The ‘away day’ marks Harry and Meghan’s first joint engagements of 2019. The packed itinerary was planned to include meeting locals, highlighting Birkenhead and areas both the Duke and Duchess are passionate about. The couple arrived via helicopter this morning, Birkenhead is roughly 220 miles from London.
Their first stop was Hamilton Square where they viewed a new sculpture erected to mark the 100th anniversary of poet Wilfred Owen’s death. His searingly honest words on the horrors of warfare made him a renowned and leading war poet.
During his childhood, Wilfred Owen and his family lodged in the backstreets of Birkenhead. He discovered his passion for poetry at a young age, but like so many young men of his generation he enlisted during WW1. Owen was killed in action in November 1918 during the crossing of the Sambre–Oise Canal. It was exactly one week before the signing of the Armistice which ended the war.
The statue, which is named after one of the Birkenhead war poet’s poems, ‘Futility’, is cast in bronze and represents an exhausted World War One solider. Futility was written months before Owen tragically died. It is known as a departure from his usual style, instead having a softer feel than most of his work. It follows a group of soldiers attempting to revive an unconscious soldier.
Move him into the sun—
Gently its touch awoke him once,
At home, whispering of fields half-sown.
Always it woke him, even in France,
Until this morning and this snow.
If anything might rouse him now
The kind old sun will know.
Think how it wakes the seeds—
Woke once the clays of a cold star.
Are limbs, so dear-achieved, are sides
Full-nerved, still warm, too hard to stir?
Was it for this the clay grew tall?
—O what made fatuous sunbeams toil
To break earth’s sleep at all?
The couple unveiled a plaque to mark the visit, before meeting local veterans and members of the Birkenhead Institute Old Boys, of which Wilfred Owen belonged to, and which played a part in the creation of the tribute.
From there it was time to meet locals. A large crowd gathered in the square to meet the royal couple including Eliza Morris who had a special message for Harry 🙂
Talk quickly turned to Baby Sussex with the Duchess revealing she’s due in April.
People reports: “We asked her how her pregnancy was going and she said she was six months and she tapped her tummy,” well-wisher Carla Gandy from nearby Wallasey, who was there with her 4-year-old daughter Sofia. Meghan told others gathered in Hamilton Square that she’s due in late April.”
Meghan also told well-wishers they don’t know the gender, but either way she will be “thrilled with the outcome”.
Harry and Meghan with a young girl who was overwhelmed to meet them.
A group hug.
Prince Harry joked with the crowd “Where are all the men?”
They spent over 45 minutes meeting people.
At the end of video below, Meghan received flowers from a young student and gave one back to her as a momento of the day.
More from Simon Perry’s story:
‘Rebecca Blundell, who was in Hamilton Square with daughters Lily, 6, and Lottie, 2, says Harry asked how to spell Lily’s name. “Meghan came up straight after and said that he’s going to be a fantastic dad,” Blundell shares.
One young mom was cradling her son, Oliver. “She said her pregnancy had gone so quickly,” the woman, who wished to remain anonymous, says. “I asked her how she was coping on those high heels. She said, ‘One day at a time!’
Jo Richards was lucky to meet Meghan in Chester, during Meghan’s first solo outing with the Queen, and again in Birkenhead. “I explained to Meghan I’d see her in Chester and she remembered,” Richards tells PEOPLE. “She said ‘I’ve changed since you saw me last.’
Richards’ friend Jean Elliott told the Duchess she thought she was having a girl. “Meghan said there are ‘strong opinions about that, but it’s a 50/50 split!’ ” says Elliott.’
Of course, baby names were very much on the agenda.
A video from Victoria Murphy.
— Victoria Murphy (@QueenVicMirror) January 14, 2019
‘The royal couple were also given a babygro bearing the words ‘Born in 2019’ by eight year old Harry Edwards and Megan O’Carroll, of St Werburgh’s. The schoolchildren were among 16 pupils whose names were pulled out of a hat by teachers to attend the walkabout in Birkenhead’s Hamilton Square.
Told it was Megan’s ninth birthday, Harry asked her: ‘Has anyone sung Happy Birthday to you yet? No? I think we should…’, leading the crowd in the song. Arriving a few moments later, Meghan said: ‘I missed a happy birthday that was happening!’ Told it was for her little namesake, the Duchess leaned down to shake her hand, saying: ‘Happy birthday, Megan!’ And when she realised Megan was standing with another Harry, she giggled: ‘Oh my gosh, really? Megan and Harry? That’s really sweet, that’s so nice.’
