Harry and Meghan’s appearance with NATO chiefs in Germany today has stolen a march on Prince William in a PR battle between the two brothers and their wives, an expert told MailOnline today.
The Prince of Wales will travel to New York next week, as part of move to step up his role as a global statesman, to meet United Nations leaders and attend a summit for his £50million Earthshot Prize, which is now in its third year.
William is increasingly popular in the US and his trip has generated much interest across the Atlantic, with all major TV networks bidding for interviews.
But the Duke and Duchess of Sussex met NATO joint force commander General Luigi Miglietta today on the sidelines of Harry’s Invictus Games – amid claims by athletes at the event that they felt ‘caught up in the royal crossfire’ between him and his family.
The couple held hands and smiled beside NATO chiefs and their families, including a large Italian and Dutch armed forces contingent, during the royal-style engagement in Dusseldorf.
Brand and culture expert Nick Ede said the Sussexes’ decision to pose with NATO chiefs could be a ‘powerplay’ in the PR battle between the princes and their spouses.
Harry founded the Invictus Games to help the rehabilitation of wounded members of the military and veterans by giving them the challenge of competing in sports events similar to the Paralympics. He enjoys the support of NATO chiefs and their families (pictured)
Meghan and Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex, with NATO joint force commander General Luigi Miglietta in Dusseldorf on day five of the Invictus Games
The Duchess of Sussex holds an Italian shirt given to her while she met NATO staff from the country
Harry met families of military and NATO personnel from Italy and the Netherlands at the gathering
Prince Harry, left, and Meghan, The Duchess of Sussex, attend a meeting with NATO representatives on the sidelines of the 6th Invictus Games in Dusseldorf
Prince William, Prince of Wales talks to Sam Stables as he and and Catherine, Princess of Wales visit the We Are Farming Minds charity at Kings Pitt Farm, Herefordshire, ahead of his big trip to New York
He said: ‘Harry and Meghan know that this is a really good time to shine their lights on both the lnvictus Games but other power players too.
‘There will always be a power play between the two brothers and their wives as they are the most famous pairs on the planet so all eyes will be on them.
‘With William meeting the UN chiefs next week the brothers have covered some of the most important and powerful people on the planet. For both of them this is positive PR but also inevitably raise eyebrows as to where they will be going next’.
As William and Kate visited a forest school and a farm in the UK today, the Sussexes were all smiles as they arrived at the Merkur Spiel-Arena in Dusseldorf this afternoon, where the sitting volleyball and table tennis is being held.
The Sussexes arrived hand-in-hand, Meghan in a bronze silk shirt and caramel trousers and her husband in a smart navy suit and crisp white shirt.
They smiled and waved as they smiled and waved with NATO bosses and their families. Harry also also took part in a mental health discussion organised by Better Up, the Silicon Valley start-up where he is chief impact officer.
This afternoon they watched sitting down volleyball matches then on to the table tennis.
Meghan showed her more formal side today as she attended a private meeting with NATO chiefs and their families.
After sporting styled shorts and a J crew cardigan to watch a wheelchair rugby event she was dressed in a more demure style for the meet and greet.
Meghan wore loose fitting wide leg caramel coloured trousers and a silky brown shirt. Harry wore a blue suit but no tie.
The NATO event came after Harry carried out a private engagement in the morning while Meghan relaxed in their suite at the Hyatt Hotel.
He took part in a discussion organised by the Better Up, the career and life coaching start up where he is Chief Impact Officer on a reported seven-figure salary.
Last night the couple put on an extraordinary red carpet-style display of flirting and affection at the Invictus Games in their first official public engagements together since May.
The royal couple hold hands as they pose for pictures. Meghan wore loose fitting wide leg caramel coloured trousers and a silky brown shirt. Harry wore a blue suit but no tie
The Sussexes smile and wave as they are pictured from above
Meghan and Harry arrive at the Merkur Spiel Arena today
The couple laugh next to General Luigi Miglietta of NATO Joint Force Command and families from Italy and Netherlands
The NATO meeting came days before his brother William meets the United Nations in New York next week to promote his £50million Earthshot prize
Harry peers out of a window as he starts to watch the seated volleyball
Fun times! Prince Harry embraced his wife while chatting to guests of his Invictus Games
They were then embraced by crowds as they arrived to watch sitting down volleyball matches – with Meghan swapping her outfit for an all-white ensemble
The Duchess of Sussex looked thrilled last night as her husband spoke coquettishly in her ear, clutched her hand and held her close at the Merkur Spiel-Arena.
