The Duke of Sussex dressed up as Spider-Man in a surprise video message to try and comfort bereaved military children.
He donned the superhero outfit and only lifted his mask to reveal his true identity at the end of a specially recorded message for youngsters at Scotty’s Little Soldiers, a charity for bereaved British forces children and young people.
Harry, who was 12 when his mother Diana, Princess of Wales died in 1997, told the youngsters: “Christmas is a time when we miss our loved ones really, really badly and that’s OK.
“But at the same time, it can be possible to feel guilty for having fun without our parents. But I am here to assure you that our parents always want us to have fun, OK? So don’t feel guilty.
“You are allowed to have the best time ever, especially with this Scotty’s Little Soldiers community.
“Go out there, have the best time, and Merry Christmas.”
The video comes a day after a trip to America by the Prince and Princess of Wales was overshadowed by a race row which saw William’s godmother Lady Susan Hussey quit her job.
She resigned as a royal aide after repeatedly questioning a black British-born domestic abuse charity boss about where she “really came from”.
A trailer promoting the Duke and Duchess of Sussex’s Netflix docuseries was released on Thursday, with the timing interpreted by some royal commentators as a snub to William and Kate.
Harry’s video message was played to members of Scotty’s Little Soldiers at their annual Christmas party, where the theme was heroes and villains.
The children were told villains were trying to ruin Christmas by stealing and locking away Santa’s presents.
They were then tasked with saving the big day by completing challenges to defeat the baddies and free the gifts.
After watching Harry’s video, Jamie Small, 14, who was eight when his father, Corporal Christopher Small, died in 2016, said: “This isn’t just a person from a small village. He’s someone people all over the world know and he has taken the time to record a special message for us, which means a lot.”
Emily Reynolds, 12, was seven when her father, Sergeant Antony Reynolds, died in 2018.
She said: “It’s cool that someone who’s been through the same experience as us is thinking about us. He’s not just someone who’s trying to be sympathetic, he actually knows what it’s like to grow up without your parent. My friends think it’s really cool that I get letters and messages from Prince Harry.”
Ben O’Donnell, 14, who was nine weeks old when his father, Warrant Officer Class 2 Gary O’Donnell, died in 2008, added: “It’s not the first time Prince Harry has shown us that he’s thinking about us and it’s good to hear from him again this Christmas. He’s gone to a lot of effort, which shows he genuinely cares. It’s great he wore the Spider-Man outfit. Maybe he’ll be the next Spider-Man!”
One of the organisers said Scotty’s members can relate to a lot of fictional superheroes – with Spider-Man, Batman and Superman all bereaved.
They said the youngsters all have hero parents and they believe the children are heroes too. The youngsters were given capes to decorate and wear at the party.
In 2019, Harry dressed up as Santa to deliver a video message to the charity’s children.
The charity was set up by war widow Nikki Scott in 2010 after the death of her husband, Corporal Lee Scott, in Afghanistan the year before. She saw the impact on their two young children and wanted to help others in the same situation.
Scotty’s, which aims to support children so they do not feel alone, was picked to benefit from donations marking Harry and Meghan’s wedding in 2018.
It offers access to child bereavement support, guidance for parents and carers and personal education and learning assistance.
And it gives gifts at tough times of the year, such as birthdays, Christmas and the anniversary of the parent’s death – as well as putting on activities and hosting group events.
Ms Scott said: “We love the fact that Prince Harry not only recorded such a special message but also dressed up as Spider-Man.”
She added: “It’s incredible for everyone at Scotty’s to have Prince Harry’s continued support. He knows what it’s like to grow up without a parent and understands there are certain times of the year that can be particularly challenging. Christmas is one of those times.
“We have the party to remind our members they aren’t alone but also to facilitate the opportunity for members to meet others and forge friendships. In addition, it provides an opportunity for parents/carers to gain access to resources and information to help them support their children.”