces’ sailing charity — Turn to Starboard.
Is it the second year running that the couple have jointly attended the Endeavour Fund Awards, with their 2018 appearance being one of their first official engagements before their marriage.
Last year she won fashion plaudits for her decision to ditch dresses and heels in favour of a sharp tuxedo suit from Alexander McQueen and towering heels.
The couple, who are expecting their first child in the spring, recently let slip their due date when Meghan told fans in Merseyside that Baby Sussex will arrive ‘at the end of April or May’.
Their new marital home, Frogmore Cottage in the grounds of Windsor Castle, is currently undergoing extensive renovations said to include a £50,000 green energy unit and a gender-free nursery using vegan paint.
SOURCE: Daily Mail, Rebecca English and Unity Blott