Muskoka To-DAILY

Can a Royal invite to Harry and Meghan’s wedding be in the post next?

Mark Clairmont | MuskokaTODAILY.com

GRAVENHURST — When Harry wrote Betty.

Betty Flaherty was "touched" to receive a letter back from Prince Harry, after congratulating him on the recent Invictus Games in Toronto.

Betty Flaherty was “touched” to receive a letter back from Prince Harry, after congratulating him on the recent Invictus Games in Toronto, after reading the inspirational poem “Invictus” and sending it to him.

It’s not a sequel to the movie “When Harry Met Sally.”

Betty Flaherty was “amazed,” “thrilled” — and “touched” — to get a letter back from the recently-engaged Prince Harry.

The Gravenhurst genealogist, poetry reader and British descendent wrote him shortly after he was in Toronto for the Invictus Games the last week of September.

Flaherty , 83, is busy as a bee, running around town and helping various social causes, including the community outreach at Trinity United Church. Her devoted husband Gerry, 88, is also big in the community Supper Club that feeds about 100 hungry local people each Thursday night.

She has researched her roots in England back to 1574 AD and her husband’s Irish roots to about 1500.

And while not exactly an inveterate reader — aside for the odd “trashy novel” — she mostly enjoys sitting down at her Lake Muskoka home, looking out on the water and reading poetry.

“Anything inspirational,” she says. “I do a lot of thinking.”

She has several poetry books.

So it was, that while reading a book of poems she picked up in Gravenhurst at the estate sale of the late May Lindsell, daughter of Rev. Archdeacon Lindsell who ministered at St. James Anglican Church.

“It Can Be Done ~ Poems of Inspiration,” a 1921 compilation of inspiring poems by the likes of Shakespeare, Tennyson, Browning, Wordsworth, Byron, Emerson and Kipling.

It went through 24 reprintings in five years.

One that stood out was entitled “Invictus,” by William Ernest Henley.

It’s short, just four stanzas.

It reads, in part:

“… In the fell clutches of circumstance

I have not winced no cried aloud

Under the bludgeoning of chance

My Head is bloody, but unbowed.

 

Beyond this place of wrath and tears

Looms but the horror of the shade

And yet the message of the years

Finds and shall find me unbowed

 

… I am the master of my fate

I am the captain of my soul.”

 

The poem struck Flaherty, whose father Jack Smith and his son Jack Jr. served, respectively, in the Second World War and the Korean War.

Both fought for England and the Queen, just like Prince Harry, who did two tours of duty in Afghanistan with the British Army Air Corp.

In 2014, while still in the army, Harry started the international Invictus Games for war-wounded.

This inspiring poem by William Ernest Henley inspired Betty Flaherty to send it to Prince Harry.

This inspiring poem by William Ernest Henley inspired Betty Flaherty to send it to Prince Harry.

The 2017 games in Toronto were the third (2016 in Orlando was the second).

And Harry was front and centre from the opening, even once in the company of his then future fiancée, Meghan Markle.

More on that later.

The games are obviously close to Harry, who served from 2007 to 2015. He remains patron of it foundation.

Flaherty was moved after watching the games at the end of September, as her dad and brother both fortunately survived their duty to flag and country unscathed.

A few weeks later, after reading the Henley poem, she said she got up the nerve to write and tell him how she had been inspired by the Crown Prince and the gumption and true grit of the athletes.

That was three weeks later, on Sunday Oct. 22, when she sat down to type the letter and mailed it the next day.

It reminded her of the letters her dad posted home from overseas, after returning to from Canada to England to sign up. She has photos of her at the same postal box where his letters were sent.

Amazingly, just about over two weeks later, she received a Royal Mail letter postmarked from Buckingham Palace (no postage needed) with the Queen’s signature ER emblazoned in red on the envelope.

And addressed to “Miss Betty Flaherty.”

“Sorry, I forgot to say I was married,” she said jokingly to her proud Irish husband, Gerry.

Or to mention that her family were proud British citizens, who grew up in Hamilton. Jack Sr. retired as superintendent of streets in the Steel City, home of The Rileys, (Royal Hamilton Light Infantry) the regiment of Cpl. Nathan Cirillo who was killed at the national monument in 2015.

“I couldn’t believe it came back that quickly. It seemed like I just sent it.

“I’m so amazed, with all he has to do and all the correspondence he must get.”

The letter, dated Nov. 7, marked private and confidential, came on letterhead from Kensington Palace.

It was from Miss Claudia Spens, MVO, and the Office of TRH The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and HRH Prince Harry of Wales.

Harry and his brother, Prince William and Kate share an office.

“Prince Harry asked me to thank you for your recent letter enclosing a copy of the poem, Invictus, by William Henry Henley…,” it began.

“His Royal Highness if grateful to you for taking the trouble to write as you did. Prince Harry was touched by your generous words of support, and he was interested to learn that your father served in the Canadian Army in WWII and your brother served in the Korean War….”

Flaherty said she was thrilled to receive the letter right around Remembrance Day.

Especially as it included an inspiring quotation from his closing speech at the Games.

“Let me issue you a challenge. Don’t just move on from these games with happy memories. Instead, make an Invictus goal for yourselves. Let the examples of service and resilience that have seen, inspire you to take action to improve something – big or small – in your life for your family or in your community. Let’s create a ripple effect of the Invictus spirit across our nations, that will be the real legacy of this extraordinary week.”

It ends: “His Royal Highness has asked me to send you his warmest thanks and very best wishes.”

Flaherty was “touched” that he wrote and by what he said.

Because “it took a lot to do it,” she said of writing.

The games are obviously “very important to him” to write.

It shows “he cares.”

“I know I care,” said Flaherty, who likes both princes.

But she has a soft spot for the red-headed prince whose spirit is reminiscent of his late mum, Princess Diana.

She thinks Harry is “neat.”

And she’s inspired by him to carry on her good deeds.

Especially, she says, by what he wrote about “carrying on the Invictus feeling.”

“It’s a bit of an inspiration, for sure.”

And what is she doing with the letter?

“I don’t know, I was going to frame it, but Gerry just got another CLU (Chartered Life Underwriters) award and plaque, and the walls are full. So, I think I’ll just leave it.”

She said she hasn’t even told her family, even though neighbours she told were impressed.

But she did joke: “Now, I’m waiting for an invite to the wedding.”

Who knows, she’s never really expected a letter from a Prince.

Betty Flaherty was "amazed" how fast Prince Harry responded to her letter. "It shows "he cares," she said. "I know I care."

Betty Flaherty was “amazed” how fast Prince Harry responded to her letter. “It shows “he cares,” she said. “I know I care.”

 

 

 

 

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