Today, The Duchess of Sussex carried out her first royal engagement without her husband by her side; however, Meghan had a strong companion for her visit to Cheshire, as she was accompanied by her grandmother-in-law, Her Majesty The Queen.
The Queen and Meghan arrived in the north yesterday evening on the royal train, spending the night onboard before it arrived in Runcorn this morning. They were greeted by the Lord-Lieutenant of Cheshire, David Briggs MBE, who gave them a warm reception; this is the first time that Meghan – who married Prince Harry just last month – has visited northern England.
First stop for Meghan and Her Majesty was the official opening of the Mersey Gateway Bridge. The royal guests were greeted by large crowds of local schoolchildren, who had been waiting anxiously to catch a glimpse of their visitors, despite the strong winds brought about by Storm Hector. One lucky student, Abigail Grimes from Beechwood Primary School, was chosen to present the new Duchess of Sussex with a posy, as today Abigail celebrates her 5th birthday.
The Mersey Gateway Bridge is a multi-million pound six-lane toll bridge which connects Runcorn and Widnes; the bridge opened last October and it is hoped that it will reduce congestion on the Silver Jubilee Bridge. During today’s visit, The Queen and the Duchess met people who had worked on the project, including architects and planners.
As they settled down to watch performances by local schoolchildren, the two women appeared to be in high spirits and very comfortable in each other’s company, sharing a laugh onstage. Indeed, it appeared that the Sovereign – known for her sense of humour – was making her granddaughter-in-law laugh as they chatted between performances.
Today, Meghan is actually wearing a pair of pearl earrings which Buckingham Palace have confirmed was a gift from The Queen to the newest member of her family; the Monarch is known for her love of pearls and the earrings closely resemble the classic style favoured by Elizabeth II herself, which are a pair of Queen Mary’s.
Before departing for their next engagement, The Queen unveiled a plaque to commemorate the official opening of the Mersey Gateway Bridge.
At midday, the royal duo joined the nation in observing a minute’s silence to commemorate the one-year anniversary of the Grenfell Tower disaster, which took the lives of 71 people. Her Majesty, who visited the tower residents in the immediate aftermath of the disaster with Prince William, was wearing green today; it is possible that she chose to do so in honour of the #GreenforGrenfell movement, which is encouraging people to wear green today in memory of the dead.
The Queen and Meghan then travelled to Storyhouse, a theatre facility which opened last year following the conversion of Chester’s former Odeon cinema. The renovation cost £37 million and the building now has a state-of-the-art theatre, cinema and library. Storyhouse focuses on promoting childhood literacy and reaching out to marginalised groups; the project currently offers 2,000 annual activities for those on the margins of society.
Representatives from some of these groups were present during today’s royal visit, including Storyhouse Young Leaders and the Fallen Angels Dance Company, which works with former addicts. Her Majesty and the Duchess were treated to performances from various groups, including the Fallen Angels.
As well as watching the performances, the royal ladies were taken on a tour of the facility, taking the time to speak to members of one of Storyhouse’s craft groups.
The final visit of the day for the newly-married Duchess and the Sovereign was at Chester Town Hall, where they attended a luncheon. Outside the Town Hall, crowds had gathered since the early morning to see the royal visitors and they were not to be disappointed. As well as walking to the venue, Meghan and Her Majesty stepped up on the Town Hall podium before going inside, giving the crowds a proper look at the newest royal bride and the longest-reigning Monarch.