The Duchess of Sussex has begun her day-long royal masterclass with the Queen, at her side for a day of public engagements in Chester.
The Duchess, who travelled up to Chester on the royal train with Her Majesty, will undertake her first day of duties without her husband, under the watchful eye of her new grandmother-in-law.
They stepped onto the blustery platform at Runcorn station to be welcomed with polite handshakes and curtsies from local dignitaries – and wild cheering and applause from hundreds of flag-waving schoolchildren.
The Duchess’ nerves, and lack of experience in the minutiae of royal protocol, were in evidence as they prepared to get into the Queen’s Bentley awaiting them in the station car park.
There was a moment of confusion as the Duchess appeared unsure who should get into the car first.
“What is your preference?” she asked the Queen. “You go first,” said the Queen. “Oh OK,” said the duchess.
But as they sat for a ceremony for the opening of the New Mersey Bridge in Widnes, the Duchess was seen leaning in and talking to the Queen, which produced what appeared to be fits of laughter from the 92-year-old as they watched children perform. They also observed a silence in memory of those who lost their lives in the Grenfell Tower disaster.
At her second engagement opening the new bridge across the River Mersey in Widnes, the Duchess seemed to have found her stride, deep in discussion with the Queen and sharing a joke.
The pair spoke to Halton Council officials, architects and engineers and others involved in the 25-year project to create the new toll bridge across the Mersey between Widnes and Runcorn.
“It’s a magnificent bridge,” the Duchess told them before joining the Queen on a stage to watch a dance performance by local schoolchildren celebrating 1,000 years of crossings across the river.
The royal visitors lapped it up, smiling and chatting to each other and to dignitaries as they watched children dance to a seven-minute medley of music that included Edgar’s March Pomp and Circumstance and The Beatles’ Can’t Buy Me Love.
“The Duchess was absolutely interested in the dance performance and in the history of the various bridges that have crossed the river,” said David Parr, Halton Council’s chief executive.
One guest, Phil Redmond, the creator of television dramas such as Brookside, Grange Hill, and Hollyoaks, was introduced to the Duchess with his wife Alexis, the High Sheriff of Cheshire.
“I wondered if she wanted a part in Hollyoaks,” he said. “She will have to go through the audition process like everyone else.”
He was joking and admitted their conversation has been more about how nice it was to see the Duchess with the Queen in Widnes at a ceremony marking the opening of the new £1.86 billion Mersey Gateway bridge over the Mersey.
“I didn’t (ask her) but there is a lunch to come,” he said. “It’s a big day for Cheshire.”
Meghan and the Queen, however, made no mention of the 50 or so placard-waving protesters who had turned out to greet them to demonstrate against the new crossing.
The new 1.5 mile long six-lane bridge, linking the two sides of the borough of Halton, has proved controversial, provoking widespread opposition to the £2 charge for each crossing.
The other bridge between Runcorn and Widnes, currently closed for repairs, was free to cross but will also attract tolls when it reopens, adding to the cost of living for locals.
Mr Parr said the royal pair had not mentioned the controversy and hailed their seal of approval for the project. “People have a right to protest. This is a democracy. We gave them that opportunity today,” he said.
But he added: “We created this crossing to bring prosperity to our community. This is a bridge to prosperity. It’s reduced the congestion that has blighted Halton and the Liverpool city region for years.”
Before they left, the Queen and Meghan accepted posies from two schoolgirls, Savannah Cafferty, 11, and Alarni Wain, who was celebrating her eighth birthday. “They both wished me happy birthday,” said an excited Alarni.
Savannah, smiling afterwards, said: “I never thought I’d get the chance to meet the Duchess.” The Queen and Meghan both praised the children’s dance performance, in the grounds of a science museum half a mile from the bridge, when they spoke to Andrew Curphey, whose theatre company had brought 80 children aged 5-18 from nine local schools together to create their show, entitled Bringing Communities Together.
“It’s been a massive treat, a massive buzz for us all,” Mr Curphey, 32, said. “They both wanted to talk. The Queen said she really enjoyed it but the best hit was just before they left with Meghan.
“She turned back and said to me: ‘The children did great by the way.'”
Mr Curphey said of Meghan: “She was really calm considering it was her first official engagement with the boss.”
