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Prince Harry is told stories of his late mother Princess Diana as he visits hospital

Ainhoa Barcelona
Ainhoa BarcelonaContent Managing Editor
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Prince Harry has followed in the footsteps of his late mother Diana, Princess of Wales by carrying out a touching engagement on Monday morning. The royal paid a visit to Mildmay, a dedicated HIV hospital and charity in east London, that his mum was a regular visitor of.

Harry was marking the charity's 150th anniversary and the opening of the hospital's new purpose-built facilities. Not only did the Prince learn about the charity's focus, but he was also told moving stories about his late mother.

Arriving at the hospital, Harry was greeted by a chorus of well-wishers who waved Mildmay flags, and youngsters from the nearby Virginia Primary School who had drawn Harry a special welcome banner.

harry kids © Photo: PA

"Maths? Boring!" said Prince Harry when he asked the children what lessons they were missing

When the Prince, 31, asked the schoolchildren what lessons they were missing and they replied, the cheeky royal said: "Maths? Boring! Oops, I didn't say that."

At the start of the visit Harry signed the guest book in the Diana, Princess of Wales boardroom. He looked visibly moved when he was presented with a handmade Christmas card and a framed photograph of his mum Diana visiting the hospital.

The photo showed Diana kissing a patient Martin on the cheek, a powerful gesture that helped to break down the stigma that surrounded HIV at the time. Martin passed away a week after he met the Princess but under Diana's influence, he got back in touch with his parents and they visited him one final time before he died.

"She gave a lot of love and comfort to the people here. She was absolutely incredible," said Kerry Reeves-Kneip, director of fundraising.

prince harry1 © Photo: PA

The Prince was given framed photographs of his late mother Princess Diana, who used to visit Mildmay hospital

The People's Princess made around 17 visits to Mildmay, 14 of which were made in secret. "She used to sneak in and out unknown. Nowadays, Twitter, no chance," said Kerry.

She also told Harry that during one of his mum's visits, "there was a phone call from the school saying one of you had climbed onto the roof".

"That was probably me," said Harry. When he was told his mother had "found it amusing", he said: "Phew, that was lucky."

prince harry2 © Photo: PA

Harry said that, like his mum, he would like to "sneak in and out unknown" but couldn't with social media nowadays

Harry spent time touring the hospital, which is now Europe's only centre dedicated to treatment, rehabilitation and medical care for people with complex HIV-related health conditions. The Prince met some of the most seriously ill patients and held hands and chatted to them.

Their exchanges were not photographed as some of the patients are too ill to be able to give their consent. Many have not told their families they are HIV positive because of the stigma that still remains.

"One of the people he met is a 26-year-old woman who met Princess Diana at Great Ormond Street Hospital when she was two years old and HIV positive," said Kerry. "She told the Prince she sat on his mother's lap and remembered how it was and how she cuddled into her and he said 'I remember that too'."

The culmination of the visit came in the form of the cutting of the cake, when Harry was given the honour of digging into the charity's birthday cake. Looking a little unsure how to tackle it, the Prince joked: "I don't cut cakes much. We normally plant trees. This is something new."

prince harry3 © Photo: PA

"I don't cut cakes much. We normally plant trees," joked Harry

The late Princess Diana would visit Mildmay in private and often spend time with patients who were nearing the end of their life. Several had been abandoned by their families and the royal's care and compassion offered them great comfort.

"She was gorgeous and so charming," said Sharon Smith, the hospital's 60-year-old office manager.

"She used to get involved with the children we treated to the extent that she tried to learn to juggle. I never thought I would meet her son but it's been very nice and I just hope he might continue the work that she started."

princess diana © Photo: PA

"She was gorgeous and so charming," said Sharon Smith, the hospital's office manager

It seems Harry is keen to champion his mother's cause as he has continued to show support for HIV victims.

The Prince has just come back from a trip to Lesotho and South Africa where he promoted the work of his charity Sentebale, which works with those affected by HIV. Many of the children supported by the charity – which means Forget Me Not in Sesotho – have lost their parents.

Harry is also keen to help tackle the stigma in a wider context outside of Lesotho. Overall, the number of people living with HIV in the UK continues to increase, and the number of those living with undiagnosed HIV remains high.

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