In their first joint engagement as a foursome, William, Kate, Harry and Meghan held the first Royal Foundation Forum, the first of what is planned to be an annual event, at which they set out their future plans. Today, The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, Prince Harry and Meghan Markle talked about why the Royal Foundation was established, the joint projects they are currently working on, and what they want to see in the coming years.
Under the banner ‘Making a difference together’ the central London forum showcased projects that have been set-up through the Royal Foundation, including the Heads Together campaign, Invictus Games for injured servicemen and women, and the United for Wildlife foundation. The Royal Foundation was founded in 2009 by brothers William and Harry, Kate joined when she married William in 2011, and Meghan is set to join when she marries Harry later in the year.
This year’s forum event was hosted by BBC presenter and BBC 1 newsreader, Tina Daheley, with an audience of invited guests, supporters and benefactors of the various charities under the ‘Making a difference together’ banner. The Royals sat on stage with the backdrop of a canopy of Kensington Palace.
Prince William gave the headline speech first, telling the audience that he and Harry first came up with the idea of the foundation whilst still serving in the military; William and Harry went through Sandhurst at roughly the same time, as William went to university first. The Duke of Cambridge said that he was inspired by the important charitable work of both his parents and grandparents, but wanted to modernise it and make it suitable for his generation and beyond.
William also commented on the Invictus Games and Harry’s commitment to this cause, praising its success at changing the lives of those who have been injured in conflicts. It was at the Toronto games that we first saw Meghan and Harry together publicly.
In a rare moment of self-prestige, William also praised the success of his conservation efforts through the United for Wildlife Foundation, saying: “Uniting people and bringing them together has broken down barriers.”
Next up was Catherine, who spoke about her work on mental illness. The Duchess said: “I felt so passionately about [it], all three of us felt we could make a far bigger impact. We all had very different areas we were working with, and being able to come together to find some common ground and draw ideas together was exciting.”
Referencing her recent visits to learn about maternal mental health, Kate continued: “You can’t help but reflect on your own life and it’s definitely had an impact on how I look at how I mother, how we work as a family and you know, how we hope to bring up our children.”
Prince Harry also spoke about the foundation’s work on mental illness. He said: “We have to target the cause of the problem”, referring to the need to change perceptions of mental illness.
Prince William was also asked about the mental health marathon that took place last year. Asked if he had expected it to be so successful he joke: “No, we planned it on the back of a fag packet.
“To see all the runners in their headbands was fantastic – even though we had to wear them ourselves,” he said.
The future King gave a glimpse of what is to come from the foundation in the coming months and years: they will be targeting cyberbullying, which he says is a “growing problem” by bringing organisations together to work to keep children safe online, a programme for which William launched recently. He said: “I’m really excited about the future.”
Meghan, in her first official work with the Royal Foundation, was asked about the foundation’s work on women’s equality. She said: “What’s interesting is that I hear a lot of people saying, when talking about girls’ empowerment and women as well, you’ll often hear people saying ‘you’re helping them find their voices’.
“I fundamentally disagree with that. Women don’t need to find their voice, they need to feel empowered to use it and people need to be encouraged to listen.
“Right now with so many campaigns, Me Too and Time’s Up, there is no better time to really continue to shine a light on women feeling empowered and people really helping to support them, men included in that.
“It makes such a tremendous difference. So I guess we wait a couple of months and then we can get the ground running.”
The American hinted at her behind the scenes work – reportedly including visits to those who lived in Grenfell Tower – and joked that she is juggling the work of the foundation with planning her wedding, a similar comment was also made by Harry.
Our editor, Victoria, appeared on BBC Breakfast this morning to discuss Meghan’s first foray into the world of royal charity work, and suggested a number of areas of interest for the bride-to-be: food and nutrition, sustainability (both mentioned on her now-defunct blog, ‘The Tig’) and mental health in the social care field, since Meghan’s mother works in this area.
After a moving film showcasing all aspects of the foundation, Chief executive of the Royal Foundation, Lorraine Heggessey, spoke about how she is planning big changes. She praised the work already done by the organisation, but the scope of their work is about to get a lot bigger. Lorraine also said that Meghan Markle’s aims to its work would mean there would be four voices instead of three.
Kate also revealed that the foundation has a “long-term focus” because the Royals roles are “lifetime roles”, so it is necessary to plan decades into the future. Harry also said that he wanted to tackle the “root causes of issues” on a global scale.
The royal couples also met some of the audience members at a backstage event, including a something of a reunion for Prince Harry and Bryony Gordon; Gordon conducted the personal interview with the Prince, who spoke about his mother’s death and his mental health issues that stemmed from them.
He then took to the stage to joke about what it is like working with family members. He joked: the fab four are family so “stick with each other” and that “working with family does have its challenges, but we’re stuck together for the rest of our lives.”
He did, however, praise the different personalities of all the group, and it was clear to see today how well the foursome get along.