Prince Harry is following in the footsteps of his late mother, Princess Diana. The 31-year-old royal stopped by Mildmay Mission Hospital, a charitable HIV hospital that was frequented by his mom, on Monday morning.
The young royal was on hand to mark the charity's 150th anniversary and the opening of the East London hospital's new purpose-built facilities. While on site, Harry was told moving stories about his mother's work with the organization from workers and patients who had met her.
Upon his arrival, Harry was greeted by a chorus of well-wishers waving Mildmay flags and youngsters from the nearby Virginia Primary School, who drew the prince a special welcome banner.
"Boring!" laughed Prince Harry when kids at the event said they were missing math class to be there Photo: Getty Images
When Harry asked the schoolchildren what class they were missing and when they replied, "Math", the royal laughed, "Math? Boring! Oops, I didn't say that."
At the beginning 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 mother visiting the hospital.
The photo showed Diana kissing a patient named Martin on the cheek, which was a powerful gesture that helped to break down the stigma that surrounded HIV at the time. Martin passed away a week after meeting the Princess, but thanks to 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," Kerry Reeves-Kneip, director of fundraising, said.
The Prince was given framed photographs of his late mother Princess Diana, who used to visit Mildmay hospital Photo: Getty Images
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, [with] Twitter, no chance," Kerry said.
She also told Harry that during one of his mom's visits, "there was a phone call from the school saying one of you had climbed onto the roof."
"That was probably me," Harry said. When he was told that his mother had "found it amusing," he said, "Phew, that was lucky."
Harry said that, like his mom, he would like to "sneak in and out unknown" but couldn't with social media nowadays Photo: Getty Images
Harry spent time touring the hospital, which is now Europe's only center dedicated to treatment, rehabilitation and medical care for people with complex HIV-related health conditions. The prince met with some of the hospital's most seriously ill patients and held hands and chatted with them. The exchanges were not photographed because some of the patients are too ill to be able to give their consent. Many of them have not even 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," Kerry said. "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 touching visit culminated with the cutting of the charity's birthday cake. Harry was given the honor of digging into the cake. Looking a little bit unsure of how to tackle it, the Prince joked, "I don't cut cakes much. We normally plant trees. This is something new."
"I don't cut cakes much. We normally plant trees," Harry joked Photo: Getty Images
The late Princess Diana would visit Mildmay in private and often spent time with patients who were nearing the end of their life. Several of the individuals she would meet had been abandoned by their families and the royal's care and compassion offered them great comfort.
"She was gorgeous and so charming," Sharon Smith, the hospital's 60-year-old office manager, said. "[Diana] 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."
Diana wanted to break down the stigma which surrounded HIV Photo: Getty Images
It appears that Harry is keen to champion his mother's cause as he has continued to show support for HIV victims. The young royal just returned from a trip to Lesotho and South Africa where he promoted the work of his charity Sentebale, which also works with individuals who are affected by HIV. Sentebale, which in Sesotho means "Forget me not," supports many children who have lost their parents.