TORONTO — Eight months into a job she had often seemed reluctant to take on, Melania Trump finally seemed to embrace her public role with a bit of gusto last week.
Then again, Prince Harry sometimes has that effect on people.
The American first lady and the young British royal got the cameras flashing Saturday as they exchanged pleasantries before the opening ceremony of the Invictus Games, a multisport competition that Harry founded for wounded military service members and veterans.
Mrs. Trump, who often seems nervous at public events, looked thrilled to meet him. “You’ve been very busy,” he told her. The first lady, who was in Canada to lead the U.S. delegation to the games, smiled and nodded.
It was, in fact, the busiest week yet of Mrs. Trump’s tenure as first lady.
In the early months of the Trump White House, she rarely held public events without the president, who tended to dominate attention in those moments. Now, she is carving out a profile for herself separate from her husband’s persona and following her own interests.
So on a day when her husband was home sending shock waves through the news cycle by picking a public fight with National Basketball Association star Stephen Curry and the Golden State Warriors — Mrs. Trump mentioned him only in passing in Canada.
“On behalf of my husband and our entire country, I want to thank you and your families for all you have sacrificed to keep us safe,” Melania Trump told the U.S. athletes in brief remarks. “I also want to wish you good luck, but I know you won’t need it in these games.”
She also met with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who greeted her warmly. Mrs. Trump gave Trudeau and his wife each a kiss on the cheek. She also chatted with their two older children, one of whom plays soccer, as does her son, Barron.
Mrs. Trump had spent time with Mrs. Trudeau a few days earlier at the U.N. General Assembly, where she hosted a fancy luncheon for the spouses of world leaders while her husband unleashed threats of war against North Korea.
At the lunch, she gave the clearest indication yet of the work she hopes to do on behalf of children as an anti-bullying advocate.
“It remains our generation’s moral imperative to take responsibility for what our children learn,” Mrs. Trump told her guests in a short speech — which was ridiculed by liberals given her husband’s bellicose behavior. “We must turn our focus right now to the message and content they are exposed to on a daily basis, social media, the bullying.”
On Friday, Mrs. Trump donned a plaid top and denim pants and planted baby kale with students in a showy embrace of the White House garden planted by her predecessor, Michelle Obama.
“You want to come with me and have some fun?” she asked the children, as she put on a pair of red gardening gloves.
Before the Invictus Games, a local newspaper ran a letter to the editor arguing that Mrs. Trump should not be welcomed in Canada (“the games will be tarnished by her presence”) because of her husband’s unpopularity here. But passersby waved politely at her motorcade as she drove through downtown Toronto.
And as the first lady sat in a place of prominence during opening ceremonies with other VIPs — including Harry’s girlfriend, Meghan Markle, who sat one section over — Mrs. Trump seemed to enjoy herself away from the White House bubble. She did not sit for any media interviews, so there was no push to answer how she feels about Trump administration policies.
Unlike the international trips she has taken with her husband, there were no protesters lining the streets, nor was she called into duty, as she once was, to break up an overlong meeting between President Trump and Russia’s Vladimir Putin.
All in all, it was relatively relaxed. She sat beside Prince Harry in the VIP section and enjoyed a spectacular show.