Do you remember adorable little Eliza and her ‘Gingers Unite’ sign from earlier in the post? Well, not only did Harry absolutely “love it”, he decided a hug was very much in order.
From there, it was time for an embargoed engagement. The Duke and Duchess visited Birkenhead’s new Citizen’s Supermarket – Number 7 Cafe.
Staff and volunteers are working to ensure that everyone in the area can access nutritious food and community services with dignity.
Meghan was interested to hear they are launching a ‘baby basics’ scheme to include toiletries and clothing for new mother’s. Staff noticed parents were failing to turn up for appointments as they were embarrassed, the new scheme hopes to combat that and promote awareness; while their main objective is combating hunger, they provide other necessities for mother and baby too. They now hope to present boxes as gifts to remove the stigma. Meghan enjoyed tea and lemon cake during the chat.
‘The Duchess appeared particularly impressed with the initiative, proclaiming it “amazing” and revealing she had been in discussions with Frank Field MP about visiting since the autumn. The royal couple called Number 7 a “prototype for the world”. “You can say it’s got the royal seal of approval now,” said Harry.
Greeted by manager Kay Penkethman, the Duchess declined the offer of coffee due to her pregnancy but asked for a mint tea “or something herbal”. She also sampled the cafe’s lemon drizzle cake, made by staff member Caroline Noble from her mother’s recipe, and called it “delicious”.
Speaking of the upmarket-looking shelves, she said: “That’s the thing, the aesthetics are so incredibly important because it just feels like an experience anyone else would have [at an ordinary supermarket].” Praising the lack of plastic and customers’ ability to buy just one item of fresh fruit or veg, she added: “So you don’t need to get six of something? That’s really refreshing.”
The royal couple joined customers at tables to learn more about their experiences, asking questions about their backgrounds. One, a 69-year-old Buddhist monk named Kelsang Sonam, gave Harry a copy of a book entitled “8 Steps to Happiness” after the Duke told him he meditates every day.
Since 2015, Feeding Britain has been working to establish local pilots around the country, where local organisations work together to tackle hunger and its root causes in their communities. The initiative was piloted in Birkenhead, South Shields and Cornwall, it has now been rolled out in 14 areas around the country. The mission is simple – Feeding Britain believe hunger has no place in the UK in the 21st century.
The Duchess presented a fellow expectant mother with a basket of goods. Meghan told Angela “I would say that I should lift it for you, but neither of us should be holding it”.
Very interesting quotes in Victoria Murphy’s piece:
‘Local politician Frank Field, who set up the visit, shared how he asked Meghan if he could speak with her again about charity work after she had her baby, but she replied they should do it “before.”
“As the Duchess said, these are projects… that we can take not just to the rest of the county but to the world,” Field told T&C. “So I’m going to talk to the Duchess before she has her baby. I said ‘Can I see you after?’ and she said ‘No, before.'”
“I’ve been briefing her on how we counter modern slavery, how we’re going to take that further,” he added. “She’s definitely a very, very active member of the royal family. And so is he. And also how much they love one another which is pretty nice to see.”
Field’s final observation perhaps sums up for many what this couple offer: “What you see is this ability of taking the monarchy way into this century.”
The Duke and Duchess unveiled a plaque before departing.
Their next port of call was Tomorrow’s Women Wirral, an organisation that supports women in vulnerable circumstances.
Meghan met a group of women including Carol involved in a Knit n Knat workshop.
The Mail Online reports: “In the knitting room the duchess spotted one woman, Carol Cullen, 71, who was wearing a T shirt with a picture of Cilla Black and the words ‘Talented Carol Sings Cilla. After Ms Cullen embraced the duchess, Meghan asked her what her favourite song was. How Much Is That Doggie In The Window, she replied. ‘My grandmother loved that song too,’ said the duchess.”
Meanwhile, Harry had a splendid time participating in a flower arranging workshop.
More from Hello!
‘Angela said the Duke and Duchess were “amazing” during the visit, adding: “They were so good with the women, they were interested in them. They engaged, they initiated conversations with the women and they were just so warm. The conversation flowed so easily, there was never silence, in fact it was very difficult to get them to move from one venue to the next.”
She added: “Harry said, ‘I’m a feminist’. Harry said it’s really important that men are involved. It’s true, you’ve got to be working together. There’s no divide between men and women with regard to these issues.
Angela said the visit seemed to really chime with the Duchess in particular, adding; “Meghan was very clear about the fact that she really wanted to promote empowering women and our strapline is women supporting women. She said (putting a hand on her heart) ‘Oh this is true to my heart’. She’s lovely, really lovely. Very considerate to the women as well, very interested.’
