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28 May 2023

British royals give gift of dignity to Australia's war dead

By AP/AFP/Reuters

Britain's Prince Harry and his wife, Meghan, brought the gift of dignity to Australia's war veterans on Saturday, laying a wreath for those who died at an Anzac war memorial.

The Prince, in military uniform, and his wife, respectfully clothed in a high-necked black dress by New Zealand designer Emilia Wickstead, silently and gently placed the wreath to rest together before fighter jets thundered past.

The memorial, in Sydney's Hyde Park, was first opened in 1934 by Harry's great, great uncle and namesake, Prince Henry, Duke of Gloucester.

Retired General David Hurley, Governor of New South Wales, said there had been a crowd 100,000-strong at that opening where the Duke unveiled a plaque that said in simple terms: "Opened, by the son of a King".

To echo those sentiments, Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex, unveiled the commemorative plaque at the re-opening following a $40 million upgrade that completes the original 1930s design by architect Bruce Dellitt.

In his speech at the opening, General Hurley told the crowd that a public fund had been established on the first anniversary of the Gallipoli landing to build the memorial but after the Great Depression hit, it was never completed.

The memorial has now been finished in time for the 100th anniversary of the end of World War One after a $40 million upgrade to include a spectacular cascading waterfall, a hall of service, education facilities and a library.

"Let silent contemplation be your offering," said General Hurley.

"These words found at the entrance to the hall of silence evoke the sense of loss and grief that this memorial represents to the people of NSW."

The hall contains an artwork collection of 1701 soil samples from every town, city or district that were homes of those who fought in World War One.

The Duke and Duchess of Sussex toured the upgraded memorial before attending the opening ceremony alongside Australia's Prime Minister Scott Morrison and other dignitaries.

Photo: AFP

Later on Saturday they are due to attend the first day of the Invictus Games on Sydney's Cockatoo Island.

Royals Harry and Meghan go barefoot on Bondi

British royals Harry and Meghan kicked off their shoes and donned tropical garlands Friday, as they hit Sydney's famed Bondi beach for the latest stop on their Australian tour.

Expectant Meghan donned a summer dress, putting aside her high heels, while Harry ditched his usual suit for chinos as the couple lapped up cheers from Australian fans and enjoyed Bondi's surf.

Despite morning fog, the pair met local surfers enjoying winter swells and sat down on the sand for a long chat with leaders of the OneWave group, which focuses on helping people improve mental health by getting outdoors.

Pre-prepared signs screaming "G'day Harry and Meghan" greeted the royal couple, who have received a warm welcome from fans throughout the start of their 16-day pacific tour.

While half of Australians oppose having British monarchs as head of state, and the vast majority of Australians have carried on with business as usual during the visit, there has been sizable support for the celebrity couple at every stop.

News that the Duchess of Sussex is pregnant has only made the crowds swell.

Amid a torrent of fawning press coverage declaring Meghan the "Queen of hugs" and the prince receiving "buckets of love," the Australian Republican Movement is putting on a brave face.

"The Duke and Duchess of Sussex are very welcome visitors" the group said at the start of the trip, pointedly adding that "Australians of all ages know the difference between this wonderful event and the questions of our nation's identity and future."

In a 1999 referendum, 55 percent of Australians voted against replacing Queen Elizabeth II as head of state, although polls indicate support for republicanism has grown since then.

Photo: AFP

The opposition Labor party has promised a plebiscite on the issue if it wins a general election expected in 2019.

Kangaroo on the menu for Harry and Meghan Down Under

Chargrilled kangaroo was on the royal menu Thursday as Prince Harry and his pregnant wife Meghan arrived in Australia's second-largest city Melbourne, where they were greeted by thousands of screaming fans.

Clutching flowers and waving flags, the crowds turned out to welcome the pair, who were delayed in traffic after flying in from Sydney on the third day of their tour Down Under.

The pair will only spend a few hours in Melbourne, but had a jam-packed schedule that included a meal featuring native Australian foods and a trip to a beach.

"I love everything they stand for. As a human being you have so much to look up to with them," one young fan who had been waiting since before dawn told national broadcaster ABC as the pair mingled with the crowd.

A teenage girl cried tears of joy and threw her arms around the prince as she clutched a hand-written banner with the words: "Been here since 4am. Loved you since I was eight."

"You're gonna get me in trouble," Harry joked as he embraced her.

Meghan was inundated by flower bouquets and baby gifts following their announcement on Monday that Meghan was expecting their first child.

The US-born royal also put on a dinosaur pasta necklace made by a five-year-old boy, who was wearing his favourite pilot uniform outfit, for the rest of her walk.

"I made it with pasta and dipped them in gold paint and threaded the string through," he told news.com.au.

The Duchess was wearing a tan trench-coat, believed to be by Paris-based Australian designer Martin Grant, a navy dress by the breakthrough star of local fashion Dion Lee, and holding a Gucci Sylvie clutch.

The loved-up husband and wife mostly mingled with the crowd separately, but when they were together, they held hands and the Duchess periodically stroked Harry's back.

After the public meet-and-greet, the couple spent some time with the Victorian Governor Linda Dessau in an official reception at Government House, where the Duchess of Sussex stole the hearts of local sports fans by handballing a football used in the Australian Rules game.

They then headed to a restaurant that mentors indigenous chefs with chargrilled kangaroo and wild boar on the menu, according to broadcaster Channel Nine. They will visit a school before finishing up at South Melbourne beach.

The couple will also follow in the footsteps of Harry's grandmother Queen Elizabeth during her 2011 visit by taking a tram ride in Melbourne.

