Birmingham: Prince Harry, Fiance Inspires Schoolchildren on International Women's Day Visit

Published March 8th, 2018 - 02:18 GMT
Prince Harry, Meghan Markle were welcomed to the city by excited schoolchildren on International Women's Day. (AFP/ File Photo)
Prince Harry, Meghan Markle were welcomed to the city by excited schoolchildren on International Women's Day. (AFP/ File Photo)

Meghan Markle hugged a ten-year-old girl in Birmingham today as she and her royal fiancé Prince Harry were welcomed to the city by excited schoolchildren.

Harry pulled astonished Sophia Richards out of the crowd to meet Meghan on the couple's royal walkabout after she told him of her ambition to be an actress on International Women's Day.

Sophia looked stunned after meeting the couple this morning, with Harry telling her: 'You need to be confident and you can achieve whatever you want to achieve.' 

The girl, who is a pupil at the Oasis Academy Warndon in Worcester, said afterwards: 'Meghan told me that I can achieve whatever I want to achieve. And Meghan said she would like to see me on TV when I become an actress.'

Sophie said that it was a 'dream come true, adding: 'I will never forget this day.' Meghan gave the schoolgirl a hug before Harry took her back to her classmates.

Meghan also embraced Pippa Roberts, aged ten, from Mere Green Primary School in Sutton Coldfield after a request from the youngster who said: 'I said, can I have a hug and she said yes - it was nice.'

Meghan also joked about the British weather with Canadian student Brandy Davis, 20. Brandy, from Toronto, said: 'Meghan came over and we exchanged pleasantries, and I said I was from Canada. She told Harry and he said 'Canadians are everywhere'. 

'Then Meghan asked me what I thought about the weather. She said people here complain about about the weather, and I said my goodness, they don't know. We Canadians know about the weather. She said 'yes, we're in the same boat'.'

Ms Davis, who is studying at Warwick University on exchange from Queens University, Canada, added: 'She was absolutely lovely. She had a smile on her face the whole time, and she made a point of going to everyone.'

Meghan, who prides herself on being a feminist who is outspoken about female empowerment, embraced the girl as she and Harry marked International Women's Day in Birmingham. 

Student Charlotte Highsmith, from Oxford, was overcome with excitement after meeting Meghan and said: 'Oh myGod, it was worth the wait - I've missed my lecture.'

The 20-year-old, who is studying criminology and policing at Birmingham City University, added: 'Meghan just thanked us for waiting in the rain for her, but it wasn't a problem.'

Two elderly sisters, Irene Gould, 82, and her younger sibling June Dickinson, 78, were also ecstatic after meeting Harry and his fiancee.

Mrs Gould said: 'We were just so pleased to meet them, and how beautiful Meghan is. We thanked Harry for coming to see us and wished them all the best for their marriage.'  

Harry and Meghan received a rapturous welcome as they began their visit to the city.

Their trip to the Midlands is the latest leg of their tour of the country, which has seen them travel the length and breadth of the UK from Cardiff to Edinburgh.

Crowds had been gathering hours ahead and braved the rain waiting for the couple under a sea of umbrellas at Millennium Point. But the sun came out a few minutes before the couple arrived.

Stephen McNally, 61, from Stourbridge, said he travelled with a group of friends, with many of them carrying bouquets for Meghan.

Commenting on Harry's engagement to the American actress, he said: 'I think he's been allowed to do, really, what he wants. He is old enough now and nobody can tell him what to do - not at his age - and I just hope they will be happy.

'It will be different for her but I think they've learnt a lot from the past and that is why Meghan is doing these walkabouts and going round the country before she's getting married. I think it's really nice, rather than keeping things a secret like they used to do.

'We hope to be going to Windsor for the wedding, on the streets or in the castle precinct.'

The couple were greeted by John Crabtree, Lord-Lieutenant of the West Midlands, and Meghan wore a coat by J Crew, trousers by Alexander Wang and an AllSaints Ridley jumper.

Harry and Meghan later arrived at Millennium Point to meet the next generation of women in science, technology, engineering and maths (Stem).

Around 90 female students had sat at tables in the university building in anticipation of the couple's arrival.

The purpose of their visit is to meet the students, take part in building apps and touchpads, and learn about the work of local schools and 'Stemettes'.

The event marks the celebration of International Women's Day 2018 and will attempt to inspire the young students who would like to work in Stem careers.

Harry and Meghan started the event by trying virtual headsets with students from Blessed Edward Oldcorne School in Birmingham. The couple tried on the headsets which resembled a virtual rollercoaster.

Meghan asked the students what they wanted to do as a career and was impressed with the answers of surgeons and doctors.

The pupils described the experience as surreal after the couple shook their hands and went on to other workshops.

After finishing talking through various pieces of technology with the students, the pair sat together to listen to speeches from inspiring women in Stem industries.

Meghan was shocked by some of the technology on display, including pianos made out of bananas and how to 'hack the web'.

She told some students that the coding they were working on was very impressive, saying: 'Wow, that's really cool.'

