Prince Harry and Meghan Markle Channel Princess Diana at Nelson Mandela Exhibit

Late Princess of Wales' legacy lives on in her younger son and his new wife

By Samantha Schnurr Jul 17, 2018 1:16 PMTags

Princess Diana's legacy lives on in her son and his new wife. 

Back in England after their first royal tour of Ireland together, Prince Harry and Duchess of Sussex Meghan Markle kicked off their latest public engagement on Tuesday at the Nelson Mandela Centenary Exhibition set up at the Queen Elizabeth Hall in the Southbank Center. It was a special visit as the couple had the opportunity to meet several prominent figures connected to the late South African president, including his granddaughter Zamaswazi Dlamini-Mandela

"Today's event is hugely significant—not only because we are here to celebrate the life of a great man in history, but also because we are able to educate the next generation, that we must never repeat the mistakes of the past," she said. "The visit of their royal highnesses Harry and Meghan is a great honor. Their support for justice and fairness in the world makes them a shining example for the youth of today and tomorrow."

22 years earlier, Harry's beloved mother met with Zamaswazi's famed grandfather in South Africa just five months before her death. Whether unintentional or otherwise, Markle even seemed to channel the former Princess of Wales sartorially, donning a sleeveless double-breasted blush trench dress by Canadian label, NONIE—a modern version of the button-down dress Diana opted for all those years ago. It appears both women had buttons in mind for the occasions.   

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle's Visit to Ireland
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AP Photo/Sasa Kral

This isn't the first time Prince Harry has crossed paths with members of Mandela's family. In 2015 during his own trip to South Africa, the royal met with his widow Graca Machel and visited his Johannesburg office, where a photo of Mandela's meeting with Diana was on display. 

"She will be sadly missed as a warm, compassionate and caring person," Mandela said at the time of her death. "I vividly recall our meeting when she visited South Africa last year and her burning desire to assist HIV positive children in Africa. Princess Diana had indeed become an Ambassador for victims of landmines, war orphans, the sick and needy throughout the world."

The couple also met 92-year-old Andrew Mlangeni, a close friend of Mandela's who was sentenced to life in prison on Robben Island at the Rivonia Trial. After being released 27 years later, he served as a member of parliament for the African National Congress. 

"When I shook their hands, I said for the whole month I'm not going to wash my hand," Mlangeni joked to the press. "I never thought I would meet royalty."

Similarly, the royals mingled with Paul and Adelaide Joseph, anti-Apartheid activists and close friends of Mandela and Winnie Mandela.  

Arthur Edwards/The Sun/PA Wire

Inside the exhibit, the couple was entertained by a performance from the Ubunye Choir, which consists of people from the South African diaspora. 

Harry and Meghan also got the chance to look at some artifacts, including a Robben Island Bible, which was actually a disguised copy of Shakespeare plays—a sight that brought a smile to the former actress' face.

Lord Peter Hain, chair of the Nelson Mandela Centenary Exhibition,  also said they had invited the royal couple as Mandela was one of Meghan's heroes and Harry has been connected to South Africa for years through his charity, Sentebale. 

"They were absolutely thrilled to be here and they said so, they used that term," Hain said. "They were so engaged, I think both know a lot about the history of Nelson Mandela, but when you come to something like this you understand what he went through."