Pictures and How Harry is continuing the ‘unfinished’ work of Princess Diana with Royal-style tour of Nigeria 34 years after she held hand of leprosy patient

Princess Diana and Prince Harry

 

Prince Harry’s tour of Nigeria with his wife Meghan Markle comes 34 years after Princess Diana visited the country with Prince Charles.

 

Princess Diana

Back then, the Princess of Wales displayed the kindness which she became famous for when she held the hand of a leprosy patient as her husband initially stood by awkwardly.

Today, after his and Meghan’s arrival in Abuja, Harry evoked memories of his suffering following his mother’s death when he spoke to a group of school children.

The Duke of Sussex, who was 12 when Diana was killed in a car crash in Paris in 1997, told the pupils there is ‘no shame to be able to acknowledge that today is a bad day.’

His and Meghan’s visit will be seen by the Duke as another effort to continue his mother’s ‘unfinished’ work.

Princess Diana

He said in 2022 that he felt ‘obligated’ to live out her legacy ‘as much as possible’.

Charles and Diana’s five-day trip to Nigeria came just two years before they separated – and the tensions behind the scenes were etched on their faces.

The visit was remembered for their largely separate engagements and their few awkward joint appearances.

However, when the then Prince Charles and the Princess of Wales arrived in Lagos on March 15, 1990, thousands of fans welcomed them with cheers and flags.

Diana looked resplendent in a series of dresses by designers Catherine Walker and Paul Costelloe as she characteristically attracted much of the limelight.

Charles and Diana were deeply moved when they visited patients afflicted with leprosy at a hospital and rehabilitation village in Maiduguri, northern Nigeria in what was one of their few joint engagements in the country.

Princess Diana and King Charles

One patient, named Lucky, beamed when the princess held his hand in hers as he lay in his bed.

Diana went on to do the same to several other children, showing the kindness which she had become so famous for.

Charles initially looked more cautious and had his hands clasped behind his back but he eventually followed the lead of his wife by physically reaching out.

After the trip, Diana was made patron of the Leprosy Mission in Britain.

In a podcast interview in 2022, Harry told former rugby player Gareth Thomas: ‘I think once you get to meet people and you see the suffering around the world, you can’t turn, I certainly can’t turn, my back on that.

‘Then add in the fact that my mum’s work was unfinished, I feel obligated to try and continue that as much as possible.’

He added: ‘I could never fill her shoes, especially in this particular space because of what she did and what she stood for and how vocal she was about this issue.’

Princess Diana

The Duke and Duchess of Sussex started their three-day visit today by meeting officials and children at the Wuse Lightway Academy.

The couple flew in just before 5am after secretly meeting at Heathrow Airport’s VIP Windsor suite. Meghan had arrived there from Los Angeles.

They then boarded a British Airways overnight flight to Abuja, which was delayed when the scheduled pilot fell ill and had to be replaced.

The Duke told pupils: ‘In some cases around the world, in more than you would believe, there is a stigma when it comes to mental health.

Too many people don’t want to talk about it, because it’s invisible – something in your mind that you can’t see. It’s not like a broken leg, it’s not like a broken wrist, it’s something we are still relatively unsure of.

‘But guess what? Every single person in this room – the youngest, the oldest – every single person has mental health.’

Princess Diana

He said that people had to ‘look after yourselves to be able to look after other people, and other people have to be able to look after themselves to be able to look after you’, adding: ‘That’s the way it works.’

The Duke continued: ‘And there is no shame to be able to acknowledge that today is a bad day, OK? That you woke up this morning feeling sad; that you were at school, feeling stressed; that you’ve lost a loved one in your family and you don’t know who to turn to or who to speak to.

‘All of these things you may even be led to believe are not for conversation.’

He said the Sussexes were ‘here today to tell you that that is not the case’.

Harry continued: ‘Every single one of those things is completely normal, it is a human reaction, whether it’s grief, stress, whatever the feeling is.

Princess Diana

‘It comes from an experience that you have had – you can have it, she (Meghan) can have it, I can have it. They can have it. Every single one of us is likely to have it on any given day.

‘So if you take anything away from today, just know that mental health affects every single person.’

The Duke is also set to meet injured service members at a military hospital and he and Meghan will attend a training session for charity organisation Nigeria: Unconquered, which collaborates with the Invictus Games.

Princess Diana and King Charles

They will also attend a reception where military families will be honoured.

Meghan is then due to co-host an event of Women in Leadership with Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, the director-general of the World Trade Organisation.

On Sunday the couple will fly to Lagos for the second part of visit where they will attend a basketball camp with the charity Giants of Africa, a cultural reception and a polo fundraiser for Nigeria: Unconquered.

Princess Diana and King Charles

Harry and Meghan’s visit holds personal significance for them both.

For the Duke, it allows him further boost the Invictus Games, the sporting tournament he founded for wounded servicemen, women and veterans.

Nigeria competed in the event for the first time last September.

Princess Diana and King Charles

As for Meghan, she announced in 2022 that a genealogy test showed she was ’43 per cent Nigerian.

During Charles and Diana’s trip, Diana showed her warm side again when she picked up the four-year-old daughter of the Shehu, the local chief.

Princess Diana

The royal couple were also treated to a display of traditional dancing in Enugu, southern Nigeria.

The 1990 visit was Diana’s first time in the country. Charles had been as a young boy in 1956, when he accompanied his mother Queen Elizabeth II on her royal tour.

He has been back three times since, in 1999, 2006 and 2018.

Prince Harry

Former royal correspondent Elizabeth Blunt, who covered the trip for the BBC, previously remembered: ‘The West African tour was officially meant to be for Prince Charles, as future head of the Commonwealth, to get to know the region; in reality it was very much more about getting the right kind of coverage in the British press.

‘Looking back, this was a low point in the royal couple’s popularity; the glamour and novelty of their marriage had worn off; the problems in their relationship had not yet become public; the palace press office was keen to revive flagging public interest in the future King and Queen.

Prince Harry

‘The chosen solution was a punishing round of activities which took them to every corner of Nigeria and Cameroon; Prince Charles opened a British Council Library, walked in the rain forest, and greeted war veterans in a tropical botanic garden.

‘Princess Diana visited children’s hospitals, traditional hand loom weavers and women’s development projects. And wherever Diana went, the royal press pack followed.’

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle

She added: ‘I had Prince Charles’s engagements virtually to myself; no-one else was in the slightest bit interested.’

The couple also attended a regatta at Port Harcourt in Rivers State, southern Nigeria.

Charles and Diana went on to Cameroon before returning to the UK.

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle

Their strained joint appearances signified the cracks in their marriage and the couple officially separated in December 1992 before finalising their divorce in August 1996.