Prince Harry cuts lonely figure at St Paul's Cathedral for Invictus Games service after family snub

Prince Harry arrived solo at St Paul’s Cathedral for tonight’s special service celebrating the Invictus Games after failing to reunite with his royal relatives during his UK trip.

The event commemorated the 10th anniversary of the Invictus Games, which Harry set up in 2014 to support injured servicemen and women. It featured a reading from the Duke of Sussex and actor Damian Lewis read a poem. Harry arrived at the Cathedral without any members of the Royal Family, following the announcement King Charles is too busy to reunite with his son. Harry also wasn’t joined by his wife Meghan Markle as she decided to remain in America instead of returning to the UK.

As he got out of his car wearing a navy suit and his military medals, he smiled and waved as cheers rang out among wellwishers, who had been waiting to catch a glimpse of him.

His arrival came just minutes after King Charles was flanked by a huge contingent of royals in a show of unity at this afternoon’s Buckingham Palace garden party, which took place just two miles away. However, despite his royal relatives not attending the service, family members who did join were his uncle Earl Charles Spencer and his aunt Lady Jane Fellowes, both siblings of the late Princess Diana.

Other notable guests at the service included his cousin Louis Spencer, the Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s wife Akshata Murty and his lawyer David Sherbourne. Also there was and former Army officer Mark Dyer, who acted as the duke’s mentor, playing the role of a supportive big brother figure for Harry after Diana’s death.

The duke was warmly greeted by the Dean of St Paul’s, the Very Reverend Andrew Tremlett, before being escorted to his seat under the cathedral’s great dome next to Mr Dyer and then chatted happily with his uncle and aunt who sat behind him and watched on with pride.

The service began with the hymn Praise My Soul The King Of Heaven The Dean of St Paul’s told the congregation: “We gather this evening to offer grateful thanksgiving to Almighty God for the work of the Invictus Games Foundation, and in this their 10th anniversary year, we celebrate the tremendous achievements of the numerous competitors across 23 nations. We give thanks for the inspiring vision and compassion that formed the foundation and, chiefly, for the resultant decade of profound and transformational work.

“We lament the pain, cost and indignity of war and terror, and pray for a world where justice shall reign and where the nations will find their longed for unity. We recall, with admiration, the skill and determination of those who seek to repair, rehabilitate, and reclaim the lives of those living with serious illness or injury: changing and saving lives.”

Actor Damian Lewis read the Invictus poem by William Ernest Henley, whose bust resides in the St Paul’s Crypt and then an emotional poem read by former Invictus Games Team UK vice-captain Michelle Turner, her daughter Maya and husband John was felt around the cathedral.

The poem outlined the impact of the Invictus Games on her recovery, and on the lives of her family members. Former RAF sergeant Michelle served for 21 years and has a heart condition that developed while on deployment. While a nasty bug left her with postural tachycardia syndrome (PoTS) which means her heart fires up randomly, causing her to regularly collapse without warning. On one occasion, her four-year-old daughter saved her life by dialling 999 when she collapsed at home.

Through fear of falling and injuring herself in public, she had confined herself to her home, until her husband John encouraged her to join Team UK – and everything changed. The training camps enabled her to reconnect with her military family, and find a new sport in swimming.

The poem recalled how Invictus athletes “fought for our countries on deployments far and wide, devoted our years and served with pride…” She told how after being discharged she was “wounded, injured, sick and with no career, consumed with insecurities, the pain and the fear”, and how her little girl looked after her.

Her daughter’s section of the poem described how she “felt like I was losing my mum, she was in hospital all the time”, while her husband told how he had longed for Michelle’s smile to return, and how it did with Harry’s Invictus, which arrived as a “beacon of trust and hope”.

Harry led a standing ovation as the reading ended with Michelle’s tearful words: “Thank you Invictus, for giving me my life back.”

During the service, Harry, who undertook two tours of Afghanistan during a 10-year military career, provided a reading from Corinthians 12. 4-11 ahead of a Sermon by The Dean of St Paul’s. The Dean acknowledged those who have lost their lives in conflicts past and present, whilst a piper played Flowers of the Forest.

After the service finished and he left the Cathedral, Harry greeted some of the fans who had gathered outside the venue before being whisked away in his car.

The Duke of Sussex landed in the UK on Tuesday. As part of his trip, he has so far taken part in The Invictus Games Foundation Conversation titled “Realising a Global Community” and met up with his millionaire pal Guy Monson.

Harry had been hoping to see his father during his trip, but it has been revealed that won’t be happening. A spokesperson for the Duke of Sussex said yesterday: “In response to the many inquiries and continued speculation on whether or not the Duke will meet with his father while in the UK this week, it unfortunately will not be possible due to His Majesty’s full programme.

“The Duke of course is understanding of his father’s diary of commitments and various other priorities and hopes to see him soon.” A source previously told The Mirror : “Harry has kept in regular contact with his father on several occasions and made no secret of his desire to see him when he can.”

The Sussexes have a large team who will no doubt be accompanying them to Nigeria. Miranda Barbot, a PR expert who previously worked with Barack Obama, has recently been promoted by Meghan and Harry to vice-president of programmes and media operations at Archewell. It’s believed she will be helping to plan the couple’s tour of Nigeria and will likely accompany them on the trip.

Harry and Meghan are also set to meet with servicemen and their families while in Nigeria. The African country joined the Invictus Community of Nations in 2022 and became the first African country to join the Invictus movement.

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