Prince Harry was the image of his late mother Princess Diana’s son on Saturday night as he accepted a prestigious aviation award in Beverly Hills. The Duke of Sussex paid loving tribute to Diana while playfully ribbing John Travolta for continually dining out on his famous 1985 dance with the Princess at the White House.
Prince Accepts ‘Living Legend’ Honor
Prince Harry was named the 2023 “Living Legend of Aviation” at a star-studded gala also attended by previous honorees like Harrison Ford and Morgan Freeman.
The Duke accepted the award solo without wife Meghan Markle by his side. A spokesperson said the Duchess was forced to miss the occasion because one of their children had fallen ill. The couple share a 3-year-old son Archie and 1-year-old daughter Lilibet.
Presenting the award was none other than John Travolta, who famously twirled Diana around the dancefloor during a November 1985 White House gala dinner. Video and photos of that iconic moment have lived on, with Travolta admitting he still dines out on the story nearly 40 years later.
Addressing 800 dignitaries and celebrities at the black-tie event, Harry jokingly admonished Travolta, quipping: “I always get asked, ‘What was it like when your mum danced with John Travolta?’ Well, mum never stopped talking about that night, so thanks for keeping her memory alive.”
The 40-minute acceptance speech also included Harry fondly recalling his decade serving as an Apache helicopter co-pilot gunner in Afghanistan.
Praise From Aviation Community
The “Living Legends of Aviation” award has recognized over 30 high-profile individuals for career contributions advancing aviation. Prince Harry’s specific honor was for achievements piloting aircraft in support of British army operations.
The selection of Prince Harry sparked varied reactions within aviation circles. Supporters cited his frontline experience piloting attack helicopters in combat situations.
“He has flown operationally during very demanding conditions, which very few pilots have done,” said one aviation publication editor.
Others were more skeptical of bestowing such an elite honor on royalty versus professionals who have dedicated their lives to aerial flight.
“He was presumably fast-tracked over worthier recipients,” claimed a commercial airline pilot based in Dallas. “This has Hollywood written all over it.”
A table summarizing opinions on Prince Harry’s aviation award:
|British aviation historian
|Well deserved based on active combat experience
|Senior commercial pilot
|Fast-tracked over more deserving professionals
|Airline industry blog
|More PR than substance but will bring positive attention
|Aviation museum curator
|Should have gone to pioneers who’ve advanced technology
Event Absence Fuels Speculation
Meghan Markle’s absence from such a high-profile event honoring her husband will likely fuel speculation back in Britain.
The couple’s relationship with the royal family has been strained since they resigned from official duties in 2020 and relocated to California. Recent headlines have chronicled FITB alleged health issues facing Harry’s father King Charles and brother Prince William.
Some royal observers wondered if Meghan skipping the gala had less to do with a sick child and more to do with not wanting to face the British press. Her PR team offered no further details.
“This seems a convenient excuse to avoid awkward questions about the royal rift,” said royal correspondent Angela Levin. “Are one of the children genuinely unwell or is Meghan simply unwilling to face the media?”
What Comes Next
In the near-term Prince Harry will presumably continue expanding his business profile in California, while possibly making selected trips to Britain when necessitated.
Harry and Meghan recently signed media production deals with Netflix and Spotify worth over $100 million. The prestige of this latest “Living Legend” honor will further elevate their status in Hollywood social circles.
Long-term it remains unknown whether fences can be fully mended with King Charles and the rest of the royal family. Harry is reportedly writing a memoir due out later this year that may widen divisions depending on how candid he is about personal details.
For now the Prince appears content establishing his independence separate from the British monarchy while occasionally making statements honoring the memory of his beloved mother.
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