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Meghan sparkles in Nottingham walkabout with Harry on first public outing

A sea of camera phones greeted their arrival along with chants of “Harry, Harry” and “Meghan, Meghan”.

Prince Harry and bride-to-be Meghan Markle began their public life together with a whirlwind of handshakes and smiles as the crowd chanted their names during their first walkabout.

Hundreds of well-wishers had gathered in Nottingham to greet the couple and were not disappointed as the prince and his fiancee appeared determined to meet almost everyone on their first joint engagement.

In scenes reminiscent of the early days of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge’s married life, a sea of camera phones greeted their arrival along with chants of “Harry, Harry” and “Meghan, Meghan”.

The American former actress appeared to take the outpouring of affection and interest from the well-wishers in her stride, looking confident as she greeted the crowds with a smile and handshake.

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Harry chose Nottingham, a city and its people who are close to his heart, as the place to introduce his bride-to-be to the UK.

During the walkabout, which lasted just over 20 minutes, Ms Markle was wrapped up against the cold in a long dark blue coat by Mackage, and boots, and was handed armfuls of flowers, chocolates and other gifts.

She was without gloves, so her engagement ring was on display, and carried a handbag – something Kate rarely does.

Avid fan Irene Hardman, who is well-known for handing bags of Haribo sweets to Harry, and first presented his father, the Prince of Wales, with two bags – the other for brother William – 20 years ago, was a familiar face in the crowd.

The 81-year-old handed Ms Markle a goody bag containing fridge magnets and other gifts. She said afterwards that the meeting was “very emotional”.

Through tears of joy, she said: “I cried – she’s wonderful, and it’s fantastic. They’re so genuine.”

The visit aims to raise awareness of HIV/Aids and efforts to tackle youth crime but it also gave the prince the opportunity to showcase his partner to the nation.

Harry chose Nottingham, a city he knows well, for their first walkabout, a mainstay of royal engagements.

The couple, who arrived by train, began their tour with a civic welcome at the National Justice Museum in Nottingham’s historic Lace Market district.

They walked towards a group of dignitaries with one arm around each other’s backs and then moved along the seemingly endless line of well-wishers.

Harry and Meghan were wrapped up warmly (PA)

The prince and his fiancee appeared eager to meet the public with Harry at one point asking someone “can I shake your hand?”.

He then smiled when a well-wisher shouted, from three or four rows back behind a crash barrier: “How does it feel being a ginger with Meghan?”

The former Army officer replied with a grin “It’s great, isn’t it?”, when the man said the word “unbelievable?”, Harry responded “unbelievable”.

One of the stranger sights during the meet-and-greet with the public was well-wisher Frank Shelton who had brought his barn owl Kim to meet the couple.

At points during the walkabout, Ms Markle put a reassuring hand on Harry’s back and early on she was given a bunch of cream coloured flowers.

The couple then travelled to the nearby Nottingham Academy, in the Mapperley area of the city.

They were greeted by the school’s principal, Henry Kulaya, deputy principals Helen Foulger and Nicola Quinton, and staff from Full Effect, a programme working to mentor young people at risk of and affected by youth violence.

The Full Effect project has been supported by The Royal Foundation of The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry since 2013.

Meghan Markle meets a child at the Terrence Higgins Trust World AIDS Day charity fair (Adrian Dennis/PA)

During their visit to the academy, they heard first-hand from staff about the positive impact Full Effect is having on local school communities and students.

Ms Markle met some of the children benefiting from the programme’s Friday Night Youth Club, which began in September.

The couple also chatted with Full Effect mentor Chantelle Stefanovic, who recently spoke about the issues facing children and young people in the St Ann’s area of Nottingham at the inaugural summit of the Obama Foundation in Chicago.

Harry, paying his third visit to the school, and Ms Markle also witnessed a kickboxing session involving eight youngsters being overseen by Full Effect mentor Cain Thomas.

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