It's been nearly 25 years since Princess Diana died, and nearly 10 since Nelson Mandela, the first Black President of South Africa, passed on in 2013.
Yet an image of their first meeting still holds enormous meaning for Prince Harry, her youngest of two sons. The photo was taken in March 1997, just a few months before Princess Diana died in a car crash in August of that year.
Speaking at the United Nations in New York City on Monday, Prince Harry, the Duke of Sussex, shared several thoughts about the iconic picture. As he noted in his remarks, Harry keeps the image — presented to him by Archbishop Desmond Tutu — on his wall "and in my heart every day."
"When I first looked at the photo, straight away what jumped out was the joy on my mother’s face," said Harry, who spoke before the General Assembly on Nelson Mandela International Day on July 18. "The playfulness, cheekiness, even. Pure delight to be in communion with another soul so committed to serving humanity."
Princess Diana was known for her humanitarian work. During her lifetime she dedicated time and funds to organizations including homeless organizations — like Centrepoint, which her eldest son William now is patron of — and the National AIDS Trust, and called for a ban of land mines.
Continued Harry, "Then I looked at Mandela. Here was a man with the weight of the world on his shoulders, asked to heal his country from the wreckage of its past and transform it for the future. A man who had endured the very worst of humanity, vicious racism and state-sponsored brutality."
President Mandela was an activist and political dissident who sought to end South Africa's apartheid rule. Imprisoned for 27 years, Mandela campaigned for equal rights behind bars until his release in 1990. He became the post-apartheid country's first Black president, in office from 1994 to 1997.
“The time for the healing of the wounds has come. The moment to bridge the chasms that divide us has come,” Mandela said in his acceptance speech in 1994, after the country held its first multiracial parliamentary elections.
As Harry noted, Mandela was "a man who had lost 27 years with his children and family that he would never get back. Twenty-seven years. Yet, in that photo and so many others, he is still beaming. Still able to see the goodness in humanity. Still buoyant with a beautiful spirit that lifted everyone around him."
Later in his speech, Harry noted that Mandela's example should be one everyone can look to for inspiration.
"On this Nelson Mandela International Day, as a new generation comes of age, a generation that did not witness Mandela’s leadership for themselves, let’s commit to remembering and celebrating his life and legacy every day, not just once a year," he said.
"Let’s talk with our children about what he stood for. Let’s seek out what we have in common, empower all people to reclaim our democracies, and harness the light of Mandela’s memory to illuminate the way forward."