QUEEN EL­IZ­A­BETH SHARES A LAUGH WITH MEGHAN, DUCHESS OF SUSSEX, DUR­ING A BRIDGE-OPEN­ING CER­E­MONY IN NORTH­ERN ENG­LAND THURS­DAY. THE EN­GAGE­MENT MARKED THE FIRST SOLO EVENT FOR MEGHAN WITH THE QUEEN.

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CH­ESTER, ENG­LAND •As in­tro­duc­tions into The Firm go, it was quite the wel­come.

Three plaques, eight posies and one royal train later, as well as an un­mis­tak­ably sig­nif­i­cant gift from the Queen her­self, and the Duchess of Sussex had passed her mas­ter­class in the day-to­day life of the Royal Fam­ily.

The Queen of­fered the for­mer Meghan Markle the wis­dom of her life­time of ex­pe­ri­ence in an “away day” to Ch­ester, the first time the for­mer ac­tress has made a pub­lic visit with­out her hus­band, Prince Harry.

As if to un­der­line her sup­port, she also gave the new­ly­wed a pair of pearl ear­rings. They ap­peared to get on fa­mously, smil­ing for cam­eras as Meghan waited to take her cue from the Queen in front of the crowds.

For the duchess, it was an in­tro­duc­tion into the un­usual and not al­ways glam­orous day-to-day busi­ness of royal du­ties. And she rose to the oc­ca­sion, as­sur­ing dig­ni­taries that their new bridge was “mar­vel­lous,” telling lo­cals she was “very happy to be here” and con­fid­ing in one well-wisher that she was en­joy­ing mar­ried life.

The Queen and duchess trav­elled to Cheshire on the royal train, leav­ing Lon­don’s Eus­ton Sta­tion at 11 p.m. on Wed­nes­day and spend­ing the night in a dis­creet sid­ing be­fore pulling into Ch­ester at 10:35 a.m.

Greeted by David Briggs, the Lord Lieu­tenant of Cheshire, the duchess lin­gered be­hind the Queen, ap­pear­ing slightly ner­vous as she watched for in­struc­tions.

Af­ter a mo­ment of con­fu­sion at their wait­ing car, as both politely waited for the other to get in, the duchess asked her grand­mother-in­law “what is your pref­er­ence?” be­fore be­ing told: “You go first.”

The Queen wore a green out­fit by Ste­wart Parvin, choos­ing a colour some in­ter­preted as a ges­ture of sup­port on the first an­niver­sary of the Gren­fell Tower dis­as­ter.

Meghan chose a dress from the de­signer who cre­ated her wed­ding gown, Clare Waight Keller for Givenchy.

The cer­e­mony, mark­ing the open­ing of the Mersey Gate­way bridge, saw them deep in con­ver­sa­tion, laugh­ing and ges­tur­ing as they watched chil­dren dance.

The pair, ac­com­pa­nied by four se­nior aides, are known to have spent time together in the lead-up to the May 19 wed­ding, bond­ing over their love of dogs.

An­drew Cur­phey, whose the­atre com­pany had brought the chil­dren together for the per­for­mance, said of Meghan: “She was re­ally calm con­sid­er­ing it was her first of­fi­cial en­gage­ment with the boss.”

Next was Sto­ry­house, a cul­tural hub in the town cen­tre. The Queen and duchess led crowds in a minute’s si­lence to mark the an­niver­sary of the Gren­fell fire be­fore watch­ing chil­dren from Ash­grove Farm day­care give an en­thu­si­as­tic ren­di­tion of The Wheels On The Bus, with the Queen ap­pear­ing par­tic­u­larly de­lighted with a twoyear-old who had nod­ded off.

At the other end of the gen­er­a­tional spec­trum were “dig­i­tal bud­dies,” older peo­ple learn­ing about com­put­ers, with whom the Queen em­pathized over “very con­fus­ing” smart phones.

Nonethe­less Jade Hughes, 20, demon­strat­ing pic­tures on an ipad, dis­closed: “The Queen said it was much eas­ier to swipe along on th­ese things than the pho­to­graph al­bums she has.”

Later, among the thou­sands of well-wish­ers lin­ing the streets, the Queen and duchess were in their el­e­ment, ac­cept­ing bou­quets, sketches and a coaster with the faces of Harry and Meghan.

Jo Richards of Ch­ester said: “I asked her was she en­joy­ing mar­ried life and she said, ‘Harry is the best hus­band ever’.”

JEFF J. MITCHELL/GETTY IMAGES

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