Body language expert Judi James told MailOnline today that the tactile royals were reasserting themselves as a global ‘celebrity power couple’.
Their public displays of affection, hours after it emerged Meghan has taken off her engagement ring because a setting came loose, came after friends of the couple had torn apart speculation about their future in Hollywood and rumoured strains behind the scenes.
Ms James said: ‘Meghan and Harry’s body language really does seem to signal that the Harry and Meghan roadshow is back in the room.
‘It’s been a while since the fans have been treated to some of their signature rituals of togetherness as a couple and as a professional double act but they appear here taking the applause like celebrities with Harry back in his proud, protective tow-along pose, hand-in-hand with a very excited looking Meghan.
‘Their hand clasp is mutual, with Harry’s hand on top in a gesture of dominance and Meghan’s fingers are curled upward to show reciprocal affection as Harry leans to talk to her.’
Harry had travelled to Dusseldorf alone after a stopover in London. He and his wife have carried out a large number of solo events separately this summer.
Their last public engagement was in New York in May when Meghan was given a Women of Vision Award. Doria Ragland also attended.
In early August Harry embarked on a boys-only Asian tour with best friend Nacho Figueras while his wife partied with friends watching Taylor Swift in LA and stayed at home to care for Archie and Lilibet.
But last night Meghan cosied up to one another in the crowd at the culmination of the wheelchair basketball where both looked delighted when the USA won. Before the final with France ended, Harry wrapped his arm around his wife as they watched the nail-biting action on court. Meghan had comforted him as he covered his eyes during a particularly stressful sporting moment.
Harry whispers in his wife Meghan’s ear as the couple are the star attractions in Dusseldorf as other royals stay silent
Meghan and Harry arrive hand-in-hand at the Merkur Spiel-Arena in Dusseldorf
The Duke and Duchess of Sussex held hands, cosied up to one another and were seen affectionately leaning towards each other as they attended the wheelchair basketball finale at the Merkur Spiel-Arena in Dusseldorf, Germany
The Duke and Duchess of Sussex looking loved-up at the Invictus Games in Dusseldorf
The Sussexes smile at eachother and both were in high spirits last night
Harry rubs his wife’s arm on a night they were both clearly enjoying
The couple were all smiles and appeared to whisper more sweet nothings to one another before Meghan led the way at the medals ceremony, hugging athletes and their families on the courtside.
It was a world away from their previous appearance in public together almost a fortnight ago when Harry appeared bored and was looking at his phone as his wife danced with her mother Doria and friends at a Beyonce concert in California.
Harry looked far happier 48 hours later when he went to see Messi’s Inter Miami play LAFC with many other celebs. And the following day Meghan was back watching Beyonce again with stars including Kelly Rowlands amid rumours her big Hollywood relaunch – including reviving her Tig lifestyle brand to rival Gwyneth Paltrow’s $250million Goop.
It came amid rumours Meghan is enforcing a brand separation from her husband after his best-selling book Spare, containing many brutal attacks on his family, damaged their popularity in the US and UK.
But Prince Harry’s deep rift with his family is casting a shadow over the Invictus Games with the absence of his brother Prince William particularly keenly felt, veterans ‘caught up in the royal crossfire’ have claimed.
Harry’s time in Afghanistan inspired him to launch the sporting event but the Prince and Princess of Wales were central to its initial success.
The couple’s now-defunct foundation formed with the Duke of Sussex hoovered up sponsors and spent huge sums of cash to get Invictus up and running.
Nine years ago Harry, his father and brother stood united as they attended the opening ceremony and multiple events at the first ever Invictus Games in London – but the new King and his heir have had zero involvement since Harry met Meghan and they all fell out.
Officials have said that despite Harry’s passion for Invictus, which is growing in size, there have been plenty of seats at the Merkur Spiel-Arena in Dusseldorf. Some believe that the involvement of Charles, William and Kate would change that.
