their spe­cial bond

The speed of the evo­lu­tion of ac­tress Meghan Markle into royal Duchess of Sus­sex is daz­zling to watch, and in many ways it is thanks to the Queen – her joy­ful sup­porter. Juliet Rieden re­ports.

Australian Women’s Weekly NZ - - CONTENTS -

The Queen gig­gling is not some­thing we see very of­ten. In pub­lic the Monarch is in­tense and solemn, as you would ex­pect from the en­gage­ments she is called on to at­tend, and when pho­tographed with her fam­ily she looks proud and pa­tri­cian with rare know­ing smiles spot­ted by the keen­est royal watch­ers; that is un­til the Duchess of Sus­sex joined the fold. To those who know her, the Queen is fa­mous for her dry sense of hu­mour, a bril­liant mimic with a fine nose for the ridicu­lous. So, it is rather spe­cial that Prince Harry’s new wife, the in­cred­i­bly like­able 36-year-old Hol­ly­wood-raised ac­tress, has tick­led the Queen’s funny bone.

Last month Meghan joined her 92-year-old grand­moth­erin-law for her first solo en­gage­ment with the Sov­er­eign and The Aus­tralian Women’s Weekly was there to wit­ness the land­mark day. It was just weeks af­ter the wed­ding and no doubt a nerve-wrack­ing ini­ti­a­tion for the new­est ad­di­tion to the Royal Firm. In a House of Wind­sor first, the Duchess spent the night be­fore with Her Majesty on the royal train. This is an hon­our that has never been be­stowed on Princes Wil­liam and Harry, nor the Duchess of Cam­bridge, and un­der­lines how keenly the Queen is em­brac­ing her grand­daugh­ter-in-law.

What hap­pened on the train has most def­i­nitely stayed on the train and we don’t even know in which sid­ing the royal duo pulled up to spend the night. But if the Queen’s smile as they dis­em­barked on Run­corn sta­tion the next day is any­thing to go by, it’s clear

Her Majesty has be­come a huge fan of Harry’s Duchess.

It’s clear Her Majesty has be­come a huge fan of Harry’s Duchess.

It was Meghan’s first ever visit to the north of Eng­land and the en­gage­ment of­fered the Queen the chance to show the newbie royal the ropes; in many ways this was a day of train­ing for Meghan, a rare chance to learn from the very best. Royal du­ties are unique and of­ten a lit­tle bizarre. There are end­less lines of hand-shak­ing and meet­ing and greet­ing, but it is stay­ing in­volved that is key. There is al­ways a lot of prepa­ra­tion work, por­ing through read­ing and re­search on the event and then on the ground there’s con­nect­ing with the peo­ple, the ab­so­lute lifeblood of royal work.

In a stun­ning fit­ted Givenchy dress with an el­e­gant cape de­tail, sky-high stilet­tos and ex­quis­ite pearl and di­a­mond ear­rings gifted by Her Majesty, Meghan drew gasps and then cheers from the hun­dreds who turned out to meet the train. Her Majesty wore her trade­mark bold colours with an eye-catch­ing lime green Ste­wart Parvin dress with match­ing hat. Meghan stuck to pro­to­col, keep­ing a few steps be­hind the Monarch, but when­ever the pair paused to­gether, they couldn’t help but laugh and chat. It was a de­light to watch.

Next stop was Sto­ry­house, a

$65 mil­lion con­ver­sion of the old cin­ema into a com­mu­nity theatre and li­brary. “It is hugely sig­nif­i­cant for [the town of] Ch­ester to have the royal seal of ap­proval on our work here,” a very proud Coun­cil­lor Sam Dixon told The Aus­tralian Women’s Weekly. For the cen­tre’s Artis­tic Direc­tor, Alex Clifton, pre­par­ing for the royal visit was “ex­tra scary”, and when he heard that the ac­tress Duchess would be watch­ing his pro­duc­tion, the pres­sure was on.

Thou­sands were gath­ered and they weren’t dis­ap­pointed. The Queen and Duchess paused on the steps of the cen­tre to join the Bri­tish peo­ple in a 72-sec­ond si­lence to re­mem­ber the 72 vic­tims of the Gren­fell Fire, who died a year ear­lier when a blaze fa­tally en­gulfed a res­i­den­tial tower block in the Lon­don bor­ough where Meghan now re­sides with Prince Harry.

In­side, the roy­als met a group of Syr­ian refugees and watched some im­pres­sive set pieces from the theatre’s cur­rent pro­duc­tion of A Lit­tle Night Mu­sic. On their way through the li­brary they talked to those in­volved in a dig­i­tal bud­dies scheme which teams young vol­un­teers with sil­ver surfers. “We had no idea the Queen and Meghan would ac­tu­ally talk to us,” an ex­cited Frank Sa­muel told me.

There was a fi­nal per­for­mance from a choir of school­child­ren and as she left, the Duchess turned and whis­pered, “Good job, you guys!”

Out­side, the roy­als met the crowds be­fore lunch in the Town Hall. Through­out, Meghan watched on in­tently and at times a lit­tle ner­vously, look­ing to Her Majesty for guid­ance, which was whis­pered. No doubt in the fu­ture she will look back on this day as the start of a steep learn­ing curve, but also with af­fec­tion as the day her new grand­mother-in-law showed her the royal ropes.

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