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.
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’.”