By Jeff J. Mitchell/Getty
Queen Elizabeth and Meghan Markle arrived in Chester Thursday morning to excitable crowds who had waited hours to catch a glimpse of Her Majesty and the newest member of the royal family. The Queen wore a green coat by Stuart Parvin and a hat by Rachel Trevor Morgan, while Meghan wore Givenchy, also the designer of her wedding gown. As they disembarked from the royal train, Meghan walked a step behind the Queen, adhering to protocol, and seemed to be a little nervous. As she was greeted by David Briggs (the Lord Lieutenant of Cheshire) she told him, “I’m very happy to be here.”
Meghan’s somewhat-signature messy bun was nowhere to be seen; she wore her hair sleek and down, and also carried a clutch, both moves that may well have been cribbed from her sister-in-law Kate Middleton, who has been giving Meghan fashion advice since the spring.
Having spent the night together on the royal train, the Queen and the Duchess of Sussex pulled into Runcorn Station just after 10:30 am local time where they were met by a waiting car and driven to Mersey Gateway Bridge, a new six lane toll bridge over the River Mersey. Hundreds of people had queued for hours and cheered as the monarch and Meghan arrived at the bridge to meet architects, planners and community members. It is the first time Meghan has accompanied the Queen on a solo engagement, and Vanitiy Fair has learned that Meghan was personally invited by the Queen. Aides say that the away day is intended to show Meghan “the breadth of work the royal family carries out.”
The schedule has been carefully co-ordinated to reflect traditional elements of a royal day out along with a dash of culture which included music and performances. The Queen and the Duchess watched local school children perform a show called “Bringing Communities Together: Hatton’s River Crossings Over the Ages,” before the Queen unveiled a plaque to declare the bridge officially open.
From the bridge the royals headed to Storyhouse, a new theatre and library in the centre of Chester where they were given a tour of the building and observed a 72-second moment of silence in tribute to the victims of the Grenfell Tower fire. On the way they stopped to watch a Syrian settlement group doing traditional craftwork and the second performance of the day, a dance by Fallen Angels, a local theatre group for recovering drug addicts. They then headed into the theatre to watch some set pieces from a production of A Little Night Music and see schoolchildren from local primary schools perform songs alongside actors from Swallows and Amazons. The Queen unveiled another plaque before making her way outside with Meghan to make the short walk to Chester Town Hall, where they were guests of honor for a lunch at Chester City Council.
Today is the next step in a steep learning curve for Meghan, who has had a fast track introduction to royal duty since marrying into the royal family on May 19. She attended her first engagement, a garden party to honor the Prince of Wales, just three days after the royal wedding, and is expected to embark on a busy program of engagements now that the couple have returned from honeymoon.
Until now Meghan has always had Prince Harry by her side but today she was following in the Queen’s footsteps.