They are due to return to Sydney later this week for the opening of the global sports championship the Invictus Games, which was set up by Harry for wounded military personnel after his decade of service in the army.

Photo: AFP

The couple's more-than-two-week official visit will take in multiple stops in Australia, Fiji, Tonga and New Zealand - all parts of the Commonwealth, a group of predominantly former British colonies.

Harry and Meghan 'gift' rain to drought-stricken Aussie outback

Prince Harry and his expectant wife Meghan visited a drought-stricken region of Australia Wednesday, bringing a rare and welcome rainstorm with them.

The prince commended resilient farmers for persisting through years-long dry spells as he and the Duchess of Sussex received an enthusiastic welcome and one heart-warming hug on day two of their tour Down Under.

"The rain was a gift," the prince quipped while addressing farmers in one of the country's hardest-hit drought regions.

Throngs of locals brandishing cardboard cut-outs of the royals gathered in the outback town of Dubbo to get a glimpse of the pair, while others wore royal fancy dress.

"You are the salt of the earth. Honest, hard-working, and as tough as they come," the prince told the Dubbo community gathered in a park as heavy rain fell.

"That resilience, sense of humour, and commitment to the land, are the qualities that make you unique, you are the backbone of this country," he added, as Meghan held an umbrella over the pair.

Eastern Australia has been suffering through record-breaking dry periods, with some regions in and around Dubbo experiencing several years of drought.

Only in the past few weeks have some areas begun to see rain - although the downpours remain patchy.

Harry, who has spoken about his own mental health issues following the death of his mother, called on those affected by drought to ask for help.

"All you need to do is ask for it - your neighbour, your peer, your fellow farmer is literally right around the corner," he said, noting higher suicide rates in rural Australia.

The royal couple are in Dubbo - a town six hours' drive from Sydney - to unveil a new aircraft for the country's Royal Flying Doctor Service at the local airport, enjoy a picnic with the farming community and tour a school that works with young indigenous Australians.

Photo: AFP/AP/Bang

But the pair also stopped for a heart-warming cuddle with five-year-old Luke Vincent, who was wearing his Buninyong Public School uniform and a blue-and-white cap as he nuzzled the duchess and affectionately rubbed the duke's thinning ginger hair and stroked his beard.

Prince Harry and Meghan start Aussie tour with baby gifts

A beaming Duke and Duchess of Sussex thrilled thousands of fans outside the Sydney Opera House on Tuesday during their first meeting with the general public since the former Meghan Markle's newly announced pregnancy.

Prince Harry and Meghan spent longer than the 20 minutes allocated in their schedule to speak to and shake hands with as many well-wishers as possible. Meghan, wearing a beige trench coat over a sleeveless cream dress by Australian designer Karen Gee, accepted cards and flowers from an enthusiastic crowd.

The news of the pregnancy was announced after the couple arrived in Sydney on Monday and 15 hours before their first public appearance. The two are on a 16-day tour of Australia, Fiji, Tonga and New Zealand that their Kensington Palace staff said would not be altered despite confirmation that the American former actress is pregnant.

Among those taken by surprise by the announcement were their Sydney hosts, Governor-General Sir Peter Cosgrove and Lady Lynne Cosgrove. The governor-general, who represents Queen Elizabeth II, Australia's head of state and Harry's grandmother, sent staff to hastily buy a toy kangaroo with a joey in its pouch and a tiny pair of Australian sheep skin boots for their pregnant guest.

"Here's your first gift for the nursery," the governor-general told the couple during the official welcome at his official residence, Admiralty House.

"Thank you, that's so sweet," Meghan said as she received the toy.

The pregnancy has made front-page news across Australia.

The Sydney Morning Herald ran the headline: "A smooth ride to Sydney, but royals reveal bump on the way." Darwin's irreverent NT News chose the headline: "Ginger Pregs" - a play on a long-running Australian comic strip about a mischievous red-head boy called "Ginger Meggs."

Outside the Opera House on Tuesday, Harry lingered longest with war widow Daphne Dunne, 98, whom he hugged as they chatted.

It was the third time that they had met since Harry's eye caught sight of a Victoria Cross medal on her chest during a Sydney visit in 2015. She explained that her first husband Albert Chowne had been given the highest award in the British honors system after he died in Papua New Guinea in 1945.

This time, Meghan joined Harry in greeting the Dunne, who admires the prince's work with veterans.

"Oh my goodness, is this Daphne?" Meghan asked.

Dunne later said Meghan told her "she had heard all about me; she's so beautiful."

"I wished them well with the baby on the way and said this is what Harry has been waiting for so long," Dunne added.

Before Megan donned her coat, her tight-fitting dress barely revealed a bump as they were welcomed at the first event of the day at the Sydney Harbor-side mansion where the two are staying.

The main focus of that engagement was to meet Invictus Games representatives from the 18 countries competing in the event that starts Saturday. The sporting event, founded by Harry in 2014, gives sick and injured military personnel and veterans the opportunity to compete in sports such as wheelchair basketball.

Photo: AFP

Several of the representatives congratulated the couple on their baby news. Meghan replied: "Thank you so much. We are very excited."

The couple later traveled by boat to Taronga Park Zoo where they opened a research center and met two 10-month old koalas that had been named after them.

They watched an indigenous dance company rehearse inside the Opera House before meeting the public.

The announcement of the pregnancy confirms weeks of speculation from royal watchers about why Meghan was not joining Harry on his Sydney Harbor Bridge climb set for Friday.

Harry, 34, and Meghan, 37 - along with Prince William and his wife, Kate, the duchess of Cambridge - have stepped to the fore in the last year as the 92-year-old queen slightly reduces her public schedule.