The Duchess of Sussex presented an inspirational little girl with a white rose – as she and her husband honoured the achievements of youngsters battling serious conditions to lead normal lives.
Matilda Booth made the first presentation, giving Meghan a bouquet of white blooms, and in return the duchess picked a rose from the bunch for the seven-year-old, who has spina bifida and is paralysed from the chest down.
The duke and duchess chatted to the youngster when they attended the WellChild Awards – a glittering ceremony recognising the achievements of children and teenagers with serious health conditions and medical staff who care for and treat others with similar illnesses.
Sharon Booth, 47, who lives with her daughter Matilda in Sowerby Bridge, West Yorkshire, said after the royal encounter: “Matilda chose the flowers, she was shell-shocked to be given the rose, she said she’s going to put it in her memory box.”
Not to be left out, Harry made a “pinky pledge” with the seven-year-old during a reception before the awards ceremony began, hooking his little finger around the girl’s matching digit.
Mrs Booth said the royal urged her daughter, who wants to be a nurse, to “never stop smiling as you’ve got a beautiful smile”.
When Matilda brought out her soft-toy pug, she told the duke and duchess, who wore a trouser suit by Altuzarra and a Deitas blouse, it was named after talent show mogul Simon Cowell.
Mrs Booth, whose daughter recently turned seven and won the inspirational child award in the four to six-year-old category, said: “Harry said, ‘I can see the resemblance’.”
Meghan’s first appearance at the event saw her interacting with all the winners, sharing jokes, a hug and receiving gifts along with her husband.
Melissa Granger, 15, from St Helens, who has Angelman syndrome which leaves her needing 24-hour care, hugged the royal couple as her brother Jacob, 18, watched.
He was given the most caring young person award for helping to look after his sister.
Mckenzie Brackley, from Fife, has also been hailed as inspirational.
The four-year-old, who had to learn to speak, swallow, eat and drink and move again due to acute flaccid paralysis, was praised for being there for other children when they are scared or sad.
“Despite his own problems, Mckenzie cheers up everyone when they are low, and is guaranteed to put a smile on your face”, WellChild said.
Harry has been patron of WellChild – the national charity for seriously ill children and their families – since 2007 and regularly attends the annual awards ceremony.
Simon Cowell had recorded a video message for Matilda, who her mother described as obsessed by the TV mogul and his number one fan.
In the short clip, played during the awards ceremony, Cowell told the wheelchair-bound youngster that winning the inspirational child award meant “you are probably one of the best people now in the world – in fact you are.
“You deserve it, you are an amazing person – I’m your number one fan remember that, so congratulations.”
Matilda’s award was presented by Harry, who acknowledged the presence of his wife during a speech at the ceremony.
He said: “For the past 40 years, WellChild has been identifying issues and finding long-lasting solutions so that families can care for and support their children at home in the very best possible way.
“I have been a patron of the organisation for 11 years now and this year I am especially grateful to be able to share the scope and magnitude of this work with my wife, who joins me here this evening.”
Harry also praised the indomitable spirit of the young people living their lives despite debilitating illnesses: “I want to acknowledge the young people who have been dealt the toughest cards imaginable – but who persevere, rise above, and set the example of living life to the fullest.
“In fact you are often the ones who lift us up – your ‘can-do’ attitude and unwavering spirit serves as a constant reminder that we must always look to the positive and never give up.”