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 relationship timeline - Grazia
So when did the future Duke and Duchess of Sussex meet? Prince Harry and Meghan Markle were introduced by a mutual friend in July 2016, originally thought to be Markus Anderson (also the director of Soho house) but who was later confirmed to be Violet von Westenholz. Meghan said in an interview that before she met the Harry she didn't know much about him 'the only thing that I had asked [our mutual friend] was, 'Well is he nice?'. According to Harry he knew Meghan was The One from 'the very first time we met.' after only two dates Harry asked Meghan to accompany him on a trip to Botswana.
In October 2016 that the Express became the first newspaper to publish news that Prince Harry had a new girlfriend. However just a month later, Kensington Palace released a statement condemning the 'wave of abuse and harassment' faced by Meghan. The unprecedented statement, which referred to Meghan as Harry's girlfriend for the first time, emphasized that Prince Harry was 'worried about Ms. Markle's safety and is deeply disappointed that he has not been able to protect her.' It continued 'It is not right that a few months into a relationship with him that Ms. Markle should be subjected to such a storm.' The palace were also forced to address speculation that Prince William was unhappy with Harry for confirming the relationship too soon, stating 'The Duke of Cambridge absolutely understands the situation concerning privacy and supports the need for Prince Harry to support those closest to him.'
Early in December 2017 Meghan was confirmed as the most Googled actress of 2016. In the same month, the couple were photographed together for the first time in London, shopping for a Christmas tree at the Pines and Needles store and attending a performance of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time. By January 2017 a source told US weekly that Harry had introduced Meghan to Kate and Prince Charlotte and that the 'meeting went well'. Meanwhile a source told The Sun that Meghan had 'virtually moved in' with Prince Harry to his cottage on the Kensington Palace estate.
By March things were openly getting pretty serious between the two: Meghan accompanied Harry to Jamaica for a wedding for the first time (his friend's Tom 'Skippy' Inskip to Lara Hughes-Young). On April the 7th Meghan announced that she was closing down her lifestyle blog The Tig writing 'What began as a passion project (my little engine that could) evolved into an amazing community of inspiration, support, fun and frivolity. You've made my days brighter and filled this experience with so much joy.' In May, Meghan and Harry attended their first public event together at the Polo in Coworth Park (where they also engaged in some PDA). Later in May Prince Harry was seen driving Meghan to the reception of Pippa Middleton and James Matthew's wedding.
Welcome to Meghan the style Icon: at the opening of Prince Harry's Invictus Games in September Meghan wore a maroon midi dress with a pleated chiffon skirt by one of her favourite Canadian brands, Aritzia with a burgundy biker jacket by Mackage. The next day the couple were photographed sitting together at the wheelchair tennis and 'broke with royal protocol' by holding hands and kissing at the closing ceremony. On the 5th of September In an interview with Vanity Fair, Meghan stated: '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.'
Late 2017 we saw the end of everyone's favourite legal powerhouse Rachel Zane (sob). In November 2017, shortly after Meghan met the Queen, the actress was reported to be leaving her role in Suits after seven seasons.
After months of speculation, Prince Charles announced the engagement of his younger son Prince Harry and Meghan Markle after 15 months of dating On November 27th 2017 . The engagement ring, said to be designed by Harry, is made of two stones that belonged to Princess Diana. The couple later appeared at a photocall, with Markle wearing a white dress coat by Canadian brand Line The Label (whose website subsequently crashed). When asked by waiting photographers if the proposal was romantic, Harry joked 'of course!' Speaking about his late mother, Princess Diana, Harry said 'I think they'd be thick as thieves. She would be over the moon, jumping up and down, so excited for me... It's days like today when I really miss having her around and miss being able to share the happy news. With the ring, I'm sure she's with us, jumping up and down somewhere else.' it was announced that the wedding would take place on May the 19th, 2018.
In December 2017 Meghan, Harry, Kate and William were photographed together attending the Christmas service at Sandringham. Pictures of the two couples earned them the title 'The Fab Four'. Meanwhile in the following months Meghan earned a reputation for breaking royal protocol on official visits by hugging fans of the couple and kissing them on the cheek.
