What Went Down Behind The Scenes Of Prince Harry And Melania Trump's Awkward Photo Op

Harry, Duke of Sussex's awkward photo with former First Lady Melania Trump stole the show at her first official international solo visit at the 2017 Invictus Game opening ceremony. For her part, Trump tried to make a lasting impression by delivering a heartfelt thank-you to the troops and their families, meeting them, and intently watching the ceremony. CNN White House reporter Kate Bennett watched Trump from the sidelines and later told The Daily Front Row that Melania's reactions at the event proved that the general public had ill-formed opinions of her.

"I think people categorize Melania as a whole. They say she doesn't want to be here, she doesn't deign to touch the White House. I think those people would be surprised by just how opposite [of that] she is," she explained. Even before the games officially started, the then-First Lady struck up a conversation with Prince Harry and snapped a picture with him. While she looked pleased in the photo, the royal had the most awkward pose with three fingers buried into his blazer. Some wrote off the weird gesture as a somewhat innocent gang sign.

Others believed he was making the devil's horn, which, contrary to its name, is actually meant to protect one from evil spirits and drive them away. Glamour body language expert Patti Wood admitted that she was unsure if Harry's devil's horn gesture was a conscious decision. However, she also noted that most people's hands won't gravitate towards that awkward positioning. Meanwhile, Bennett had a simpler explanation.

Prince Harry has made that hand gesture several times

In Kate Bennett's The Daily Front Row interview, she explained that Prince Harry's awkward photo with Melania Trump was an unfortunate accident. "He was reaching in to unbutton his coat to sit down, but the cameras kept clicking, so he still had his hand in there in that weird way," she continued. "He was pausing. He wasn't throwing a secret gang sign. They got held up in the pictures." Bennett noted that the gesture may have appeared weird in photos but seemed normal to those present at the time.

Speaking to Inside Edition, body language expert Tonya Reiman shared another simple theory. She recognized Harry's hand positioning as a "comfort gesture" and explained that Harry was trying to calm himself in a stressful situation by keeping his hands around his stomach. Reiman reasoned that Harry froze up and held the pose because the sudden camera flashes caught him off-guard.

Although many only noticed Harry making that sign at the 2017 Invictus Games, we've seen it several times. Interestingly, he made a similar move while chatting with former First Lady Michelle Obama and First Lady Jill Biden in 2015. So, is it just a problem around First Ladies? Not exactly. Body language expert Traci Brown told Good Housekeeping that the frequency of the gesture indicated that it might've become a go-to for Harry to make himself feel protected in high-pressure situations, which the First Ladies (and other big media events) often bring.

Prince Harry had an awkward time with the Trumps in 2019

In her Good Housekeeping chat, body language expert Traci Brown shared further details about Harry, Duke of Sussex's protective gesture. "He's covering his solar plexus area (the vital organs) and protecting it, which just says he's not quite comfortable in the situation — who would be with all those photographers around and people like myself analyzing him?" she explained. Since the Invictus Games drew all eyes to Harry, it makes sense that he tried to make himself feel more secure with the movement.

Nonetheless, Melania didn't seem to think much of the sign because she sat beside him through the ceremony. In 2019, Harry had another awkward moment with the Trumps when they visited Buckingham Palace. Photos shared to X, formerly Twitter, showed Harry keeping his distance from former President Donald Trump and the rest of the party and only interacting with Ivanka Trump.

This time around, Harry had personal reasons for being uncomfortable around the presidential family. A few days before the visit, Donald expressed his true feelings about Meghan Markle and called her "nasty" in an interview with The Sun. To make things more awkward, Harry had to eat lunch with the guests soon after. Royal commentator Victoria Arbiter tweeted to explain that Donald might have only invited Harry to lunch because of Melania's contribution to the 2017 Invictus Games. In 2024, Donald slammed Harry's "unforgivable" royal betrayal, so it's safe to say we won't see a heartwarming display of their friendship anytime soon.