Prince Harry and Meghan Markle arrived to cheers and applause at the Invictus Games in the Netherlands on Friday – with their Netflix film crew in tow to capture every moment.
Crew members from the streaming giant ensured they stood apart from the dozens of photographers covering the Sussexes’ arrival, as the cameraman, sound recordist and producer wore maroon coloured bibs with numbers on.
The event was supposed to be yellow carpet, but Harry and Meghan decided to attend in the last 48 hours, a source told MailOnline.
They were granted ‘VVIP’ status by the local authorities, affording them top-level local protection – which will be seen as an attempt to justify their non-attendance at Prince Philip’s memorial service at Westminster Abbey last month over security concerns, after Harry’s tax-payer funded protection was stripped when he quit the UK.
It comes after critics accused the couple of ‘cashing in’ on the Games by allowing Netflix, with whom they have signed a $100million deal, into private meetings.
Some fear they are also ‘exploiting the Queen’, saying their trip this week for top-secret ‘clear the air talks’ with the monarch and Prince Charles was to please the American producers of their upcoming documentary.
After their arrival to the Games, Harry and Meghan were seen hanging out with the Ukrainian team at the tournament – which began in 2014 and is held each year for injured military veterans, although it has experienced a two-year hiatus due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Harry donned a smart navy blue suit with an open-collared white shirt while Meghan cut a chic figure with a bright white pantsuit, matching handbag and gold accessories.
Beaming Meghan drew gasps of admiration from competitors who had waited over an hour in the evening sunshine for her appearance.
‘She looks wonderful and it’s so nice to see her smiling so much,’ said one of the family members at the event.
The couple were clapped and cheered as they walked to the reception for competitors and their families.
Harry tenderly placed his hand on Meghan’s back as they stood chatting outside the reception tent, where they were joined by the Mayor of The Hague Jan Van Zanen.
As Harry guided his wife inside the marquee a huge cheer and clapping could erupted from inside.
Meghan flashed a dazzling smile and waved when she was cheered by members of Team USA.
Inside the reception the couple were guided to a stage making their best through the cheering guests, before Harry gave a short speech welcoming the competitors as Meghan looked on.
One member of the Great Britain team said: ‘It was nice to see Harry and Meghan, but there were so many people inside it was hard to hear the speech.’
The couple were making their first appearance outside the US since quitting the royal family in an acrimonious split in 2020.
Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex attend a reception ahead of the start of the Invictus Games
Harry was seen smiling broadly and waving as he walked to the reception tent to meet dignitaries and athletes at the event
All smiles: Meghan raised a hand in appreciation at the applause from servicemen and veteran as they made their appearance
Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, wore a white suit today as she attended a reception ahead of the start of the Invictus Games
As she and Harry were applauded as they arrived at the event, Meghan clutched her hand to her front in appreciation
Meghan accessorised with a white handbag featuring a gold chain and wore a gold watch and hand chain
Beaming Meghan drew gasps of admiration from competitors who had waited over an hour in the evening sunshine for her appearance
Netflix film crew follow Harry and Meghan at the Zuiderpark in The Hague on Friday
The Netflix crew (pictured) ensured they stood apart from the dozens of photographers covering their arrival, as the cameraman, sound recordist and producer wore maroon coloured bibs with numbers on
Both Harry and Meghan were deep in conversation as they walked to the yellow carpet ahead of a glitzy reception tonight
They headed towards the yellow carpet at the Invictus Games venue in The Hague, Netherlands
The couple were joined by the Mayor of The Hague Jan Van Zanen and the group stood talking for several minutes
Harry and Meghan on the yellow carpet ahead of the Invictus Games in The Hague
They spoke to the Mayor of The Hague Jan Van Zanen before entering the marquee to a huge cheer and applause
Meghan wore a bright white jacket and trousers while Harry wore a suit with open neck shirt, as they head to the Invictus Games reception for competitors and families
Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, The Duke and Duchess of Sussex arrive at the Sportcampus Zuiderpark, The Hague, Netherlands, ahead of the Invictus Games 2022
Harry and Meghan arrive at the Sportcampus Zuiderpark, The Hague, Netherlands, ahead of the Invictus Games 2022
Harry dressed in a smart navy blue suit can be seen holding a calendar looking earnest, as Meghan is further back smiling
Harry and Meghan were due to spend an hour at the reception before returning to a private residence where they are staying.
Meghan is expected to return to California on Monday while Harry will stay until the end of the games where he will give a closing speech.
The couple will attend a driving skills event on Saturday afternoon and later the opening ceremony at the Zuiderpark stadium.
Earlier today, Ukrainian Oleg Karpenko said: ‘You just look who is here with us The Prince himself with a calendar.
