Britain's Prince Harry and Duchess of Sussex are given bracelets by Lyla-Rose O'Donovan and her father Paul, during the annual WellChild Awards in London. Picture: AP

London - Prince Harry was overcome with emotion on Tuesday night as he paid tribute to "inspirational" children who live with serious illness.

Speaking at the WellChild awards, the prince, who is a patron of the charity, broke down in tears mid-speech, his voice cracking, and was comforted by co-host Gaby Roslin.

Harry, who was later joined on stage by his wife Meghan, told the event in central London: "Last year when my wife and I attended we knew we were expecting our first child – no one else did at the time, but we did – and I remember squeezing Meghan’s hand so tight during the awards, both of us thinking what it would be like to be parents one day, and more so, what it would be like to do everything we could to protect and help our child should they be born with immediate challenges or become unwell over time.

"And now, as parents, being here and speaking to all of you pulls at my heartstrings in a way I could have never understood until I had a child of my own."

Meghan revealed that son Archie has inherited his father’s red hair and that the five-month-old has attended his first playgroup.

She told award winner Milly Sutherland, 11: "I just took Archie for his first class. It was a lot of fun. He loved it."

Milly’s mother Angela, 50, said they asked whether Archie had red hair.

"Meghan said he has and Harry said, 'He definitely is, you can see it in his eyebrows'," she said.

"Harry said he’d had no hair for five months, but Meghan told him she had taken him to the playgroup and she said there were other children there with the same amount of hair or even less."

Milly, who also has red hair, told Harry they matched, to which he giggled and asked: "Can I borrow some?" She received the Most Caring Child award for having cared for and protected her sister Sophie, who had the genetic condition Aicardi syndrome and died in 2018.

"It’s amazing," said Milly’s mother after meeting the duke and duchess. "It’s quite emotional because we lost my daughter last year.

"Milly has spent most of her life massively missing out and it’s all about her now." Harry and Meghan also met Lyla-Rose O’Donovan, six, who won an Inspirational Child award, and her father Paul, 34.

Lyla-Rose, from Durham, had started making bravery bracelets for other children coping with illnesses after she was diagnosed with a life-threatening brain tumour. On hearing that Lyla-Rose is the fifth of six children, Harry gasped, saying: "Six? Oh my gosh! We are new parents, we had our son five months ago."

Daily Mail