Prince Harry makes surprise UK appearance to honor his 'heroes'

Prince Harry presented a very special award to his 'heroes' at an event in London last night

LONDON, ENGLAND - JULY 14: Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex attend "The Lion King" European Premiere at Leicester Square on July 14, 2019 in London, England. (Photo by Samir Hussein/WireImage)
(Image credit: Samir Hussein/WireImage/Getty)

Prince Harry has made a special appearance in London to honor his 'heroes' in a moving message on vaccine equity. 


Prince Harry delivered an emotive speech at the 24th British GQ Men of the Year Awards in London last night (1 September) for his first UK appearance since Princess Diana's statue unveiling in July.  

The Duke of Sussex joined the prestigious event at the Tate Modern from California via video calling to present the evening's biggest accolade, GQ's Heroes of the Year Award, to the incredible team behind the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine. Dressed in a traditional tuxedo, Prince Harry started by thanking Professor Gilbert and Doctor Green, two of the project's lead scientists, for their monumental contribution to tackling coronavirus. 

"Our heroes of this evening are Professor Sarah Gilbert, Doctor Catherine Green, and the entire team of dedicated Oxford scientists. Their breakthrough research on the Oxford Vaccine has brought the world one of our greatest tools for achieving vaccine equity," he said. 

The Duke, who has passionately campaigned for the fair distribution of vaccines over the past several months, went on to highlight the urgency of this issue. 

LONDON, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 01: Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex appears via video link at the 24th GQ Men of the Year Awards in association with BOSS at Tate Modern on September 1, 2021 in London, England. (Photo by David M. Benett/Dave Benett/Getty Images for Hugo Boss UK)

(Image credit: David M. Benett/Dave Benett/Getty Images for Hugo Boss UK)

"Until every community can access the vaccine, and until every community is connected to trustworthy information about the vaccine, then we are all at risk," he said. 

Meghan Markle unfortunately wasn't to be seen on the call, but she did get a shout-out on-screen from her adoring husband. Harry referenced the Duchess of Sussex about halfway through the speech in a line that revealed just how often the royal couple has engaged with the issue of vaccine equity. 

"That’s a common refrain [that we are all at risk] my wife and I have heard in convenings with vaccine experts, heads of industry, community advocates, and global leaders," he added. This stark message was so powerful to the couple that Prince Harry and Meghan Markle made a special request on Archewell’s website for Archie’s birthday in May for fans to send donations of $5 to an international COVID-19 vaccine fund. With over 98% of people in developing countries still waiting to be fully jabbed, vaccine inequity remains a major humanitarian issue for world leaders. 

"We cannot move forward together unless we address this imbalance as one," he said. 

Harry also addressed the dangers of 'mass scale misinformation', which he attributed to the rise of 'vaccine hesitancy' and the division of communities. 

"This is a system we need to break if we are to overcome COVID-19 and the rise of new variants," he said. 

The powerful speech was met by a standing ovation for Professor Gilbert and Professor Green, who went on to praise Prince Harry for his speech during a follow-up interview. The scientists were notably excited by the Duke's appearance, having not been told in advance who would present the award. 

LONDON, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 01: Dame Sarah Gilbert (L), Dr Catherine Green (3L) and guests attend the 24th GQ Men of the Year Awards in association with BOSS at Tate Modern on September 1, 2021 in London, England. (Photo by David M. Benett/Dave Benett/Getty Images for Hugo Boss UK)

Dame Sarah Gilbert (L), Dr Catherine Green (3L) and guests attend the 24th GQ Men of the Year Awards in association with BOSS at Tate Modern on September 1, 2021 in London, England. 

(Image credit: David M. Benett/Dave Benett/Getty Images for Hugo Boss UK)

"We didn't know that was going to happen, so suddenly Prince Harry's on stage!" Professor Green said. "He said all of the things we wanted to say. The necessity to get vaccines to the world." 

"We're not going to be safe until everyone is safe," Professor Gilbert added. 

This isn't the first time the developers of the AstraZeneca vaccine have been honored. Its most prominent figurehead, Professor Gilbert, has received much of the praise, with many recognizing her as the mastermind behind the lifesaving jab. Just last month, a Barbie doll of Sarah Gilbert was created to celebrate girls and women in scientific careers. She was also awarded the Royal Society for Arts, Manufactures, and Commerce' (RSA) Albert Medal for her work on the Oxford vaccine in March 2021, just a few months before finding herself at the center of a surprise standing ovation at Wimbledon in June 2021.

Emma Dooney
Emma Dooney

Emma is a news writer for woman&home and My Imperfect Life. She covers the Royal Family and the entertainment world, as well as the occasional health or lifestyle story. When she's not reporting on the British monarchy and A-list celebs, you can find her whipping up vegan treats and running the roads to cheesy '90s pop music...but not at the same time, obviously.