‘The Invictus Games Ukraine team will soon start winning its medals at these competitions. Proud.’
The calendar is from an NGO called Come Back Alive, which is raising funds to assist the Ukrainian army amid the ongoing Russian invasion.
The NGO tweeted: ‘The foundation presented Prince Harry its calendar The Real Scale. Our colleagues gave the calendar to the Duke of Sussex during the Invictus Games meeting in Hague.’
It came hours after footage emerged of a blacked-out van and 4×4 leaving Windsor Castle on the same day Harry and Meghan snuck in for an incognito visit with Prince Charles and the Queen – sparking speculation they were on board.
The convoy travelled down Windsor High Street yesterday preceded by two police motorcyclists, in what could be the couple’s security escort.
The video may spark questions about their security arrangements, given Harry had previously suggested he would not return to the UK unless he was given full police protection.
There was no visible sign of a Netflix film crew who expected to shadow the couple for a docu-series on the Invictus Games founded by Harry
Meghan wears a chain bracelet that wraps around her left hand and wedding finger, highlighting her rings
Meghan pairs her white suit trousers, blazer and handbag with gold accessories, including a watch, chain bracelet and necklace
A warm welcome: Meghan is all smiles for the crowd as they arrive at the welcome event
She gives a wave to the crowd, as they take photographs and cheer the couple on arrival
Harry smiles and points at the cheering crowd, as he and Meghan head to the reception event
A wider picture of the meeting showed the Royal in deep conversation and appeared to be listening intently to a guest
Harry and Meghan pictured at the Global Citizen Live event in, New York, USA, September 25, 2021
The van travelled down Windsor High Street yesterday preceded by two police motorcyclists (left) and a four by four behind, in what could be the couple’s security escort
Speaking to MailOnline, Meghan’s acid-penned biographer Tom Bower sensationally branded the Sussexes ‘the Royal Family’s worst traducers’ and accused the couple of ‘exploiting an old, unwell woman to boost their credibility and coffers’.
Netflix sent a camera crew to follow Harry and Meghan when they met the Ukraine team for their documentary about the Paralympic-style games.
Royal experts believe the VVIP status given to the couple will allow Netflix to portray the couple in a favourable light, as they deal with the fallout from their bombshell interview with Oprah last year.
Talking about Harry and Meghan’s summit with the Queen and Charles, Mr Bower said last night: ‘I have no doubt it was all done for their Netflix documentary. The Queen’s advisers failed to protect her from being exploited by the Royal Family’s worst traducers, while the Sussexes exploited an old, unwell woman to boost their credibility and coffers.’
MailOnline has contacted representatives for Harry and Meghan for comment. Buckingham Palace declined to comment on the video.
Other experts suggested that the surprise face-to-face meeting with the Queen, who will be 96 next Thursday and has experienced a series of health problems recently, was an ‘olive branch’ after considerable tension between the Sussexes and royal family.
Ingrid Seward, editor-in-chief of Majesty Magazine, said the visit would have made the Queen very happy despite the couple’s highly publicised criticism of the royals. In their interview with Oprah, they accused an unnamed senior royal of racism.
Meanwhile, Meghan and Harry’s mouthpiece Omid Scobie used the visit to direct a jab at palace officials, tweeting: ‘Three years ago keeping plans to visit the Queen a secret would have been impossible. Yesterday was another reminder of where the constant and unwanted leaks were coming from. HMTQ will always opt for fuss-free, so I’m sure it was much appreciated on both sides.’
Harry and his father have spoken only rarely over the past two years and he heavily criticised Charles in last year’s tell-all Oprah interview in California last year for failing to support him and allegedly cutting the duke off financially.
The claims were disputed by supporters of Charles, who say he has been left desolate by his younger son’s rejection. He is also said to be deeply concerned about Harry’s memoirs, due to be published later this year, which he fears will be further used to settle scores.
