SYDNEY (AP) — A beaming Duke and Duchess of Sussex started the first day of official engagements of a royal tour of Australia on Tuesday with the public focus on the former Meghan Markle’s newly announced pregnancy.
Meghan wore a tight-fitting cream dress by Australian designer Karen Gee that barely revealed a royal bump as they were welcomed at an event at the Sydney Harbor-side mansion where the couple are staying.
The news of the pregnancy was announced after Prince Harry and the American former actress arrived in Sydney on Monday and 15 hours before their first public appearance.
Among those taken by surprise 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 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 main focus of Tuesday’s 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.
Several of the representatives congratulated the couple on their baby news. Meghan replied: “Thank you so much. We are very excited.”
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.”
Another Sydney tabloid screamed: “HEIR DINKUM!” — a play on the Australian term “fair dinkum,” which is used to emphasize the genuineness or truth of something.
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 Megs.”
Harry, dressed in navy blue suit, smiled proudly as the couple held hands on their tour through Admiralty House.
The couple are on 16-day visit to Australia, Fiji, Tonga and New Zealand.
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.
Harry has become immensely popular in Britain, in part because of his military service and tireless work on behalf of wounded soldiers, and he has spoken often in recent years of his desire to settle down and start a family.
Meghan, with her American roots and successful acting career, has been seen as a modernizing influence on the sometimes stodgy royal family, and she is credited by many for bringing happiness to Harry, who has long struggled to cope with the early death of his mother, Princess Diana.
McGuirk reported from Canberra, Australia.