Prince Harry, the Duke of Sussex, has dressed up as Spider-Man in a surprise video message to try to comfort grieving military children.
He donned the superhero outfit, lifting only 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 children and young people in the British Armed Forces.
Harry, who was 12 when his mother Diana, Princess of Wales, died in 1997, told the youngsters: “Christmas is a time when we really, really miss our loved ones and that’s okay.
“But at the same time, having fun without our parents can make you feel guilty. But I’m here to assure you that our parents always want us to have fun, okay? So don’t feel guilty.
“You are allowed to have the best time ever, especially with this community of Scotty’s Little Soldiers.
“Get 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 marred by a dispute that saw William’s godmother Lady Susan Hussey quit her job.
She resigned as royal assistant after repeatedly questioning a black British-born boss of a domestic violence charity about where she “really came from”.
A trailer promoting the Duke and Duchess of Sussex’s Netflix documentaries 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 the members of Scotty’s Little Soldiers at their annual Heroes and Villains Christmas party.
The children were told that bad guys were trying to ruin Christmas by stealing Santa’s presents and locking them away.
They were then tasked with saving the big day by completing challenges to defeat the villains and free the presents.
After seeing 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 that people all over the world know and he took the time to record a special message for us, which means a lot to us.”
Emily Reynolds, 12, was seven when her father, Sergeant Antony Reynolds, died in 2018.
She said: “It’s cool that someone who’s had the same experience as us is thinking of us. Not only is he someone trying to be compassionate, he actually knows what it’s like growing up without his parents. 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 cares about us thinks and that it’s good to hear from him again this Christmas.
“He’s put in a lot of effort, which shows he really cares. It’s great that he wore the Spider-Man outfit. Maybe he’ll be the next Spider-Man!”
One of the organizers said Scotty’s members could identify with many fictional superheroes – with Spider-Man, Batman and Superman all grieving.
They said the kids all have hero parents and they believe the kids are heroes too. The youngsters received 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 founded in 2010 by war widow Nikki Scott after her husband, Corporal Lee Scott, died in Afghanistan the year before. She saw the impact on her two young children and wanted to help others in the same situation.
Scotty’s, which aims to support children so they don’t feel alone, was chosen to benefit from donations made to mark Harry and Meghan’s wedding in 2018.
It provides access to support for children’s grief management, counseling for parents and carers, and personal education and learning support.
And there are gifts at difficult times of the year, like birthdays, Christmas and anniversaries of parents – and organizes activities and hosts 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 parents and understands that 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 that they are not alone, but also to give members the opportunity to meet others and make friends. In addition, it offers parents/carers the opportunity to access resources and information to help them support their children.”
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