Meghan Markle says it's 'nice' to be back as she joins Prince Harry at Endeavour Fund awards

Rebecca Taylor
Royal Correspondent

Meghan has said it is “nice” to be back as she attended her first royal engagement in nearly two months, while her husband Prince Harry remarked on the pride he felt serving “Queen and country” as the royal couple tackle what could be their last official engagements.

The Duke and Duchess of Sussex made their first joint appearance since the beginning of January on Thursday evening, at the Endeavour Fund awards in Mansion House in London.

The Endeavour Fund is a body set up by the Royal Foundation to finance inspiring sporting and adventure projects aiding the recovery of veterans.

The couple gave out an award each, and the prince gave a short speech in which he talked about his own experience in the military.

Prince Harry said: “Being able to serve Queen and Country is something we all are rightly proud of, and it never leaves us. Once served, always serving.”

Earlier in the evening, a surprise proposal by one of the award winners had the duke and duchess clapping and cheering.

The first award winner, Danny Holland, won the Recognising Achievement Award, and got down on one knee in front of his girlfriend – who quickly accepted, prompting cheers from the audience.

The Duke and Duchess of Sussex cheer during a marriage proposal at the Endeavour Fund Awards at Mansion House in London. (Press Association)
The couple applauded when the winner proposed to his girlfriend. (Press Association)

Harry wore a dark blue suit for the evening’s awards, and Meghan chose a teal Victoria Beckham dress.

One person briefly booed but there were cheers as they arrived at the venue.

The ceremony, hosted by former Invictus Games medallist JJ Chalmers, saw four prizes awarded - the Recognising Achievement Award, Celebrating Excellence Award, Henry Worsley Award and the new Community Impact Award.

Taking to the stage to present the Celebrating Excellence award, Meghan said she was pleased to be back at the awards for the third year in a row.

It's the first time they have been in the UK together in nearly two months. (Getty Images)
Meghan, Duchess of Sussex attends The Endeavour Fund Awards at Mansion House. (Getty Images)

She said watching the videos “all the way in Canada” she wondered how the panel would decide who would win.

Announcing the winner as Lee Spencer, who could not attend, she gave the award to his wife who was there in his place.

The duke announced the winner of the night’s final award, the Henry Worsley award.

Speaking afterwards, the duke said: “Meghan and I are so happy to be back here, celebrating your achievements.”

He also announced that he is looking for ways to expand the Endeavour Fund, by having it work more closely with the Invictus Games.

Mentioning how proud he had been to serve as Captain Wales, he said: “A lot of you tonight have told me you’ve got my back - well, I’ve got yours.”

Read more: Meghan Markle wears fitted turquoise dress by Victoria Beckham at Endeavour Awards

The duchess wore her hair back in a simple ponytail. (Getty Images)
The couple sheltered under an umbrella as they arrived. (Getty Images)

In what may be some of his final comments as a senior member of the royal family, Harry praised the nominees for “discovering a new way of living” and “finding a new sense of purpose”.

After the ceremony, the couple congratulated newly-engaged Danny Holland and Lauren Price.

Mr Holland, 29, said: “With winning (the award) as well, there was no better time to do it.

“Although she always said she didn’t want it with a lot of other people around.”

They were invited to speak privately to the duke and duchess.

Price, 24, said: “They just congratulated us. They asked us how we felt and if I was expecting it. They said they were really happy for us.”

Danny Holland with his fiance Lauren Price. (Press Association)

The royal couple sent shockwaves at the beginning of the year when they announced they wanted to step back from their roles as senior royals.

Having spent Christmas in Canada, Meghan swiftly returned, with Prince Harry following soon after.

Harry has now been back in Britain for a week, holding a conference in Edinburgh for his travel project, Travelyst, and visiting a recording session in Abbey Road Studios where Jon Bon Jovi was working on a new version of one of his songs for the Invictus Games later this year.

But Meghan stayed in Vancouver Island, where they have left their son Archie while they make this visit to the UK.

Read more: Harry and Meghan will join royals at Commonwealth Day service - but Andrew won't

The Duke and Duchess of Sussex sign the book at the awards. (Press Association)
The Duke and Duchess of Sussex pose for a group picture at the Endeavour Fund Awards at Mansion House in London. (Press Association)

She and Harry were pictured leaving The Goring Hotel in Westminster separately, but it’s understood they were having lunch there and are staying in Windsor, at Frogmore Cottage.

A spokeswoman for the couple said: “In addition to the official engagements the duke and duchess are conducting over the course of the next few days, they are also meeting privately with several of their patronages.”

Buckingham Palace declined to comment as to whether the Queen, who was carrying out audiences at her London residence on Thursday, met with Harry and Meghan.

The Duchess of Sussex said she was pleased to be at the ceremony. (Press Association)
Claire Spencer, 52, (right) accepts the the Celebrating Excellence award on behalf of her husband and former Royal Marine Lee Spencer, from Meghan. (Press Association)

Meghan and other royals will also attend the Mountbatten Festival of Music on 7 March at the Royal Albert Hall.

And the duchess will mark International Women’s Day on 8 March in an as yet unconfirmed event.

Read more: Prince Harry joins rock royalty Jon Bon Jovi at Abbey Road studios

Harry has a number of other engagements, including opening the Silverstone Experience with Lewis Hamilton.

The duke and duchess left to crowds outside singing ‘Come on ‘Arry’ to the tune of Come On Eileen.

The couple also attended the awards last year, when the duchess was heavily pregnant with their son Archie.

Read more: Meghan Markle 'jumped ship' instead of fighting racism in UK, says lecturer

The Sussexes were last seen together on an official engagement on 7 January when they visited Canada House in London to thank the nation for hosting them during their festive break in the Commonwealth country.

The following day, the couple announced they wished to step back from their senior royal duties, they said they hoped to forge their own path which would allow them to honour the Queen but make their own money.

The couple at the 2019 awards ceremony. (Getty Images)
The couple looked happy to be reunited as they strode to the awards together. (Reuters)

However, it became clear that Buckingham Palace would not allow a half in half out option, and the Sussexes had to make compromises.

The couple confirmed they won’t use the word “royal” in any of their branding as they finalised the details of their transition period at the end of February.

They had been using Sussex Royal and were in the midst of a trademark application for the name but agreed not to use it once it became clear they wouldn’t be able to do so in the UK.

They said they were “eager” to share more plans when they could, and would be setting up a nonprofit organisation as opposed to a foundation.

The couple will present an award each and the duke will make a speech. (Reuters)

Read more: Harry and Meghan announce transition details as they confirm end of Sussex Royal branding

The couple will remain in the UK until at least 9 March, when they will join other royals at the Commonwealth Day service.

But it’s thought they will return to Canada afterwards. They step back from their duties officially on 31 March.

A 12 month review period has been put in place.