London: Britain's Prince Harry on Thursday hosted a special sports event at Buckingham Palace here, his first official engagement since he and wife Meghan Markle announced their bombshell decision to split from the UK royal household and "step back" as its senior members.
The 35-year-old Duke of Sussex met with young rugby players in the palace gardens as part of the draw of Rugby League World Cup 2021, which he is hosting, involving representatives of the participating nations.
"Not only do I continue to see sport actually changing lives, but it's saving lives as well. Whether it's rugby league or sport in general... it needs to be in everybody's life," Harry said at the event, where he was joined by ex-England player Jason Robinson.
His hosting of the Rugby League World Cup draws for the men's, women's and wheelchair tournaments, forms part of his role as Patron of the Rugby Football League.
The tournament runs from October 23 to November 27, 2021, in 17 cities across England, with 16 men's, eight women's and eight wheelchair teams taking part.
Harry, who is sixth in line to the throne, just laughed away a question shouted out by a reporter on how talks on his future were going.
The engagement comes days after the so-called Sandringham Summit with Queen Elizabeth II on Monday after which the 93-year-old monarch, his grandmother, agreed to offer Harry and Markle a transition period to split their time between the UK and Canada. The finer details of their new financially-independent roles as members of the royal family remain to be worked out.
Harry was expected to join Markle and their baby Archie in Canada by the end of this week but palace aides have indicated that he has some meetings early next week, which means he has delayed his plans to fly out to Canada. The meetings are likely to center around thrashing out a blueprint for the couple's future as part-time royals.
Meanwhile, Markle visited a charity in Vancouver which campaigns for teenage girls living in poverty, marking her second charity appearance while in Canada since she left the UK last week. 'Justice for Girls' group said the Duchess of Sussex visited to "discuss climate justice for girls and the rights of indigenous peoples".
It came as a legal document was submitted to the High Court in London earlier this week by the 'Mail on Sunday' newspaper, laying out its response to Markle's legal action over its publication of extracts from a private letter she wrote to her father Thomas Markle.