Prince Harry was invited to make a speech at the United Nations in New York on Monday, to mark Nelson Mandela Day.
A quick Twitter search of the royal’s name will show you that not everyone thought he was the best choice to deliver that particular keynote speech—and that lack of trust in him may have affected his own confidence during the address.
Body language expert Darren Stanton analyzed the Duke of Sussex’ behavior at the UN, which he says was far less self-assured than we’re used to.
“Harry appeared nervous from the outset. While he’s not really an accomplished public speaker, he still has a great deal of confidence to address a large number of people; however, this didn’t seem to be one of those occasions,” Stanton tells Marie Claire on behalf of Slingo (opens in new tab).
“Harry portrayed distress signals that denoted his uneasiness on stage and how he was feeling slightly overwhelmed by the situation.
“As he spoke Harry kept biting his lip, a self-reassurance gesture we make when we’re feeling anxious, and he was fidgeting with the button on his suit jacket.
“At certain points, we saw Harry display a bilateral arm shrug—an unconscious movement where your left arm moves in and out—which tends to reflect when someone is feeling uncomfortable and wanting a certain situation to be over as quickly as possible.”
While paying tribute to the late anti-apartheid activist, the duke notably mentioned (opens in new tab) the time his late mother, Princess Diana, met Mandela in Cape Town in 1997—and speaking about her is where he really came into his own, according to Stanton.
“We saw Harry ease when he was speaking about his mother, Princess Diana, in his speech,” the expert continues.
“Despite Diana’s passing being many years ago, it, understandably, still affects Harry greatly to this day and we saw a huge emotional shift in him.
“He became less fidgety as he spoke; we saw his affection for Diana leak through as he smiled sincerely when he spoke about her and remembered her ‘playfulness’ and ‘cheekiness.'”
Although Prince Harry wasn’t at his most comfortable during this particular appearance, Stanton also observes that he finds reassurance from his wife’s presence, which is really sweet.
“Harry arrived to the United Nations with wife Meghan and as he entered the building, again we saw these self-reassurance gestures. As well as holding Meghan’s hand, he was seen adjusting his jacket or tucking his hand into his side behind his jacket. There’s no denying that Harry isn’t hugely comfortable being in the spotlight and in these situations he leans on Meghan as his rock,” Stanton explains.
“She, meanwhile, is used to being in the public eye and oozes confidence as she greets others and acts as a support for Harry. While Meghan can be seen smiling widely and laughing, Harry is much more reserved and displayed non-verbal gestures of feeling awkward and uncomfortable. In situations like this, he often looks to Meghan and her confidence to boost his own.”