Meghan, 42, was seen shyly looking towards her husband, 38, who appeared to sweetly whisper in her ear during one candid moment, while another showed Harry wrapping his arm around his wife as they watched the nail-biting action on court
The Duke and Duchess are seen at the wheelchair basketball final between the United States and France
Prince Harry and Meghan Duchess of Sussex watch the basketball at the Invictus Games yesterday – cheering on the Americans
Meghan Markle and the Duke of Sussex at the games on Wednesday as the Royal Family stay quiet on Invictus. Harry couldn’t look at one point
Harry points something out to his laughing wife
Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, hands out medals to the winning USA wheelchair basketball team
The Duchess hugged one of the stars of the tournament
The Duchess of Sussex was very vocal as she watched one of the events yesterday
Harry and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, at the medal presentation of the wheelchair basketball
The Prince and Princess of Wales have both been at the rugby World Cup in France in the past week while King Charles and Queen Camilla and other senior royals have been at the Highland Games.
One Team GB insider told The Telegraph: ‘The athletes find it bizarre but don’t want to get caught up in the royal crossfire.’
This year’s games in Germany are the biggest ever involving 22 nations and 500-plus athletes. Harry has been there from start to finish, joining in with clapping and dancing in the crowd, and joking about going out on the beers at the end of the day.
Many have enjoyed seeing the Harry of old, high fiving children and singing Sweet Caroline in the days before his wife Meghan arrived.
But there has been no word from his family in the UK.
Double amputee Ben McBean, who was on the same return flight from Afghanistan as Harry in 2008 and credited with inspiring the Duke to launch Invictus, said he understood both sides of the ‘rift’ between the brothers but added that they should have put their differences aside.
He told The Telegraph: ‘Saying that, they should have just given the lads a shout out. It’s like when we went to Afghanistan, no one supported the war, but they supported the troops. It’s the same thing’.
Palace sources reportedly say that members of the Royal family never involve themselves in each others’ professional endeavours, and they would not expect the Duke to voice support for the finalists of William’s Earthshot Prize, for example.
One critic of Harry said: ‘Harry has never supported any of latest William‘s projects, not Earthshot when he is president of African Parks and advocate for climate change, no word about Homewards either but they insist William must supportInvictus. I’m so tired of this nonsense’.
Harry and Meghan share a private moment
Meghan smiles to the crowds at an event last night
Harry and Meghan are now the only two royals involved. William and Kate had supported it in the past
Meghan attends the medal ceremony and hands over a medal to the winning team
The Duke of Sussex and Meghan Duchess of Sussex are seen at the wheelchair basketball final between the United States and France
Prince Harry speaks enthusiastically to a Team GB supporter
Meghan, Duchess of Sussex meets Glory Essien at the “Friends @ Home Event” at the Station Airport during day three of the Invictus Games
Earlier this month King Charles attended the Highland Games – an event which was a firm favourite of his late mother, Queen Elizabeth II – with the Duchess of Cornwall.
They were joined by Anne, Princess Royal, and her husband Sir Timothy Laurence at the games which have been a part of Scotland’s culture for hundreds of years.
Critics argue the royal family’s ‘ill-will’ towards Harry should not be held against the disabled veterans who are competing.
The Prince and Princess of Wales were integral in the early stages of the Invictus Games.
The Royal Foundation, which was shared by Prince Harry at the time – invested significant amounts of money in the event.
Meanwhile Harry’s brother Prince William continued with his charity work yesterday in London, visiting a building site to discuss the mental health of construction workers.
His sister-in-law Kate has also been carrying out royal visits this week, going to HMP High Down in Surrey on Tuesday to learn more about the work of an addiction charity.
King Charles III visited Tomintoul in the Cairngorms where he was welcomed by primary school children and community stalwarts.
An anonymous UK media strategist said: ‘It’s ironic Buckingham Palace has had more to say about the Highland Games than the Invictus Games, despite the honorary military roles they hold.
‘In doing so, the palace ends up looking mean-spirited and petty. The ill will against Harry should not be held against the Invictus competitors.’
The Invictus Games is one of the big projects that Prince Harry has continued since his departure from the royal family.
He was given a hero’s welcome in Germany by those attending the latest iteration of the competition he founded for wounded and disabled military veterans.
Harry arrived at the event trailed by dozens of excited schoolchildren who had been given time off from studies to attend.
He has said he plans to attend as many events as he can during the week-long competition.
On Tuesday, Meghan Markle joined the Duke at the games held at the Merkur Spiel-Arena, where the pair were seen smiling and rejoicing as they watched numerous sporting events.
The Duchess was seen sporting a stars and stripes badge as she cheered her home country on during the wheelchair basketball game between USA and France yesterday.