SYDNEY, Oct 15 – Prince Harry and Meghan touched down in Sydney on Monday, kicking off a bumper Pacific tour that is the British royals’ first major outing abroad as a couple.
The Duke and Duchess of Sussex made a low-key arrival to a wet and wintery Australia after a weekend spent celebrating the marriage of their relative Princess Eugenie and following an overnight commercial flight with Qantas.
They were seen leaving the airport with staff, looking relaxed, as Meghan clutched a pair of purple binders and Harry carried a brown and green manbag.
Their 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.
Queen Elizabeth II is still the head of state in Australia although there is significant support for the country becoming a republic.
Recent polls show Australians fairly evenly split on the issue, with only the slimmest of majorities in favour of ditching the British Queen and nominating an Australian head of state.
During the trip, the royals plan to pet koalas, watch soldiers perform the haka and attend the Invictus Games, a multi-sport tournament for military service personnel and veterans who have been wounded or suffered injury or illness that opens on Saturday 20 October.
The whole visit will be keenly watched by the British and Australian media.
Meghan, a photogenic US actress, married the grandson of Queen Elizabeth II in May, becoming the newest royal to attract media obsession in Britain and beyond.
The 37-year-old made waves recently by bucking protocol and closing her own car door.
– Koalas and joeys –
The couple will be accompanied by a staff of 10 and a substantially larger swarm of reporters from all the major British papers and TV broadcasters.
The official visit begins on Tuesday in Sydney, where they will be welcomed by Australia’s Governor-General Peter Cosgrove — the queen’s official representative — and his wife Lynne.
The royals will meet two koalas and their joeys at Sydney’s Taronga Zoo.
After sailing Sydney Harbour and visiting the famous Bondi Beach, meeting flying doctors, attending functions at the Invictus Games and meeting Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, they jet off to Fiji on October 23.
Meghan will get a chance to speak at a UN women’s empowerment in marketplaces event and meet some female vendors in the project in the Fiji capital Suva.
They will meet the local royals in both Fiji and Tonga, which are members of the Commonwealth.
The final leg coincides with the 125th anniversary of women’s suffrage in New Zealand — the first country to give women the right to vote.
Meghan is expected to speak at a suffrage anniversary celebration in Wellington on October 28.
The couple will have a chance to watch members of the New Zealand defence force perform the haka — the traditional warrior dance popularised globally by the nation’s rugby team — at a governor’s reception earlier that afternoon.
The trip officially ends in New Zealand on October 31.
Meghan has previously visited New Zealand as a tourist in 2014. Prince Harry has been to all four countries, but on his own.
The couple’s first trip abroad saw them dash off to Dublin shortly after their wedding.