What a difference eight decades make.
The last time a senior British royal announced his intention to marry an American divorcée, in 1936, he was exiled and stripped of the crown.
So the ghost of Edward VIII may have been smiling down on Prince Harry today, as he arrived with his fiancée Meghan Markle in the northern British city of Nottingham for her first royal engagement, to scenes of adulation and excitement.
Wearing high-heeled boots and a belted navy overcoat by Mackage over a taupe dress, and carrying a stylish handbag, Meghan was greeted with cheers by a waiting crowd of over a thousand on the chilly, crisp and clear morning. She and Harry descended from a blacked-out Range Rover to be greeted by the city’s mayor and other representatives of the town.
“Hope you haven’t been waiting out in the cold too long,” Harry told one fan, falling back on the most trusted topic of conversation for the royal family in tight spot.
Meghan showed a distinctly familiar and informal style, as she patted one woman on the shoulder while talking to her, and was clearly no stranger to greeting the line of fans, a skill learned in her years as an actor, which may prove to be great training for the biggest role of her life.
Historically, Meghan and Harry were quick off the mark; William and Kate took an agonizing three months to appear together on a public walkabout after their engagement was announced, rather than four days.
The rapidity with which Meghan has been pressed into service provides perhaps the clearest sign that palace courtiers are confident Markle can cope with the adulation that goes with being the newest member of the royal family.
Meghan seemed genuinely thrilled—she was seen beaming while shaking hands with dozens of well-wishers as she made her way toward Nottingham Contemporary Theater, where the Terrence Higgins Trust was hosting a charity fair to mark World AIDS Day.
Harry and Meghan will also visit the HQ of the ‘Full Effect’ charity—set up by Harry in 2013 to combat knife and gun crime in one of the poorest parts of the city.