Prince Harry gives impassioned speech for Canadian piper at Invictus Games closing ceremony
At the closing ceremonies of the 2023 Invictus Games in Düsseldorf, Germany, Prince Harry gave an impassioned, moving speech that paid tribute to Master-Corporal James Gendron, a member of the Canadian team competing in the sporting events for wounded, injured and sick servicemen and women, both serving and veterans.
Both Harry and Gendron were visibly moved by the moment as the prince discussed the soldier’s piping at 63 “ramp ceremonies,” the solemn repatriation of fallen soldiers to Canada as their caskets are moved up a ramp onto a Hercules aircraft.
After piping at so many ramp ceremonies, Prince Harry described how Gendron did not know if he could play the pipes again, as they brought back such emotion.
The prince had written in his recent memoir, Spare, about his own emotional connection with the pipes: “With bagpipes it’s not the tune, it’s the tone. Thousands of years old, bagpipes are built to amplify what’s already in the heart. If you’re feeling silly, bagpipes make you sillier. If you’re angry, bagpipes bring your blood to a higher boil. And if you’re in grief, even if you’re 12 years old and don’t know you’re in grief, maybe especially if you don’t know, bagpipes can drive you mad.”
“What had once haunted him, dare I say it, may now be what helps heal him. Thank you, James, for your service, for your courage and for sharing your gift.” – Prince Harry
In his speech, Harry related his experience with Gendron’s, describing his piping as “a gift.”
“Some of you may know what bagpipes mean to me, so I couldn’t help but hope that they’d be played,” Harry said. “I had no idea what they meant to him, nor did I know what memories they triggered for him. For 63 caskets, for 63 souls, for 63 families. After that last ramp ceremony, he couldn’t touch them. This week, he didn’t even know if he could bring himself to play them. But he did. What had once haunted him, dare I say it, may now be what helps heal him. Thank you, James, for your service, for your courage and for sharing your gift.”
Later, the two embraced, both visibly moved by the moment.
Gendron is a mobile support equipment operator at Canadian Forces’ Transition Centre in Kingston, Ontario.
The word “invictus” is Latin for “unconquered.” The inspiration for the Invictus Games came from Prince Harry’s attendance at the 2013 Warrior Games in the US.