Prince Harry, Duchess Meghan visit with Queen Elizabeth II on their way to Invictus Games

Prince Harry and Duchess Meghan of Sussex visited Queen Elizabeth II for the first time in two years during a stop in the United Kingdom Thursday, a spokesperson for Harry and Meghan confirmed to USA TODAY.

Then, on Friday, the rebel royal couple made their first public appearance in Europe in more than two years when they greeted competitors at the Harry-founded Invictus Games in the Netherlands.

Before arriving in The Hague on Friday, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex paid a visit to Harry’s grandmother at Windsor Castle on their way to the Games, an international sports competition for injured veterans and service members.

On Friday afternoon, arriving to attend the Invictus Games Friends and Family reception, the couple received an enthusiastic welcome from cheering competitors at the Games site in a park in The Hague. The competitions open Saturday and runs through April 22.

Prince Harry and Duchess Meghan of Sussex attend a reception for friends and family of competitors of the Invictus Games at Nations Home at Zuiderpark on April 15, 2022 in The Hague, Netherlands.

For Meghan, 40, Thursday’s visit marked her first time in the U.K. since March 2020 when she and Harry, 37, stepped away from royal duties and moved to California.

Prince Harry was last seen in the U.K. in July 2021 for the unveiling of a statue of his mother Princess Diana at Kensington Palace in London. Previously, he traveled to the U.K. in April 2021 for the pandemic-reduced funeral of his grandfather, Prince Philip.

A post-pandemic memorial service for Prince Philip took place at Westminster Abbey last month, with nearly 2,000 invited guests and members of the royal family led by the queen.

Harry did not return for that ceremony as he is engaged in a legal battle against the government over his security, arguing that it is too risky for him and for his family to visit without protection.

Prince Harry and Duchess Meghan of Sussex attend the Invictus Games Friends and Family reception at Zuiderpark on April 15, 2022 in The Hague, Netherlands.

The couple lost their taxpayer-funded police guard for their U.K. visits when they walked away from the royal family in January 2020. Harry is suing the government for refusing to let him pay for British police protection when he and his family are in his home country. 

 His lawyers say Harry wants to bring his children — Archie, who is almost 3, and 10-month-old Lilibet — to visit his family but that it is too dangerous without local police protection.

Prince Harry, Duchess Meghan and Queen Elizabeth II pose during the Queen's Young Leaders Awards Ceremony at Buckingham Palace on June 26, 2018.

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This year’s Invictus Games were originally scheduled to take place in spring 2020, but the competition was postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Speaking in a personal video message at the time, Harry said the decision to postpone was "incredibly difficult" and apologized to the athletes for not being able to find an alternative. He said at least they would have another year to "get even fitter than you already are" for their competitions.

"This decision was the most sensible and the safest option for all of you, for your families, and everybody else involved in these games," Harry said in the video, acknowledging his disappointment.

Prince Harry and Duchess Meghan of Sussex attend a reception ahead of the start of the Invictus Games on April 15, 2022 in The Hague, Netherlands.

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In March 2021, Harry and Meghan told Oprah Winfrey in a TV interview that their decision to leave the U.K. was based in part because they were fed up with racism in the British media and in the royal family.

Meghan, who is biracial, said in the tell-all interview that someone in the royal family, who was neither the queen nor Prince Philip, raised concerns about "how dark" Archie's skin might be when he was born. Harry said he wanted to protect Meghan, who said she became suicidal from the pressure of royal life.

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Contributing: Leora Arnowitz, Maria Puente, Hannah Yasharoff and the Associated Press