The royal mom-to-be stunned in a bespoke outfit by Clare Waight Keller for Givenchy, her wedding dress designer

By Simon Perry
February 07, 2019 02:36 PM
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Meghan Markle and Prince Harry stepped out in London Thursday night to honor veterans who have used new challenges to aid their recovery.

Meghan, 37, whose friends are speaking out to PEOPLE this week for the first time, smiled and held hands with Harry as they entered Draper’s Hall in London’s financial district for the Endeavour Fund Awards.

The royal mom-to-be was completely at ease as she stunned in a bespoke outfit by Clare Waight Keller for Givenchy, her wedding dress designer. The ensemble featured a white top with a collar and rolled up sleeves paired with a black skirt. Meghan accessorized the outfit with another one of her go-to brands, Aquazzura, with their Aquazzura Rendez Vous 105 Suede Pump. She carried a Givenchy black clutch – the same one which she previously used at the Royal Ascot in June – and pulled her hair back into a polished low bun to complete her glam look.

Kirsty Wigglesworth/AP

The Duchess of Sussex’s longtime friend tells PEOPLE that Meghan is “self-service” and acts as her own beauty team.

“Except for her wedding, she does all her own makeup. Dresses herself, styles herself,” the friend shares.

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle
Meghan Markle
Tim Rooke/REX/Shutterstock
Prince Harry and Meghan Markle

Ahead of the awards ceremony, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex attended a reception where they met the inspiring nominees as well as participants and key supporters of the Endeavour Fund.

Meghan and Harry were there to hand out two of the three prizes during the ceremony. Former army captain Harry, 34, also made a speech.

The awards, set up by the Royal Foundation overseen by the Duke and Duchess of Sussex and the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and celebrating its third year, recognize serving and former service members who have used athletics or adventure to challenge themselves as part of their recovery and rehabilitation.

And the royal couple were on the judging panel choosing the lucky three recipients of the awards.

Meghan Markle and Prince Harry
Meghan Markle and Prince Harry
Meghan Markle and Prince Harry

Ahead of announcing the winner of the Celebrating Excellence award, Meghan told the nominees, “You don’t have the ripple effect unless each of you is brave enough to create the first wave.”

Meghan took the stage to announce the winner of the Celebrating Excellence Award. She gave a short speech, saying, “I’m so, so grateful to be back. Last year was my first time coming and it was such a meaningful night.”

“Before the reception Harry and I were talking to all the nominees and in speaking to one of them, he said, ‘Gosh, the impact you guys make is huge. It’s so much bigger than you,’ ” she continued, adding that she replied, ” ‘No it’s not about us, it’s the ripple effect.’ And, in true modesty of all the nominees — ‘yes, it is about the ripple effect.’ But what I admired in him — and I feel is true about all the nominees — is you don’t have that ripple effect unless each of you is brave enough to make that first wave.”

The Duchess of Sussex said, “It’s so important to remember that because what you’re doing is inspiring so many people — so thank you from all of us for being that inspiration and congratulations to all the nominees.”

She presented the prize to Nathan Forster, who was injured while serving with the Parachute Regiment in Afghanistan and has learned to fly planes with Flying for Freedom.

Meghan Markle and Nathan Forster

After presenting Shaun Pascoe with the Henry Worsley award, he spoke about the inspirational nominees.

“Thank you, for once again reminding us what can be achieved by the human spirit, regardless of what barriers your bodies and the world has put in your way,” he said. “Your stories and achievements have been nothing short of extraordinary. The resilience, determination and strength you have displayed in your careers, and over the past year with the Endeavour Fund, have been an inspiration to all of us here tonight and most importantly, your families and everyone who looks up to you.”

Prince Harry and Shaun Pascoe

The awards align with other initiatives to help veterans, including the Invictus Games, the prince’s Paralympic-style contest for sick, injured and wounded serving and former armed forces members.

Since its launch in 2012, the Endeavour Fund has supported 86 different projects that have directly assisted over 5,000 wounded, injured and sick servicemen and women. Through their own fundraising, these ventures have collectively raised over $3 million for other forces charities.

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Last year, Meghan also helped in the judging — and, on February 1, joined Harry at the special awards evening to hand out one of them.

Meghan Markle and Prince Harry attend Endeavour Fund Awards in 2018
John Stillwell/PA Images/Getty

“I’m truly privileged to be here,” she said in a short speech before giving the prize. That evening, which saw Meghan in one of her tailored suits, marked the couple’s first night out in an official capacity since they’d announced their engagement. It’s also where Meghan gave her first royal speech, introducing Daniel Claricoates, winner of the Celebrating Excellence Award, recognizing the individual who has best endeavored to achieve excellence in their chosen sport or adventurous challenge.