Meghan Markle is box office gold on royal tour, says historian

·Royal Correspondent
Harry and Meghan in Melbourne on day 3 of their tour (PA)
Harry and Meghan in Melbourne on day 3 of their tour (PA)

The Duke and Duchess of Sussex’s royal tour of Australia and New Zealand is underway and Australia has seemingly turned out en masse to see the couple.

Having married five months ago, this is Meghan and Harry’s first official overseas trip together and throughout their 16-day stint, all eyes are on them.

There’s been added excitement to the visit, with the announcement that the couple are expecting their first child in Spring 2019.

However, although the tour Down Under has so far been an overwhelming success, some observers have warned against the level of pressure on newly pregnant Meghan.

“Meghan is box office gold, but the level of interest will be intense,” says royal historian and author Ted Powell.

“There’s lots of pressure on her, people are always looking out for a gaffe or a wardrobe malfunction.

“But she’s a well-established media figure and she’s used to the exposure.

“She does look slightly dazed and uneasy during public walkabouts at times, like she’s feeling anxious not to put a foot wrong, but she has Harry to support her.”

Meghan greets locals in Sydney (PA)
Meghan greets locals in Sydney (PA)

Everybody seems to love a new attraction to the Royal Family and Powell adds: “Meghan almost puts Harry in the shade.

“But unlike Charles and Diana, there’s a much more relaxed attitude with Harry and William.

“They’ve learned lessons from their parents and behave in a more informal style and Meghan and Harry are so in love.”

Prince Charles and Princess Diana’s first overseas tour was Australia in 1983, when they took a nine-month-old Prince William.

It was only two years after the fairytale wedding in 1981, but cracks were already beginning to show in their marriage.

In her tell-all book with Andrew Morton, Diana revealed that Charles had become jealous of the thousands of well-wishers, who were more interested in her than the Prince.

Diana told Morton: “Everybody always said when we were in the car, ‘Oh, we’re in the wrong side, we want to see her, we don’t want to see him,’ and that’s all we could hear when we went down the crowds and obviously he wasn’t used to that and nor was I.”

Princess Diana and Prince Charles with baby Prince William in Australia, in 1983 (PA)
Princess Diana and Prince Charles with baby Prince William in Australia, in 1983 (PA)

Harry and Meghan are already making an impact on their trip – but what is the point of a royal tour?

Powell explains: “The primary purpose is to enable the Royal Family to visit people and places within the Commonwealth.

“It’s especially important for the Queen to be showing herself to these countries.”

There are 53 nations in the Commonwealth and Her Majesty is the reigning monarch of 16 realms, including Australia, Canada, New Zealand and Jamaica.

The Queen’s longest trip was a 44,000-mile Commonwealth tour in 1953, which saw Her Majesty and the Duke of Edinburgh travel to 13 countries over six months.

Powell says: “Tours are much more shorter now due to improvements in travel.

“The Queen used to travel via ship, tours are much more concentrated now.”

The Queen and Duke of Edinburgh in New Zealand, 1954 (PA)
The Queen and Duke of Edinburgh in New Zealand, 1954 (PA)

Meghan and Harry will carry out a total of 76 engagements throughout the their 16-day visit to Australia, Fiji, Tonga and New Zealand.

Kensington Palace have said that the couple’s focus will be on youth leadership, and environmental and conservation efforts.

The pregnant Duchess has already revealed she’s suffering a bit from tiredness and that so far she is “running on adrenaline”.

Meghan is thought to be around four months pregnant (PA)
Meghan is thought to be around four months pregnant (PA)

“Royal tours are planned for months in advance,” explains Powell, but of course there’s been the odd slip-up over the years.

Some of the most memorable include a bikini-clad model, who famously stole a kiss from Prince Charles on a beach in Sydney, in 1979 and Prince Philip causing offence in China in 1986, telling British students, “If you stay here much longer you’ll all be slitty-eyed.”

Powell also recalls the train crash Edward VIII (the then Prince of Wales) survived in Australia in 1920, when two of the coaches derailed.

He says: “The Prince wasn’t hurt and climbed out of the window of the carriage, holding a cocktail shaker.”

Ted Powell’s new book Edward VIII: An American Life is out now.

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