Prince Harry was perfectly relaxed as he chatted with to young leaders from around the world at a palace party on Tuesday, June 26th, but he still had his guard up when it came to the location of his secret honeymoon with Meghan Markle.
When Mavis Elias, a young philanthropist from Namibia, asked Harry if he could confirm that he and Meghan had headed to her African country, as had been widely reported, he told her “No, we didn’t go to Namibia.” Then, with a nod toward the listening ears and scribbling media close by, he teased, “I’m not going to say where…”
Elias was among the 61 recipients of the Queen’s Young Leaders award — a project set up to reward change-makers and influencers across the Commonwealth of 53 nations linked to the United Kingdom.
The couple appeared particularly delighted to see one winner pick up her award from Queen Elizabeth: Reekelitsoe Molapo, 23, who founded the Educate Your Peer Foundation in Lesotho. Harry had only just returned a private visit to Lesotho, Africa, that morning after a weekend helping his charity Sentebale and attending a board meeting for Africa Parks, a conservation charity he supports.
Molapo, whose organization encourages African people working or studying abroad to fund a student back home, told reporters of the memorable evening, “It has been an amazing experience. At some point I got really emotional. This is the most amazing, awesome experience I have had in my life.
“To have the Queen honor your work like that at an event to celebrate us is amazing,” said Molapo. “She said, ‘You are from Lesotho, Harry just came back from there this morning.’ Meghan said the same to me afterward. He arrived this morning at 6 a.m.”
The new Duke and Duchess of Sussex will take a leading role in Commonwealth affairs in the future, and Harry had joked in his speech that the young leaders are “stuck with me.”
The honorees “were just talking about how relatable [Harry and Meghan] are,” said Molapo. “They are not generations away from us; they know the challenges we are going through. They seem very real.
“I feel like they are the right people to continue this work in the Commonwealth. Most young people can relate to them — they are part of our generation.”
Meghan, 36, chatted to Martina Caruana, who is training to be a human rights lawyer and who founded the Network of Young Women Leaders in her home country of Malta.
Martina, 24, said, “I know that she’s a feminist like me, and she has been doing a lot of great work with the U.N. Women. I was very surprised that she remembered me by name and by my country. They have obviously read up on us all.
“As young people, we can really relate to both of them, so that’s really important from our point of view. We can have someone to look up to and someone with a lovely history of supporting these great causes.”
The couple were also introduced to Priscilla Ruzibuka, 27, from Rwanda, who set up a children’s clothing project which employs women from underprivileged communities.
She told reporters, “We spoke about the fact that they love Rwanda. Harry mentioned the fact that Rwanda is taking the lead among African countries in politics — we have the highest proportion of women in parliament, 56 percent.
“They said they are looking forward to visiting Rwanda one day.”
Siposetu Sethu Mbuli, 23, from South Africa, whose organization Love, This Skin tackles stigma around albinism, said: “I feel like we have been building up to this moment. It was such an incredible moment to be connecting with [The Queen] and it went by so quickly.”
“I actually almost cried,” said Siva Nagappan, 20, from Malaysia, who has developed a water recycling system for his school and founded the Reuse Initiative. “Coming from a really rough background and then being here at Buckingham Palace to meet the Queen — we have come a long way.”