‘Incredible’ Meghan makes headline news on debut tour
The royal visit gave the duchess the chance to air some issues which are close to her heart.
The Duchess of Sussex was no stranger to the spotlight before heading to Oceania with her husband on their first royal tour together.
Meghan’s debut trip outside the UK and Ireland as a duchess was headline news across the world – and the interest rose further when Kensington Palace announced she was pregnant, on the eve of the 16-day visit to Australia, Fiji, Tonga and New Zealand.
Her previous life as an actress appeared to have equipped her with the means of dealing with the lines of adoring fans waiting to meet the couple from Sydney to Suva.
But the royal visit also gave Meghan the chance to air some of the issues which are close to her heart: equality for women and the importance of education for girls.
Her first speech of the tour came at the University of the South Pacific in Fiji, where she spoke of the challenges of being able to afford university.
She told an audience of students: “It was through scholarships, financial aid programmes and work-study – where my earnings from a job on campus went directly towards my tuition – that I was able to attend university.
“And, without question, it was worth every effort.
“Everyone should be afforded the opportunity to receive the education they want, but more importantly the education they have the right to receive.
“And for women and girls in developing countries, this is vital.
“Providing them with access to education is the key to economic and social development. Because when girls are given the right tools to succeed, they can create incredible futures, not only for themselves but also for those around them.”
Despite the gruelling tour – 76 engagements in just over a fortnight – Meghan was a near ever-present feature across the four countries, only missing parts of Fraser Island owing to the uneven terrain, and one appearance in Sydney after a late night.
Her efforts were singled out for praise by figures including New Zealand’s prime minster Jacinda Ardern, who said the duchess’s pregnancy “increased my respect for the role that she’s playing at such an often tiring time”.
“I have real empathy and I think she’s incredible.”
Speaking in New Zealand, Meghan praised the efforts of Kiwi women who fought for the right to vote 125 years ago, saying they were “universally admired”.
Part of that admiration was reflected back – summed up neatly by one sign held up outside a cafe in Wellington, which read: “Meghan, carry on being a feminist icon for my girls.”