Meghan Mania! Meghan Markle Joins Harry for Their First Royal Work Day Together — and the Crowds Went Wild
Meghan sparkle is already working its magic!
Four days after announcing their royal engagement, the pair visited Nottingham, about 125 miles north of London, where they started their day greeting enthusiastic fans in the town center.
The couple arrived to cheers from the crowds outside the National Justice Museum. They began their stop by greeting the civic leaders lined up to meet them and then moved down the excited crowds.
Meghan, in an ankle length navy coat, often put her arm on Harry’s back as they walked slowly down the barriers. Well-wishers handed Meghan many bunches of flowers and the royal-to-be had to keep passing bunches to an aide.
While the two were greeting the crowds, one bold fan asked what it was like to be with someone like Meghan “as a ginger.”
“It’s great isn’t it … unbelievable!” Harry joked in response.
— Rebecca English (@RE_DailyMail) December 1, 2017
Among the lucky people getting a quick chat was Caroline Cartwright, who told Meghan she and husband Andrew were big fans of Suits. “I told her Mike should be here,” Caroline told PEOPLE. “She said ‘I don’t think he would be today!’ She is just as beautiful as she is on TV. She is absolutely perfect, most wonderful and perfect for him.”
Claire Kelsall handed Harry a celebration card made by her daughter Ruby, 7. “The card had ‘Congratulations Harry and Meghan’. She drew a picture of the ring and it had a picture of the couple inside,” Kelsall, 28, tells PEOPLE.
“I told him that we are really big fans and would see him at the wedding. He was very, very pleased and asked where Ruby was. She is in school. I told him we’d come and see him at the wedding. He was very pleased with the card and put it inside his coat.”
She adds, “They are a lovely couple. They looked lovely together.”
When the actress met people she made a point of introducing herself saying “Hi, I’m Meghan.”
Waiting for the couple earlier was Frank Shelton, 79, and his eight-year-old barn owl, Kim. “Harry’s brought his bird so I’ve brought mine,” Shelton said affectionately. “This is something different,” he said of the couple’s news. “It was good with William and Kate — and this is the equivalent.”
— Simon Perry (@SPerryPeoplemag) December 1, 2017
Their first stop was the Nottingham Contemporary, an art center hosting a celebration for World AIDS Day. The event was backed by the Terrence Higgins Trust, for which Harry has done some work, including opening a pop-up shop for HIV testing last month.
During a Buckingham Palace briefing on Tuesday, spokesman Jason Knauf said Harry was “looking forward to introducing Ms. Markle to a community that has become very special to him” in reference to Nottingham. It is there that he helped set up the Full Effect project to tackle youth violence and gang culture. For her part, Markle “cannot wait to meet many of the young people Prince Harry has told her so much about,” Knauf added.
RELATED VIDEO: Meghan Markle and Prince Harry are engaged!
In announcing the couple’s wedding date (May 2018) and venue (St. George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle), Knauf also noted that Meghan would be shifting from her longtime charity associations (including World Vision Canada and the United Nations) and moving toward partnering with Harry’s charities.
“Ms. Markle is incredibly grateful for the opportunities that she has had with World Vision Canada and U.N. Women,” Knauf said. “Through those organizations, she has been able to meet incredible smaller organizations around the world — but she has made the decision that she wants to start a clean slate and focus on the U.K. and getting to know this country and traveling around the Commonwealth.”
At Nottingham Academy, Full Effect mentors work with young people to provide positive role models and help them through difficult situations. During their visit, Harry and Meghan were set to catch up with Chantelle Stefanovic, who joined Harry at the recent Obama Foundation summit in Chicago.
For much more on Meghan and Harry’s royal engagement, pick up this week’s issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands Friday, and watch the PeopleTV special on their romance
Harrry’s visit on World AIDS Day is seen as significant, say experts in the field. “He has been incredibly valuable,” says Dominic Edwardes of Terrence Higgins Trust. “Last year we saw a five-fold increase in people coming forward for testing” one day after Harry did the same.
“Apart from his great sense of humor and his ability to talk to people and his real interest in the people he met was his impressive knowledge and passion for HIV,” says Edwardes. “He is genuine about his interest in the subject.”
Edwardes adds, “He spoke to people who were testing for HIV and people living with HIV and he just connects with people. He is full of humor and people enjoy talking to him. It helps to humanize the condition and allow people to see those HIV affects.”
He says the prince “has a huge impact in getting people to think differently about HIV. There’s been a 20% reduction in HIV transmission in the last year. His voice in encouraging people to test is really important in the fight against HIV.”
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