Prince Henry of England has said goodbye this Friday in the Netherlands of the fifth edition of the Invictus Games for soldiers injured in the line of duty. His wife, Meghan Markle, returned to the United States on Monday to be with their children, Archie and Lilibet, aged 2 years and 9 months, respectively. The Duke of Sussex, who was in the Army for a decade, has received a visit from King William of Orange during the final day. Both posed relaxed for the press and followed the wheelchair basketball final between the United States and the Dutch team. The next editions of the games will take place in Germany (2023) and in Canada (2025).
The pandemic forced the Invictus Games to be postponed between 2020 and 2021, and this time more than 500 veterans from twenty countries have participated. King William has been very affectionate with the grandson of Queen Elizabeth II and has claimed to feel very proud that the Dutch team has reached the basketball final. “But most of all, I am proud of these people, who have served their country, helped others, been injured, and taken back the reins with the sport,” he said. Both have encouraged the teams: the one from home, for the king, and the one from his new home for Enrique. The Americans have won by 51-9 points. The great absentee has been Meghan Markle, who was at the opening ceremony on April 16 and returned to Montecito (California) on Monday, where the Duke and Duchess of Sussex now reside. Shortly before her departure, she confessed at a children’s reading session that she “missed her children a lot.”
It’s been a busy week for Prince Harry. In a private capacity, he has taken advantage of his first trip to Europe together with his wife to see his grandmother, who turned 96 on Thursday. The British crown is silent about this type of visit, but both the comments about the sovereign’s safety, and the reluctance to mention his father, Prince Charles, have earned Enrique harsh criticism in the media of his country. A disagreement that has not overshadowed his attitude during the games, marked by the spirit of improvement of the participants and that have also had the presence of the Ukrainian team.
The Ukrainian president, Volodímir Zelenski, gave permission to the veterans to participate, “although we will return home as soon as they are finished,” Pavlo Kovalski, one of them, told Dutch television. A comrade died in the fight shortly before traveling, and another has been made a prisoner of war, so that their emotions for the participants were mixed, but they were grateful “to be able to train in peace for a few days”.
Dutchman Jelle van der Steen, from the wheelchair basketball team, has starred in one of the most emotional moments of the week. He had to undergo surgery and withdrew from the group, but was carried on a stretcher to the court to attend the start of the match. The prince greeted him effusively, underlining the prevailing camaraderie. “Undefeated [invencible, en latín] tries to stimulate recovery, respect and understanding towards those who have served their country”, according to the organizers. “We all know what has happened before coming. We understand each other and we know the terrain we have trodden on”, said Enrique at the opening. He himself was sent twice to missions in Afghanistan, so he can exchange pleasantries with the veterans, many of them maimed or suffering from post-traumatic stress. “Enjoy and make this an unforgettable experience. It is what I want and what I strive for”, declared the grandson of Elizabeth II on Dutch television, where they gave him the famous wafers filled with molasses (stroopwafelin Dutch), a name that he began to pronounce between laughs.
England’s Harry founded the competition in 2013 after attending a similar one, but only for veterans from the United States. In 2017, he took advantage of the edition held in Canada to appear for the first time with Meghan. Very close to his wife, she has combined informal clothing with branded dresses in the Netherlands, and has worn her own and some family souvenirs. Among these, a wristwatch of the late Princess Diana, mother of the Duke. This has gone from the navy blue suit of the first day to not taking off the shirt with the logo of the games. Outside the Zuiderpark, venue for the event, he has put on a cap to try to go unnoticed on his private outings. Although he has enjoyed protection in the Netherlands, he has moved with ease in an environment where he feels part of the group and shows it.