Prince Harry fondly recalls photo of Princess Diana meeting Nelson Mandela in emotional UN speech

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Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex, delivers the keynote address during the UN Nelson Mandela Prize award ceremony at the United Nations in New York on July 18, 2022.
Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex, delivers the keynote address during the UN Nelson Mandela Prize award ceremony at the United Nations in New York on July 18, 2022.
Photo: Timothy A. CLary/AFP
  • Prince Harry and Meghan Markle returned to New York on Monday to celebrate Nelson Mandela Day.
  • During his speech, Harry recalled a memorable photograph he and Meghan were gifted by Archbishop Desmond Tutu when they visited South Africa in 2019.
  • The Duke of Sussex also asked for a commitment to celebrate Mandela's life and legacy every day, not only once a year.


Prince Harry and Meghan Markle returned to New York on Monday to celebrate Nelson Mandela Day.

The Duke of Sussex was invited to be the keynote speaker at the United Nations General Assembly on 18 July, with his wife, the Duchess of Sussex, by his side to support him. 

After thanking the United Nations and the Nelson Mandela Foundation for extending an invitation, Harry recalled a memorable photograph he and Meghan were gifted by Archbishop Desmond Tutu when they visited South Africa in 2019.

"On my wall and in my heart, every day is an image of my mother and Mandela meeting in Cape Town in 1997," Harry said. "When I first looked at the photo, straight away, what jumped out was the joy on my mother's face."

Former President of South Africa, Nelson Mandela m
Former President of South Africa, Nelson Mandela meets Princess Diana in Cape Town in 1997.

Referring to her personality, Harry continued, "the playfulness, cheekiness, even. The pure delight to be in communion with another soul so committed to serving humanity."

The duke described how he felt looking at the former President of South Africa in the picture. 

He was a man with the weight of the world on his shoulders, asked to heal his country from the wreckage of its past and transform it for the future. A man who had endured the very worst of humanity, vicious racism and state-sponsored brutality. A man who had lost 27 years with his children and family that he would never get back. Yet in that photo and so many others, he is still beaming, still able to see the goodness in humanity, still buoyant with a beautiful spirit that lifted everyone around him.

Harry further revealed that he often turns to Mandela's letters which he wrote from his prison cell on Robben Island, for inspiration on how to find the light in all the darkness of the world.

The prince highlighted some of these negativities, saying, "the few weaponising lies and disinformation at the expense of the many. [From] the horrific war in Ukraine to the rolling back of constitutional rights in the United States, we are witnessing a global assault on democracy and freedom – the cause of Mandela's life."

Harry concluded his speech asking for a commitment to celebrate Mandela's life and legacy every day, not only once a year.

"So on this Nelson Mandela International Day, as a new generation comes of age, a generation that did not witness the leadership of Nelson Mandela themselves, let's commit to remembering and celebrating his life and legacy every day. Not just once a year."

Harry continued, "Let's talk with our children about what he stood for. Let's seek out what we have in common, empower all people to reclaim our democracies, and harness the light of Mandela's memory to illuminate the way forward. If we can summon our own courage just as he did, if we can see one another's humanity just as he did, a better day will truly be on the horizon.

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Members of the royal family previously met with Nelson Mandela before his death in 2013; in 2019, during their trip to South Africa, Harry and Meghan spoke with Graça Machel.

READ MORE | Harry and Meghan reflect on their tour of South Africa with Graça Machel: 'We've met the most incredible people - it's been beautiful'


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