In February 2018, Kate Middleton and Meghan Markle had their first royal engagement together for the Royal Foundation Forum with Prince Harry and Prince William. Harry stated of the two couples 'We have different opinions and they work really well [together]. Working as family does have its challenges; of course it does. The fact that everybody is laughing shows they know exactly what's it like… But we are stuck together for the rest of our lives.'
In the lead-up to the wedding it was confirmed 2,640 people would be invited to the grounds of Windsor Palace to watch the royal wedding. Photos of Meghan and Harry's wedding invitations were released, bearing Harry's legal name 'Henry'. Meghan and Harry made a number of public appearances together including to the Invictus game tryouts in April and attend the Queen's birthday at the Royal Albert Hall. Meghan's final episode of Suits is also aired, marking the official end of her acting career.
On May the 14th, three days before the wedding Meghan's father, Thomas Markle sr. who was confirmed to walk Meghan down the aisle pulled out, following an embarrassing incident in which he staged paid paparazzi photos. Thomas Markle later suffered a heart attack, and his son Thomas Markle Jr. penned an unflattering open letter to Harry criticizing Meghan and encouraging him to pull out of the wedding. The day before the wedding, Kensington Palace announced Prince Charles would walk Meghan down the aisle, stating 'The Prince of Wales is pleased to be able to welcome Ms. Markle to The Royal Family in this way.'
Meghan and Harry wed on the 19th of May for a combined audience of 11.5 million people who tuned in to watch the ceremony. Meghan's gown was made by Clare Waight Keller, artistic director of the fashion house Givenchy which she later changed for a silk crepe dress by Stella McCartney. Her mother Doria Ragland attended the ceremony along with a host of celebrities including Meghan's former Suits cast and her close friends, George and Amal Clooney.
Throughout May of 2018 Harry and Meghan made their first official appearances as the Duke and Duchess of Sussex. For her inaugural attendance to the Trooping of the Colour Meghan wore an off-the-shoulder dress, reportedly breaking royal protocal. In the following months the newlyweds made a number of public appearances including to Ireland to meet the country's officials. They also took a rumoured trip to visit George and Amal Clooney in Lake Como.
Speculation began during Princess Eugenie's wedding that Meghan was pregnant owing to her loose coat. The rumours were confirmed when Kensington Palace announced on the 15th of October 2018 that the Duke and Duchess of Sussex were expecting a child. The announcement also coincided with the first day of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex's official tour.
In October Meghan and Harry departed for their 16-day Autumn royal tour visiting Australia, Tonga, Fiji and New Zealand (obviously featuring some serious style moments from the newly-appointed Duchess of Sussex/Style). By November, sources were telling news outlets that the couple were preparing to move to Frogmore cottage in Windsor in 2019. The couple spent the anniversary of their engagement, November the 27th apart, due to Harry being in Zambia.
As Meghan and Harry embarked on life as newlyweds there was less plainsailing, as controversy continued to follow closely on their heels. Meghan's family have continued to be the subject of unflattering media headlines and Thomas Markle gave interviews to the media about his distanced relationship with his daughter. Meanwhile Samantha Markle (Meghan's half sister, who also claims to be penning a book about the Duchess) was put on a fixated persons list after showing up at Kensington palace in January. Rumours of a froideur between Meghan and Kate were sparked shortly after Meghan and Harry's nuptials by reports that Meghan reduced Kate 'to tears' during challenging dress fittings with Princess Charlotte. In February, Thomas Markle leaks a handwritten letter from Meghan to the media in response to friends of the Duchess defending her in an interview and following numerous staff changes, rumours arise that Meghan and Harry's staff refer to Meghan by the nickname 'The difficult Duchess'.
In March 2019 it was confirmed that the Sussex and Cambridge's 'royal households' will split, meaning the couples will no longer share staff. Royal spokespersons confirm that Kate and William's staff team will stay in Kensington Palace while Meghan and Harry's staff will be based in Buckingham Palace, reflecting the location of their new residence of Frogmore cottage in Windsor. Representatives are quick to confirm this is a planned move, and not due to rumors of growing tensions between the couples.
… 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.