What's better than a tea party in the White House with First Lady Michelle Obama? A tea party in the White House with First Lady Michelle Obama and real-life royalty! On Thursday, May 9, nearly 170 mothers, grandmothers, and children gathered for an afternoon tea in the East Room at the White House, where they were treated to a special surprise visit from England's Prince Harry, who had arrived in Washington, D.C., earlier that day for his weeklong tour of the U.S.
Harry, 28 -- clad in a dark-blue suit and red tie -- "grinned shyly" as Mrs. Obama introduced him to the group, an onlooker tells Us Weekly. The guests (who came from military families) seemed delighted, cheering him on as the First Lady praised him for his recent tour of Afghanistan and explained the purpose of his visit.
The prince "spends much of his time supporting our Wounded Warriors and families of our fallen," she told the crowd, who sipped chamomile tea made from herbs grown in the White House garden. (Also on the menu: cookies, mini cupcakes, chocolate bonbons, chicken salad, and pumpernickel toast topped with smoked salmon.) "And this weekend he will be attending the fourth annual Warrior Games. He's only got a limited amount of time with us, but when he heard about the tea party and all of you, he wanted to be part of it to personally thank you for your service."
Prior to the tea party, Harry spent a bit of time with a group of young children who were making gifts for their moms in the State Dining Room. An eyewitness tells Us he showed "a great touch " with the kids, making funny faces and kneeling down to play with them.
The White House was Harry's second stop of the day. Earlier, he met with Senator John McCain to tour an exhibit about land mine safety, which was a cause dear to his late mother, Princess Diana. And later in the evening, he was the guest of honor at a reception at the British Ambassador's residence, where he mingled with a number of politicians and military veterans.
Addressing the crowd at the reception, he spoke eloquently about his support of the HALO Trust charity and the personal significance of his visit. "My mother, who believed passionately in this cause, would be proud of my association with HALO," he said of the late Princess Diana, who died in August 1997. "In her special way, she adopted it as her own. She would join me -- along with all of you, I'm sure -- in praising HALO for the amazing work that it has done over the past quarter century, and in hoping that one day soon its humanitarian work will be done. You can't say that about many charities, so what a privilege it is for all of us to be a part of this."
The prince's itinerary also includes stops at Arlington National Cemetery and Walter Reed Military Medical Center to honor soldiers killed and injured in Iraq and Afghanistan. Later in the week, he'll travel to Colorado Springs, Colo., where he'll attend the 2013 Warrior Games, and to New Jersey and New York, where he'll see towns ravaged by Superstorm Sandy and also promote British tourism. Then, before returning to the U.K., he'll participate in a polo tournament in Greenwich, Conn.
A spokesman for Prince Harry told Us that he is "fired up" for the rest of the U.S. tour. "He's very much been looking forward to this visit," the rep said.