Harry and Meghan charm young and old during Dublin visit
The Duchess of Sussex told one fan that Dublin was her favourite city.
The Duke and Duchess of Sussex wowed young and old at some of Dublin’s most famous landmarks on a whistle-stop tour of the Irish capital.
On a day full of warm encounters with Irish well-wishers, three-year-old Gaelic sports fan Walter Kieran played with Meghan’s hair during a visit to the home of the Gaelic Athletic Association at Croke Park while another young supporter tugged Harry’s beard.
Those playful exchanges at the famous stadium came ahead of a 25-minute walkabout in the grounds of Trinity College, where the royals chatted and laughed with enthusiastic crowds.
During the meet and greet on the university’s cobbled square, Meghan told one fan that Dublin was her favourite city.
Harry followed in the footsteps of his grandmother the Queen by making the symbolic visit to Croke Park.
The stadium is steeped in history and witnessed one of the most infamous incidents of Ireland’s War of Independence when British soldiers opened fire on a crowd of spectators in 1920, killing 14 people.
Dozens of children played Gaelic football and hurling as the couple watched on Wednesday morning.
They walked hand-in-hand around the sprawling pitch as GAA representatives talked the couple through the rules of Gaelic games.
They spoke to young children about their involvement in sport and what it meant to them playing at Croke Park.
Earlier, Harry’s mind was on another sport when he gave England a boost ahead of their crucial World Cup match, declaring football was coming home as he met Ireland’s president.
The duke was asked by a reporter if “football was coming home” – the chant from the hugely popular Three Lions anthem.
As Harry and Meghan posed for a picture with President Michael D Higgins and his wife Sabina, the duke replied laughing “most definitely”.
The duke and duchess met the president and his wife at the head of state’s official residence Aras an Uachtarain, the former British Viceregal lodge in Dublin’s Phoenix Park.
They rang a Peace Bell installed in the garden of the grand 18th century house in 2008 to mark the 10th anniversary of Northern Ireland’s Good Friday peace agreement and toured the grounds with the presidential couple and their two Bernese mountain dogs, Brod and Sioda.
Meghan, who along with Harry signed the visitors’ book at the Aras, wore a Roland Mouret dress for the presidential visit. She later changed into a black trouser suit.
Prior to embarking on the walkabout at Trinity, the couple were shown the historic Book of Kells, one of Ireland’s ancient treasures.
Warm smiles and banks of mobile phones greeted the couple in the square outside.
Elizabeth Ring, a 19-year-old law student, said of her conversation with the couple: “Meghan said Dublin was her favourite city. Harry said he’d come back with his jacket over his head, incognito.”
Emma Boden, 10, gave the couple a handmade card.
“Meghan said thank you very much and she told me that she loved a hand written card,” she said.
“Then she shook my hand. She smells really, really nice and now my hand smells really nice as well. I don’t think I’ll wash them for a long time.”
David Balfany, on holiday in Dublin from the United States, said he had invited Meghan to a student reunion at Northwestern University where they were both students.
“She told me she didn’t think she would be able to make it,” he said.
Pauline Beatty was delighted to have got a hug and kiss from Harry. “When I asked him for the hug he said: ‘I can’t hug you because then I’ll have to hug everybody else.’ So I just grabbed him. He was scarlet.”
Two girls wearing “When Harry Met Meghan” T-shirts were very excited to meet the couple.
“Harry asked me where we got the T-shirts and I told him Asda,” said Stephanie Jordan from Belfast. “He asked if they were really selling them there?”
The couple later stopped for a private lunch before continuing on the packed final day of their pre-Brexit charm offensive in Ireland, which comes less than a month after Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall visited the country.
During their private lunch break, the couple dined at contemporary Irish restaurant Delahunt and both chose smoked salmon as their starter, with the duke picking spring lamb for his main while his wife opted for hake.
Later they toured EPIC, Dublin’s Irish Emigration Museum, where Meghan confessed her love of the Irish dance show Riverdance when she caught sight of one of its past stars Michael Flatley on a screen.
In the attraction’s music gallery, the duchess immediately recognised the music of the show and the royal couple also listened to early recordings of traditional Irish music on gramophones.
The pair noticed a nod to Philip Treacy in the Irish design section, a designer who has created pieces for Meghan in the past.
The duchess said about him: “He’s so much fun. He’s amazing and such a character.”
The royal couple’s final stop on the tour was the connections gallery, which reflects on modern means of communication between emigrants and their loved ones back home.
Before they left, deputy museum director Jessica Traynor created a postcard for the royal couple, stating her prediction for the big World Cup clash – England 2, Croatia 0.
It left the duke laughing heartily and noting that he was hopeful of such a positive result, before he left hand in hand with his smiling wife.
Earlier the couple had visited the Famine Memorial on Custom House Quay close to the River Liffey – a series of life-size emaciated figures commemorating the victims of Ireland’s great famine in the mid-19th century.
Rowan Gillespie, sculptor of the work, said Harry and Meghan were genuinely shocked when they learned more about the disaster.
He said: “They congratulated me and said it was very powerful and very moving.”
When the couple first arrived at the site, hecklers from across the Liffey began shouting IRA-slogans to them as the pair discussed the memorial with the artist.
Crude remarks were also made to Meghan as they walked around the memorial.
But Mr Gillespie said afterwards he did not notice anyone shouting as they were immersed in conversation with the royals.
Harry and Meghan ended their day meeting some of Ireland’s young tech wizards during a visit to Dogpatch Labs, a start-up hub based in Dublin’s CHQ building.
The young royals were given demonstrations from children from around the country whose projects included a smart fridge, facial recognition software and a doll which aims to reduce a child’s fear about attending hospital.
At one point Harry joked about his poor IT skills, saying he had lacklustre Excel abilities.