A similar looking van was seen being used by a camera crew (circled) who followed the couple during a trip to New York in November last year, sparking speculation the visit was part of their Netflix show
The van in Windsor yesterday (left) and the one seen with the Sussexes in America (right). It is unlikely a film crew would have taken a van across the Atlantic, but the similarity between the two vehicles may invite speculation
Speaking to MailOnline, Meghan’s acid-penned biographer Tom Bower branded the Sussexes ‘the Royal Family’s worst traducers’ and accused the couple of ‘exploiting an old, unwell woman to boost their credibility and coffers’
The Queen arrives to view a display of artefacts from British craftwork company, Halcyon Days, to commemorate the company’s 70th anniversary in the White Drawing Room at Windsor Castle, on March 23, 2022
Meghan last saw the Queen at an awkward Commonwealth Day service on March 8, 2020 (pictured) but has claimed since to regularly speak to her on the phone and over video calls
The Queen, Harry and Meghan pictured on the balcony of Buckingham Palace in London, Thursday July 10, 2018
Hilariously, given their efforts to keep the visit secret, Harry and Meghan, 40, were spotted walking over to Windsor Castle early yesterday (Thursday) morning by a coach of excited churchgoers arriving for the Royal Maundy service
Miss Seward told The Sun newspaper: ‘It is a wonderful opportunity to clear the air and offer an olive branch. After everything that has gone on it must have taken a lot for Harry and Meghan to go to Windsor. Also Maundy Thursday is a very special day for the Queen as it is about forgiveness. She is not one to hold grudges and I think she would have happily welcomed them with open arms.’
The Sun reported a busload of tourists had seen the couple visiting Windsor Castle, with one telling the paper they ‘couldn’t believe it when I saw who it was. We waved and they waved back. They looked happy and relaxed and waved to everyone on the bus’.
Meghan last saw the Queen at an awkward Commonwealth Day service on March 8, 2020 but has claimed since to regularly speak to her on the phone and over video calls.
Harry has not seen his grandmother in person since Prince Philip’s funeral last April when he flew over briefly from their new home in the US. And the Queen has not met their baby daughter Lilibet. But their contact would have been limited because of Covid restrictions.
The duke has since launched a High Court legal action against the Home Office claiming it is too dangerous to bring his family to the UK after being stripped of his official Metropolitan Police protection.
The couple are understood to have left Windsor yesterday afternoon and are now more than likely in the Netherlands to attend the prince’s Invictus Games, the Paralympic-style event he set up for wounded service personnel, which opens tomorrow in The Hague.
Prince Harry used secret visit to Windsor to ‘slowly start rebuilding some bridges’ with Charles, royal biographer claims
Prince Harry’s secret visit to Windsor was a way of ‘slowly starting to rebuild some bridges’ with his father, a royal biographer claims.
The Duke of Sussex and wife Meghan flew in to the UK together on Wednesday for the first time in two years.
As well as meeting the Queen at her official residence, it is believed the couple also made arrangements to see Prince Charles, and his wife, the Duchess of Cornwall.
Harry was heavily criticised for not attending last month’s memorial service for his late grandfather, the Duke of Edinburgh, who died a year ago last Saturday. But at the time his spokesman said he hoped to see his grandmother ‘soon’.
Harry and his father have spoken only rarely over the last two years and he heavily criticised Charles in last year’s tell-all Oprah interview for failing to support him and allegedly cutting him off financially – claims roundly disputed by supporters of the future king who say he has been left desolate by his younger son’s rejection.
He is also said to be deeply concerned about Harry’s forthcoming memoirs due to be published later this year which he fears will be further used to settle scores.
Royal biographer Phil Dampier said the meeting was likely an opportunity to try and begin mending some of the damage the relationship has suffered in recent years.
It is not believed that Harry and Meghan met the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge during their 24 hours on British soil. William and Harry’s relationship has been at rock bottom since Harry pressed the nuclear button on his royal life.
Harry is suing the Home Office after he was stripped of his round the clock taxpayer- funded police protection after quitting the UK.
He has since told the High Court that he is willing to pay for it himself when in the UK as he does not believe he and his family are safe in this country as his own privately-funded civilian team of US bodyguards cannot carry arms and will, he argues, not be kept updated of the relevant intelligence.
Last night a spokesman for the Duke and Duchess of Sussex confirmed that they had been to Windsor to see the Queen.
It comes after sources close to the couple revealed that Harry and Meghan will be given the ‘VVIP’ status in the Netherlands, affording them top-level local protection – which will be seen as an attempt to justify their non-attendance at Prince Philip’s memorial service at Westminster Abbey last month over security concerns.
‘The Netflix film crew will most certainly favourably capture Harry and Meghan,’ said Talk Radio royal commentator Charles Rae.
‘It will look as if they are still members of the royal family when they are private citizens. That will be the whole aim to show people they are still considered very important people. It will no doubt make great play of the ‘VVIP’ status they have been given by the Dutch authorities.’
The film crew are expected to travel in the same armed police protected motorcade that will take Harry and Meghan to the Zuiderpark stadium where the opening ceremony takes place on Saturday.
They will also film the emotional moment Harry and Meghan meet members of the Ukrainian squad whose presence is tinged with heartache over the loss of four of their former colleagues who died defending their country.
Metal barriers to prevent a car bomb attack have been lowered in place at one of the five entrances to the Zuiderpark in The Hague where the Invictus Games are being held.
