Meghan Markle had to miss Prince Harry's honor as a “living legend of aviation” on Friday evening in Los Angeles.
The 39-year-old Duke of Sussex took the stage at the Beverly Hills Hilton to accept his award from actor John Travolta – but he was not accompanied by his wife, the Duchess of Sussex, who had been expected.
Meghan, 42, was not present because one of her children was unwell, the PA news agency has learned.
The couple lives in Montecito, California, with their two children, Prince Archie, four, and two-year-old Princess Lilibet. It has not been confirmed which of their little ones was unwell.
Harry appeared to be in high spirits on Friday as he attended the awards ceremony alongside Prince Mario-Max Schaumburg-Lippe, a 46-year-old minor German royal and cousin of the outgoing Queen of Denmark, Margrethe II, and others.
Meghan Markle (pictured with her family) had to miss Prince Harry's honor as a “living legend of aviation” in Los Angeles on Friday evening
The Duke – who made no mention of his sister-in-law Kate's or his father Charles' medical problems – momentarily recalled host John Travolta's meeting with Princess Diana at a White House dinner for President Ronald Reagan in 1985.
Accepting the award from Travolta, the 39-year-old said: “I was just a year old when you danced with my mother in the White House and now look at us.” He added: “The only thing left What remains to do is… not to dance together, but to fly together.”
The Duke completed two tours of Afghanistan as a forward air controller and Apache helicopter pilot and flew countless training missions in the UK, US and Australia.
He served in the military for ten years, rising to the rank of captain and later founding the Invictus Games – a sporting event for wounded military personnel and veterans.
On stage, Travolta asked him about his time as an Army aviator: “What do you remember about your first flight?” Harry quipped back: “It's secret.”
Prince Mario-Max Schaumburg-Lippe, who took a photo with Harry at the awards ceremony, later described the moment between Harry and Travolta on stage as “very touching and sweet.”
“John Travolta presented the award and referenced dancing with his mother Princess Diana when Prince Harry was one year old, so he said, 'Now I see you again in new circumstances, on a new stage,'” he said.
“That was very touching and very sweet because we all remember how great John Travolta and Princess Diana's dance was, and now Princess Diana's son is receiving an award from John Travolta. “It was the sweetest and most touching moment.”
The 39-year-old Duke of Sussex took the stage at the Beverly Hills Hilton to accept his award from actor John Travolta – but he was not accompanied by his wife, the Duchess of Sussex, who had been expected
In his speech, Harry thanked the Living Legends of Aviation Awards for the “incredible honor” and added that he was “proud to be recognized by such a dynamic and inspiring group of people.”
Harry takes his place alongside other aerospace “legends” including Buzz Aldrin, Jeff Bezos, Tom Cruise, Neil Armstrong, Harrison Ford, Morgan Freeman and Elon Musk.
He continued: “For me, flying was a transcendent experience.” A close encounter with magic, an invitation to both protect freedom… and feel free, and, funnily enough, an opportunity to ground yourself without to actually be grounded.
“I consider my three years of flight training to be one of the greatest lessons of my life. It brought up a variety of emotions.”
He didn't allude to his family's medical dramas across the Atlantic; The Princess of Wales is currently undergoing a two-week hospital stay following surgery, while King Charles is being treated for an enlarged prostate.
But Harry's nomination has angered some senior former British military officials.
Lord West, former head of the Royal Navy, said: “He is not a living legend of aviation.” To suggest that he is is pathetic. It makes the whole thing seem a bit like nonsense when they're willing to pick someone like Prince Harry.
“When he flew for the Army, he didn't do some great, exciting feat of amazing flying skills.” They're just trying to get publicity. You know it's going to cause a stir.'
Retired officer Colonel Richard Kemp said Harry was “a brave guy” and his role in Afghanistan was “undoubtedly very dangerous”.
But he said there are “helicopter pilots who have done much more extraordinary things in Iraq and Afghanistan, risking their lives to save their comrades.”
Meghan (pictured with Harry in New York City in May 2023), 42, was not present because one of her children was feeling unwell, the PA news agency has learned
The Living Legends of Aviation website also praised the Duke for his work with charities such as Travalyst, Sentebale, African Parks and WellChild.
A statement on the website said: “Prince Harry is a humanitarian, military veteran, mental health advocate and environmentalist.”
“He has dedicated his life to advancing causes that are close to his heart and that create lasting change for people and places.”
Harry was included alongside US Navy pilot Fred George and former world speed record holder Steve Hinton, as well as Lauren Sanchez – a helicopter pilot who is engaged to Amazon founder Jeff Bezos.
She is expected to receive the Elling Halvorson Vertical Flight Hall of Fame Award for her skills as a helicopter pilot and aviation entrepreneur after founding the aerial film company Black Ops Aviation in 2016.
The Duke's appearance comes as his father, the King, prepares to undergo treatment for an enlarged prostate next week, while his sister-in-law, the Princess of Wales, recovers from abdominal surgery in the London clinic.
Kate is not expected to resume her public duties until well into the spring.