Amidst the very public tour of New Zealand that Prince Harry is currently undertaking there was a very private moment for the royal as he reached Christchurch. During a walkabout in the city, he came face to face with one of his former boarding school matrons who said he hadn’t changed a bit.
Vicky McBratney worked as an assistant matron at Ludgrove School in Berkshire, which Harry attended between 1992 and 1998. She began work there in September 1997, just days after the death of Harry’s mother Diana, Princess of Wales. She later told reporters that she always made sure the prince knew she was there for him as she had lost her mum the year before.
Mrs McBratney now works as a pre-school teacher in Christchurch and waited for two hours to be able to say hello to Prince Harry. But it was worth the wait, she said. Harry immediately recognized her, gave her a kiss on the cheek and chatted happily.
‘He’s just a lovely man,’ she said after their reunion and she explained how she had given Harry some photos that she had from his time at the school which he said were ‘awesome’ before adding ‘I love that.’ She said she was just pleased that the prince, who she last saw when he was 12 years old, remembered her.
The meeting came about half way through Harry’s day in Christchurch which had begun with him taking a tram ride through the city with New Zealand Prime Minister, John Key, to witness some of the areas worst affected by the earthquake that struck in 2011, killing 185 people. Prince Harry and his host then visited the Quake City Exhibition and met some of those affected by the disaster.
After his walkabout, Prince Harry went on to the University of Christchurch where he met members of the Student Volunteer Army which was set up in the aftermath of the earthquake and which now carries out community work around Christchurch. The prince heard about the SVA’s idea for a national service day that would encourage people all over New Zealand to spend twenty-four hours giving something back to their local communities.
Harry was apparently impressed telling those he met that the SVA should be replicated ‘across the world’. He commented that people now were more connected on a global level than locally because of the rise of social media – just hours after he sent his first ever personal tweet. He put a message on the Kensington Royal account signed ‘H’ despite saying in the past that he hated social media because of its intrusion.
Harry had a chance to see some of the activities the SVA gets involved with including repairing old bicycles and planting vegetable gardens. And then there was time for another walkabout in the rainy weather that had hit Christchurch that day. This time, Harry won himself more fans by handing out cupcakes baked by some of the students he had just met.
It was an action packed day which seemed to have made a big impression on Prince Harry who, thousands of miles from home, came face to face with his past and seemed to relish every moment of it.
Photo credit: Rhiannon Mills @SkyRhiannon