Breaking Traditions On May 19, 2018
Since birth, Prince Harry has not been one to follow royal traditions–his zest for life and humanity has led him to join the British Armed Forces, travel the world, support charities, and started up an organization with the Prince of Lesotho to support the deaf and disabled.
Knowing Prince Harry, there was never a doubt that his wedding with American actress and human rights advocate Meghan Markle was going to break traditions. Prince Harry is already the first British royal to be in an interracial marriage, to marry on a weekend instead of a weekday, and to not invite any major political leaders. So who were Prince Harry’s and Ms. Markle’s guests?
The Wedding Guests
Former President Obama and President Trump were invited along with England’s major political leaders by Prince Harry early on. However, Prince Harry and Duchess Meghan dropped this plan as they deemed it excessive and unnecessary due to Prince Harry’s sixth position in line to the Crown. His distant position means he will likely never become King in his lifetime.
Instead, they invited community leaders.
Prince Harry and Duchess Markle used their wedding as an opportunity to honor his mother, Princess Diana, and shifted the guest focus onto community leaders such as Oprah, Amal Clooney with her husband George Clooney, and local leaders.
Among the local leaders were a survivor of the Manchester terrorist attack, British Armed Forces soldiers, a previously homeless teenager turned into youth worker, and a 14-year old Deaf boy named Reuben Litherland.
Reuben Litherland, a Deaf Community Leader
Reuben Litherland has been deaf since birth; he grew up oral with sign language as a typical British youth. When his family moved to Derby, he became his own advocate and for the deaf community.
In Derby Litherland mainstreamed into school with hearing classmates; this is when he experienced a lack of deaf access in the new town. He saw opportunity and created a British Sign Language program at his school to teach his fellow students BSL. Litherland’s class turned out to be a success and more students showed up to learn BSL.
He didn’t stop there-he went on to campaign for his local movie theaters to offer deaf-friendly screenings. BBC One did a story on him, garnering him the Royals’ attention.
Litherland was ecstatic to attend the prestigious event, stating that he was “looking forward for a chance to teach Prince Harry some signs.” He brought his mother as his plus one.
“Not Forgotten:” Prince Harry’s Charity Work In Lesotho and Botswana Includes Deaf Children
Sentebale is the name of Prince Harry’s organization he started with Prince Seeiso of Lesotho, a tiny country in South Africa. Prince Harry and Prince Seeiso are long time friends and both share a passion for philanthropy.
Through their shared philanthropy, they started Sentebale in 2006. Sentebale focused on providing for the most vulnerable children in Lesotho and Botswana: the poor, sick, and disabled. The name Sentebale means “not forgotten” in Lesotho’s language.
Sentebale covers housing, education, and food for children from all backgrounds. There is a section within Sentebale for Lesotho’s deaf children where education in sign language is made accessible. With access, the children have developed greatly throughout the twelve years that Sentebale has been in operation.
Prince Harry personally visits the grounds of Sentebale’s various locations and every time, the children flock to him. Prince Harry never shies away from interacting with them and even participated in a sign language class with the children. They taught him how to sign his nickname “Ginger” along with Prince Harry’s name and basic signs.
Prince Harry’s love of philanthropy and breaking royal conventions is ushering the British Royalty into the modern era, perhaps one with an entirely new focus. After the statement shown through the guest list at the wedding, we are sure there is more to come from Prince Harry and Duchess Markle.