Prince Harry shared his finance's thoughts and encouraged the talented students to go into careers in science and maths.

The couple left the event after both were given a goody bag which said: 'I am not just a bag, I am a Stemettes bag.'

They received a huge round of applause from the 90 female students as they made their way to their next event.

The couple also gave prizes to three winners of a speech-writing competition in which they spoke about their most inspiring women.

Harry and Meghan nodded in approval after each of the speeches and gave all three a generous clap at the end.

Retired teacher Josie Weeks, 62, from Leeds, got up at 5am to travel to Birmingham for the royal visit and carried a posy of white blooms for Meghan.

She said: 'I met the couple in Nottingham and just wanted to see them again and take some photographs. I think Harry's really coming into himself now with his charity work - he's stepped it up in the last few years. 

'The main thing is if he's happy with Meghan, that's all you want for him.'  

The couple are making their first stop an event which aims to inspire the next generation of young women to pursue careers in the 'Stem' subjects of science, technology, engineering and maths.

Hosted by social enterprise Stemettes at Millennium Point, the event will bring together female students from local secondary schools.

It will include interactive activities, a panel discussion, speed networking opportunities with local businesses, and information on work experience, apprenticeships, A-level choices, and university degrees in Stem.

Harry, 33, and Meghan, 36, who is wearing a J Crew coat, plan to get hands on as they join the girls taking part in building apps and touchpads, before hearing more about their motivations to pursue Stem subjects. 

Afterwards they will travel on to the Nechells Wellbeing Centre to join Birmingham's Coach Core apprentices as they take part in a training masterclass led by Create Development. 

The Coach Core apprenticeship scheme was designed by The Royal Foundation of The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry to train young people aged 16 - 24 with limited opportunities to become sports coaches and mentors within their communities.  

During the year-long apprenticeship, which now operates in ten cities across the UK, the apprentices learn technical sport skills alongside an inclusive and holistic approach to coaching, with an emphasis on employability and mentoring skills. 

Harry and Meghan will chat to the apprentices about their experiences of the programme – which launched in Birmingham in March 2017 – before joining them in the sports hall as they deliver training sessions in rugby, football and tennis. 

Today's visit continues Meghan's promise to 'hit the ground running' as a member of the royal family, and visit as many communities as possible around the UK before her wedding to the Queen's grandson on May 19. 

The trip comes after the Daily Mail revealed today that Meghan has been baptised into the Church of England in a secret ceremony with Prince Harry at her side at the Chapel Royal on Tuesday evening.

The intimate 45-minute service was conducted by the Archbishop of Canterbury - and were joined by Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall, but neither Prince William nor the Queen were present.

Meghan's baptism, which formally introduces her into the Anglican faith ahead of her wedding to Harry in two months, marks an important step on her transformation from divorced American actress to future granddaughter-in-law to the Queen. The ceremony was a closely-guarded secret with only a handful of royal aides involved. 

She's getting into the stride of a busy schedule of royal engagements, and Meghan Markle seems to be sending out a very clear signal with her new work uniform.

The bride-to-be arrived in Birmingham this morning wearing a $298 navy Italian stadium-cloth wool coat by J Crew teamed with an unstructured £168 jumper from All Saints and black cropped trousers by Alexander Wang.

While she looks suitably chic on royal engagements the former Suits star is sticking to a formula that guarantees her outfits don't steal the show - especially as a committed feminist on International Women's Day.

She accessorised with Manolo Blahnik heels and a Ghianda leather shoulder bag by Altuzarra, but chanelled the queen by ditching the long strap and carrying it by the handle.

Celebrity stylist and designer Lucas Armitage told Femail: 'Whilst most of us are used to dressing for the office for Meghan this look is out of her comfort zone as she is more used to rocking a gown on a red carpet.

'Whilst she looks suitably chic perhaps she wants her important work to take centre stage today.'

Earlier this week it was reported that Meghan's dress will cost £400,000 so it's no wonder the bride-to-be is eager to remain accessible to the public.

'With news just in of the wedding dress it's great to see her rocking a more attainable look for us mere mortals to emulate,' Lucas said.

He added: 'A court shoe and skinny cropped trousers is a fail safe look for her she has previously gone to before. The large lapels on the coat and monochrome details give this fairly ordinary look her typical fashion edge.

'7/8 trousers have been seen on many catwalks for Spring/Summer 18 and Meghan give us a lesson in how we can translate this catwalk trend to real life.'

Those hoping to copy Meghan's look can still buy her coat from net-a-porter although J. Crew previously sold out of the design.

Today's outing proved that Meghan is determined to stick to a chic but understated uniform for her public appearances.

Today is her seventh official engagement with Harry and she has worn trousers on five occasions, including jeans on her first visit to Wales.

And she eschewed a glamorous dress for her first evening appearance with Harry at the Endeavour Fund Awards in February, opting for an Alexander McQueen tuxedo.

This article has been adapted from its original source.

© Associated Newspapers Ltd.

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