Police also completed a bomb sweep of the area ahead of the couple’s arrival when they will meet friends and family of the 500 competitors taking part in the event.
Meghan is expected to stay until Monday when she will return to California while Harry, the founder of the games, will be in The Hague until the end of the week.
Unlike previous royal visits involving the couple their presence in the Dutch capital has not led to much excitement among the locals.
Fans of the couple were noticeable by their absence in the areas where members of the public could stand to try and see the California based ex-royal couple.
Even at a nearby café at the entrance to the copper coloured stadium there was not much enthusiasm for the pair’s attendance.
Café servers were more concerned over the metal security barriers at the entrance putting off customers than the presence of Harry and Meghan.
One said: ‘They do not have any meaning for us here. We have our own royal family who we consider more important. They are more interested in the showbusiness life.’
A police officer on duty said they were not expecting any crowds at the main entrance to the Zuiderpark.
Access to the couple inside the stadium and the surrounding grounds is being tightly controlled as Netflix will be filming the couple for their docu-series on the Invictus Games.
Only those media approved by their company Archewell will be allowed to photograph the couple when they meet competitors, including members of the Ukrainian team who were given a standing ovation by other competitors at their hotel.
Prince Harry and Meghan Markle (pictured in 2018) are off to the Invictus Games in the Netherlands which start on Saturday
The Sportcampus Zuiderpark in The Hague, which is hosting the Invictus Games event this year
Security at the Sportcampus Zuiderpark in The Hague is being stepped up, two days before the start of the Games
Police, military personnel and security guards patrol the Zuiderpark in The Hague in the Netherlands
Security at the Sportcampus Zuiderpark ahead of the Invictus Games which begins with the opening ceremony on Saturday
Police, military personnel and security guards patrol the Zuiderpark in The Hague in the Netherlands
How has she got the front to face them after all she’s said? Social media users are shocked as Meghan meets Queen and Charles for the first time since Megxit and the ‘royal racist’ row
Social media users expressed their shock last night after Meghan Markle met the Queen and Prince Charles for the first time since Megxit and the ‘royal racist’ row.
The Duchess of Sussex, along with husband Harry, finally returned to Britain this week after acrimoniously quitting as working royals.
The couple then left the royal family reeling with their score-settling Oprah interview in which they accused an unnamed senior royal of racism.
But royal watchers on Twitter were critical of the visit against the backdrop of so much controversy.
One wrote: ‘How has she got the front to face them after all she’s said?’
Another added: ‘Think they would have been booed if it had been announced.’
The trip marks a return to the spotlight for Meghan whose previous high profile appearances have been the Oprah Winfrey interview and a much panned appearance on the Ellen DeGenres show.
The Netflix doc series being filmed over the course of a week while the games are staged is called ‘Heart of Darkness.’
It is the first co-production with the couple’s Archewell Productions and is being made by the Oscar-winning team of director Orlando von Einsiedel and producer Joanna Natasegara.
They were responsible for the widely acclaimed documentary ‘White Helmets’ about first responders during the Syrian conflict.
According to Archwell, the docu-series will ‘ showcase powerful stories of resilience and hope from competitors on their journey to Invictus Games’.
The meeting between the royal couple and the Ukrainian team is expected to be one of the most emotional moments of the week-long games attended by competitors from 20 nations.
Their arrival at Schiphol Airport was tinged with heartache after four members of the squad died defending their country.
Sergey Smilin was killed in service on March 18 while former Invictus competitors Vladimir Motelchuk and Dmytro Oliynyk lost their lives in rocket attacks on March 29, and former trialist Serhii Karajvan died in combat on March 13.
‘They were all extremely active in the international Invictus community on the We Are Invictus platform, competing in events over the past year including the virtual London Marathon, and online Rowing championships,’ a spokesperson for Invictus said.
Meghan is expected to arrive with her husband in The Netherlands on Friday and she is expected to stay for four days.
A minute’s silence will be held for those who have died in the Ukraine conflict at the start of the opening ceremony at the Zuiderpark in The Hague on Saturday night.
It will be Meghan’s first overseas trip since quitting the royal family in 2020 and moving to California.
The event has been postponed twice due to the pandemic and it was at the 2017 games in Toronto that the royal couple were seen together for the first time. Months later they announced their engagement.
It is understood Harry and Meghan will not get an audience with King Willem-Alexander and Queen Máxima during their stay and will have to instead spend the night at a hotel in The Hague.
Traditionally, the Dutch royal family hosts stays of foreign royals, but a spokesperson has confirmed no such olive branch will be extended to the Duke and Duchess of Sussex.