Initially established in 2011 to support women upon their release from prison, Tomorrow’s Women Wirral has since expanded and now offers an extensive range of training courses and workshops for more than 6000 local women, including support groups around mental health issues, domestic abuse, and addiction.
The couple spent time with staff and women involved in the programme over the years.
More on the organisation: “TWW is a project designed to benefit all women aged 18+ in the community and is committed to reducing female imprisonment, offending, and to provide assistance to those women who want to make positive lifestyle changes. The women who attend TWW are not judged and integrate with women who want to share their own skills and experiences.”
A very royal cake and royal baby cupcakes.
Before Harry unveiled the plaque, Meghan spoke passionately about her belief in women supporting each other. “We’re both incredibly honoured to be here. I think we all know for me how important it is – women supporting each other. As my husband made mention earlier, it’s also key that men are there supporting behind-the-scenes and very presently as well.” Meghan added: “We very much believe in the work Tomorrow’s Women is doing and having spoke to you we very much believe in every one of you and the courage you have, the resilience that is being built from you being here and just the journey you’re going to continue to take”. Stay tuned until the end of the video for a light-hearted moment between the couple after Meghan speaks.
Harry and Meghan’s last stop was the Hive Wirral Youth Zone. Created by the charity OnSide Youth Zones, which is developing 21st-century youth facilities across the UK, the Hive provides a safe environment where young people can come and enjoy themselves, building key skills and raising their aspirations and confidence.
Harry and Meghan met talented young performers after watching them dance.
The Duke and Duchess stayed an hour longer than scheduled due to their desire to meet as many people as possible involved in the organisations they visited.
The Duchess surprised fashion fans with a serious injection of colour today. Meghan looked radiant in vibrant pieces by Canadian brands she’s championed for years. The choice of red was undoubtedly a nod to Liverpool and purple is the colour of Tomorrow’s Women Wirral.
You might recognise Meghan’s coat as the same style she wore on Christmas Day in 2017.
The scarlet red coat is currently available for pre-order on the Sentaler website (with a shipping date for March). The piece is described as: “The Long Wide Collar Wrap Coat exemplifies understated elegance at its best. This style is adorned with all of SENTALER’s signature design details, including an oversized collar, self-tie belt, and Signature Ribbed Detail on cuffs. A stretch stain lining and dramatic back vent amplifies the swingy silhouette and ensure a fluid, feminine fit.”
The Duchess wore the purple Babaton by Artizia Maxwell dress (with thanks to UFO No More). The sold out $138 piece is cut from matte satin and expertly tailored for a flattering, feminine shape. Meghan’s piece has been altered to create to a smaller slit.
The late Diana, Princess of Wales, also favoured the colour combination.
Perth Fashion identified Meghan’s striking red heels as a Stuart Weitzman style. They are on sale for $415 at FarFetch.
Meghan carried the Gabriela Hearst Demi bag in cognac. The Italian-made tote has a short curved top handle that looks chic styled as a wristlet strap, and an elegant clasp at the top.
‘Gabriela Hearst is committed to make a donation of $600,000 to Save the Children. Please be aware that the proceeds from the sale of the bags by NET-A-PORTER will not be donated to Save the Children. Instead, NET-A-PORTER is helping to raise awareness about the important work that this charity does and the donation will be made by Gabriela Hearst directly. The donation is made up of the money Gabriela Hearst makes from wholesaling the bags to NET-A-PORTER.’
Meghan accessorised with her £50 Pippa Small Nosheen Stud earrings. They are made in Kabul by artisans of the Turquoise Mountain Foundation. The initiative was established in 2006 by Prince Charles to aid the revival of artisan industries in Afghanistan, the Middle East and Myanmar.
Meghan’s ring is the i+i Crescent Moon Ring (a stellar ID from the ladies at What Meghan Wore). The brand donates 10% of their profits to Set Beautiful Free, a charity working to rescue women and children from sex slavery.
And Meghan’s bracelet is by Bar Jewellery, by up and coming British designer Sophie McKay. Bar pieces are handmade in London. Ethical and sustainable practice are central to the brand ethos. It appears the Duchess wore the gold plated Wide Ripple Bracelet.
It was a terrific day filled with memorable moments. We’ll see Meghan on Wednesday when she visits her patronage Mayhew. That night, the Duke and Duchess will attend the premiere of TOTEM – Cirque du Soleil at the Royal Albert Hall in support of Sentebale.