Prince Harry made a surprise visit to congratulate WellChild award winners at a special ceremony at Kew Gardens.

The Duke of Sussex, who welcomed his second child, daughter Lili, at the start of the month, told how “as a father of two, I feel all the more connected, inspired and in awe of the resilience of these families”.

The duke, who is back in the UK for the first time since the Duke of Edinburgh’s funeral, visited on Wednesday (June 30) to meet the seriously ill children and young people at the private garden party and afternoon tea.

He was joined at the award ceremony by celebrities including Ed Sheeran, Ronnie Wood, Amanda Holden, AJ Pritchard and Abbie Quinnen, as well as singer Anne-Marie who performed an acoustic set.

The duke chatted about fatherhood with Sheeran, whose daughter Lyra was born last year, Hello! magazine revealed.

Sheeran said: “Congratulations, a girl right? We just had a little girl 10 months ago now. You’re still in the trenches now. How do you manage with two?”

“Two is definitely a juggle,” Harry said.

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Speaking to another guest, Hello! revealed Harry said of Lili: “We’ve been lucky so far, she’s very chilled and seems happy to just sit there while Archie is running around like crazy.”

Asked about the statue unveiling, Harry said he “was just so glad” it could take place on Diana’s birthday, saying he had not been sure they would be able to.

The duke, dressed casually in a light blue jumper and dark trousers, met each winner in turn to present them with their awards, and spoke to them about how the last 18 months has been for them and their families during the pandemic.

Dozens of people attended the secluded event and a marquee was erected in the gardens next to Kew Palace where balloons of the charity‘s colours, purple and orange, decorated the tent

Large outdoor versions of famous board games were available for the children to play with, including Connect 4 and Lego.

Harry was seen chatting animatedly to guests and appearing relaxed.

In a statement released by WellChild, Harry said: “Since becoming patron of WellChild in 2007, this organisation and the people within it have held an extraordinarily special place in my heart.

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“I wasn’t a father at the time, and yet the stories of these children and parents transcended that.

“I didn’t need to be a dad to feel the impact of this invaluable work.

“Now as a father of two, I feel all the more connected, inspired and in awe of the resilience of these families, who power through indescribable challenges with the support of WellChild.”

He added: “The health of our children, of all of us, could not have been more on the forefront of our minds during the past year.

“And, throughout this time, the WellChild community has set an example for how to show up and act with compassion for each other.

“I could not be prouder to be here, to meet this year’s WellChild Award winners, to thank the nurses and doctors for all they do, and to celebrate these amazing families.”

Harry returned from California alone for his trip to the UK and had been isolating at Frogmore Cottage in Windsor.

The area remained blocked off from the public throughout the day, with security guarding different entrances and exits into the space.

Among the winners was Carmela Chillery-Watson, who won the Inspirational Child 7-11 award.

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Carmela, seven, has congenital muscular dystrophy, which weakens skeletal and respiratory muscles and causes heart defects.

During lockdown, she completed a series of challenges including a 2.6-mile marathon challenge in the garden, a London virtual WalkWithCarmela and a 30-day WonderWomanWalk, completing 300km with her mother, and raising more than £50,000 for Muscular Dystrophy UK.

Her mother Lucy said: “Carmela never complained once about her pains and discomforts. Just seeing the fundraising money increase was enough for her.”

WellChild is a cause that has long been important to the duke.

He retained his private patronage of the organisation despite his move to the US.

WellChild supports seriously ill children and young people in the UK to ensure they have the best chance to thrive – properly supported at home with their families.