Just two weeks before their first ever international tour as a married couple, Buckingham Palace has unveiled a detailed itinerary for Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s trip to Australia, Fiji, the Kingdom of Tonga and New Zealand.
The trip, which was announced earlier this summer, shortly after the Duke and Duchess of Sussex tied the knot at Windsor Castle, will last 16 days, and will see the newlyweds take on extensive royal duties in their capacity as Commonwealth ambassadors. They’ll also kickstart the 2018 Invictus Games in Sydney, just over a year after memorably making their public debut as a couple at last year’s event in Toronto.
According to the Palace, the Sussexes will be focusing on ‘youth leadership, and projects being undertaken by young people to address the social, economic, and environmental challenges of the region,’ and will look to ‘shine a light on the work and aspirations of young people across the Commonwealth.’ Another cause close to the couple’s hearts is conservation, and Meghan and Harry will have the chance to see the region’s environmental projects at first hand.
Perhaps most striking is the number of events dedicated to women's rights, something which we can perhaps credit to the Duchess of Sussex's high-profile advocacy of feminist issues.
Oceania has become a popular destination for young royals embarking upon public life as a couple: Harry and Meghan will follow in the footsteps of Harry’s parents, Prince Charles and Diana, Princess of Wales, whose first royal tour as a married couple also took in Australia and New Zealand. The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge embarked on a similar trip in 2014, which marked a one-year-old Prince George’s first overseas visit.
When does the royal tour begin and end?
Harry and Meghan will arrive in Sydney on Tuesday October 16th, and will fly back to the UK from Auckland, New Zealand 16 days later on Wednesday 31st.
Harry and Meghan in Sydney…
First up is six days in Sydney, which will start off with a visit to Admiralty House, the Sydney residence of Australia’s Governer-General, where Harry and Meghan will meet with representatives from the 18 nations participating in the Invictus Games. Then they’ll head to Taronga Zoo – the site of one of Prince George’s first royal engagements, when he famously rejected a toy bilby – to meet koalas and joeys (expect some very sweet photo opportunities). Things will conclude with a boat ride to the Sydney Opera House, followed by a walkabout.
The next few days will involve trips to local schools, meeting with youth leaders and a trip to Bondi beach, where they will ‘interact with others enjoying yoga and surfing’ (note the careful word choice: we are unlikely to see Meghan doing sun salutations, or Harry catching some waves). To mark the start of the Games, Harry will climb the Sydney Harbour Bridge and raise the Invictus flag; after that, the pair will spend two days at the sporting event.
… in Queensland
The second leg of the trip (on Monday 22nd October) will see Harry and Meghan travel to Fraser Island or K’gari, the world’s largest sand island and an important conservation site. Here, they will meet with the Butchulla People, traditional owners of K’gari, and take part in some typical ceremonies.
… in Fiji
Next up is a stop off in Fiji, first heading to the capital of Suva before embarking on a ‘three day programme experiencing the rich Fijian culture and generous hospitality.’ On the first day, they’ll attend a state dinner, hosted by the president, when Meghan is expected to wear a tiara for the first time since her wedding day. It’s also worth noting that the couple will attend solo engagements on this leg of the trip: Meghan is slated to attend a special tea to showcase organisations dedicated to women’s empowerment, a cause that we know is of paramount importance to the Duchess.
Look back at Prince Harry and Meghan Markle's relationship timeline in the gallery below...
Prince Harry and Meghan Markle met in London in July 2016.
They were introduced by mutual friend Markus Anderson, who is the director of Soho House.
In October 2016, the Express became the first newspaper to publish news that Prince Harry had a new girlfriend.
On November 8th 2016, Kensington Palace released an unprecedented statement which referring to Markle as Harry's girlfriend for the first time.
In the statement, Prince Harry condemned the 'wave of abuse and harrassment' faced by Markle, saying that he was 'worried about Ms. Markle's safety and is deeply disappointed that he has not been able to protect her.'
'It is not right that a few months into a relationship with him that Ms. Markle should be subjected to such a storm,' the statement continued.
The couple were papped together for the first time in December 2016, shopping for a Christmas tree in London at the Pines and Needles store.
Later that week, they were seen on London's West End, catching a performance of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time.
In February, Prince Harry wore a his 'n' hers bracelet on the cover of Town & Country magazine, just weeks after Markle was pictured wearing the same one on Instagram.
In March 2017, Meghan joined Prince Harry in the Caribbean for the wedding of his friend's Tom 'Skippy' Inskip and Lara Hughes-Young.
It was the first time that Markle accompanied Harry to a wedding, marking another milestone occasion for the couple.
The first public event attended by the couple was the polo at Coworth Park in May 2017.
Later in May, Markle attended the party portion of Pippa Middleton's wedding to James Middelton.
Prince Harry was seen driving her to the event after the church ceremony.
The couple made their first official public appearance in September, when Markle attended the opening of Prince Harry's Invictus Games.
Meghan wore a maroon midi dress with a pleated chiffon skirt by one of her favourite Canadian brands Aritzia.
She teamed it with a matching burgundy biker jacket by Mackage.
Although Prince Harry was sat next to First Lady Melania Trump at the event, rather than his girlfriend, she was only seated a few rows behind him.
The couple were photographed together the following day at the wheelchair tennis.
Much was made of Markle's choice of outfit: ripped jeans and a white blouse called 'The Husband'.
The couple 'broke with royal protocol' by holding hands and appearing affectionate while at the Invictus Games.
Prince Harry reportedly spent time with Meghan's mother Doria while at the Games too.
The couple indulged in some PDA at the closing ceremony.
Prince Harry was photographed kissing Meghan.
In an interview with Vanity Fair, Meghan referred to Harry as her boyfriend numerous times, saying: 'We're a couple. We're in love. I'm sure there will be a time when we will have to come forward and present ourselves and have stories to tell, but I hope what people understand is that this is our time.'
In late September 2017, it was reported that Meghan had met the Queen, prompting speculation that the relationship was getting serious.
In early November 2017, it was reported that Meghan Markle was leaving Suits after seven series.
In mid-November 2017, bookies suspending betting on an impending royal engagement, as speculation grew that an announcement was about to be made.
On November 27th 2017, Prince Charles announced the engagement of his younger son Prince Harry and Meghan Markle after 15 months of dating.
The couple later appeared at a photocall, with Markle wearing a white dress coat by Canadian brand Line The Label. The website has subsequently crashed.
The engagement ring, by Cleave and Company, was reportedly designed by Prince Harry himself, using two stones that belonged to Princess Diana.
When asked by waiting photographers if the proposal was romantic, Harry joked 'of course!'
… in Tonga
The Sussexes will meet with Tonga’s King and Queen, and will attend a number of events with their daughter Princess Angelika, including a showcase for Tongan craft.
… and back in Sydney
The Duke and Duchess will then head back to Sydney, just in time for the Invictus Games closing ceremony, where they will both give speeches.
… in New Zealand
On Sunday 28th, Harry and Meghan will board a flight for New Zealand (along with some of the country’s Invictus competitors), where they will be met off the plane by Prime Minister Jacinda Arden. Here, their programme will encompass everything from conservation to traditional Maori ceremonies to mental health projects and the anniversary of women’s suffrage.
Do they get any time off?
Short answer: it certainly doesn't seem that way. Though previous reports had suggested that the couple might take the opportunity to reunite with Meghan’s former Suits co-stars, Gabriel Macht and Jacinda Barrett (who were rumoured to have invited the pair to stay at their home in Noosa on Australia’s Sunshine Coast) it appears that the Sussexes's busy schedule is unlikely to allow for much down time.