The day, which includes the opening of the bridge, theatre performances and lunch with local dignitaries, will be a significant induction for the newlywed Duchess into the reality of royal life.
The Queen, with a lifetime of experience, is likely to offer only the quietest guidance, leading by example as the pair meet the public together.
Onlookers said the Duchess arrived into Runcorn station with a broad smile and a slight air of nervousness as she followed the Queen onto the platform.
The two women travelled up to Runcorn in Cheshire in one of the more idiosyncratic and expensive modes of travel at the royal family’s disposal.
As one royal source said, “it is like stepping into the past”, with 1970s decor and tea cups, which only get used a dozen or so times a year, still bearing the old British Rail logo.
As the pair disembarked from the train, they were greeted by the Lord Lieutenant of Cheshire, David Briggs MBE, who told the Duchess: “I understand it is your first trip to the north of England.”
She replied: “That’s correct. I’m very happy to be here.”
The contrast in their styles was evident: the Queen wore a lime green outfit by Stewart Pravin, a hat by Rachel Trevor-Morgan and white gloves: the Duchess, who was in Givenchy, had no hat or gloves, and wore her hair down. Inside the car the Queen had a blue blanket to put over her knees.
Birthday girl Abigail Grimes, aged five today, a pupil at Beechwood Primary School in Runcorn, was chosen to present the duchess with a posy of flowers, the royal visitors nodding and thanking the youngster for her gift.
Meanwhile the Queen, wearing a lime green outfit by Stewart Parvin and matching hat by Rachel Trevor Morgan was given a posy by Jack Jackson, aged 10, from St Michael’s Catholic Primary School in Widnes.
The pair then watched a performance by children from the Andrew Curphey Theatre Company and were in high spirits as they laughed and smiled throughout the show.
Mr Curphey, 32, who met the royals, said: “The children have been hugely excited and it’s been a massive treat for them.
“The Queen said she thoroughly enjoyed it and it was lovely to see the history of the bridge on the videos.
“As Meghan walked away from me she turned back and said ‘the children did great by the way’.
“They both wanted to talk and seemed interested.
“Meghan seemed really, really calm considering it was her first official engagement with the boss.”
The Queen unveiled an official plaque for the new bridge on a stage in the museum grounds which overlooked the structure.
As they left, the Queen and Duchess were presented with flowers by Savannah Cafferty, 11, and Alarni Wain, who was celebrating her eighth birthday.
Alarni said both of the royals wished her a happy birthday. Savannah said Meghan was “really pretty” and thanked her for the flowers.
She said: “It was amazing because I never knew I would see the Queen in real life.”
The Queen and Duchess then got into a car together before heading to their next engagement in Chester.
It is the first time the Duchess has undertaken public engagements without the Duke, although she is known to have met privately with charities as she plans what she will do in royal life.
Both arrived by royal train to begin the day’s engagements and the opening event was held at Catalyst Museum in West Bank, Widnes, which offers a bird’s eye view of the new crossing from the glass top observation gallery.
The royal party also watched a performance by local school children there called Bringing Communities Together: Halton’s river crossings over the ages.
Video: Duchess of Sussex’s first event as royal
Afterwards the Queen and the Duchess, who married the Queen’s grandson Prince Harry last month, departed by car for Chester, 20 miles away, for two more royal engagements.
The first is for the official opening of Storyhouse, a library, theatre and cinema complex, where they will be taken on a tour of the building.
While there they will meet a Syrian settlement group engaged in craft work and watch a performance by Fallen Angels, a dance theatre company for people in recovery from addiction, before moving to the theatre to see a medley of songs from Storyhouse’s latest production, A Little Night Music.
Local schoolchildren will also sing songs alongside actors from Swallows And Amazons.
The Queen and the Duchess will then walk to Chester Town Hall where they will attend a lunch as guests of Chester City Council, which will mark the conclusion of their visit to Cheshire.
The Queen and the Duchess of Sussex fell silent to mark the first anniversary of the Grenfell Tower tragedy as they teamed up for their first official visit together since the royal wedding.
They were in Chester at noon and joined people up and down the UK in observing the silence in memory of the victims of the fire.
The occasion added a sombre note to the otherwise happy tour of Cheshire, which drew large crowds.
Article Source : https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2018/06/14/meghan-markle-joins-queen-first-royal-engagements-together-chester/