Past catches up with Meghan in her new home county

The Duchess of Sussex receives a bunch of flowers from a well-wisher during a visit to the Royal Pavilion in Brighton
The Duchess of Sussex receives a bunch of flowers from a well-wisher during a visit to the Royal Pavilion in Brighton
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Her past caught up with her as the Duchess of Sussex made a first official visit to her adopted county today.

Its cathedral city, Chichester, is also the home of one of only two contemporary handwritten copies of the American Declaration of Independence. The other is the signed copy at the National Archives in Washington DC.

Meghan, accompanied by her husband, arrived in the West Sussex county town at the beginning of a crowded day of engagements.

“My goodness, wow, what are the chances? That’s amazing,” she said as staff at Edes House showed her the paper that established her homeland as a self-governing nation.

“I just can’t believe it,” she repeated upon leaving.

She and Harry were met by excited crowds as they arrived in the city.

They were welcomed officially by the Lord Lieutenant of West Sussex, Susan Pyper, and the mayor of Chichester, Martyn Bell. But they spent most of their time speaking to the hordes of schoolchildren who had lined their route.

Both appeared delighted at meeting several younger children.

Harry patted the head of a baby and Meghan greeted a blonde child eating an apple, who was held up to the barriers.

Nine-year-old Tilly Palmer, standing outside has class at the Prebendal School, said: “Meghan asked me what we were doing today. I said netball, and she said they don’t have that in the USA.

“We said: ‘Welcome to Sussex’, and she shook our hands. She was lovely and very pretty.”

Meghan had dressed in a camel Armani coat, a dark green Hugo Boss skirt and a shirt from And Other Stories, paired with suede stilettos and a small green bag.

Harry wore a grey suit and his customary white shirt, open at the neck.

The couple also visited Bognor Regis, where they officially opened the University of Chichester’s Engineering and Digital Technology Park.

The Duke and Duchess both wore safety goggles to watch an experiment in one of the laboratories.

They listened to the student chamber orchestra play a piece from Vivaldi’s Four Seasons while technology students practised filming and recording the performance in the state-of-the-art sound stage.

The couple chatted with cellist Laura Ritchie, who is originally from Chicago, and joked that she has lost her accent.

The 44-year-old, who is professor of learning and teaching in the music department, said it was “fantastic, really wonderful and such a privilege” to meet the royals.

“They joked that I’ve lost my accent, Americans think I sound British,” she added.

The grand tour of Sussex took a darker turn as Megan and Harry met Patrick Sandford, 66, from the charity Mankind, who was abused as a child at a state primary school and has written a play about his experience, which is being made into a film.

He said: “I was very touched that Meghan congratulated us on the work of doing the play. And Harry’s last words were ‘good luck with the film’.

“You can’t ask for more than that can you?”

The Duke and Duchess then met small groups of youngsters working on projects ahead of Takeover Challenge Day, a national event which puts children into real-life decision-making positions in organisations.

Meghan spoke to a group of girls for some time who shared statistics about mental health among young people in Sussex.

Meanwhile, Harry was playing an “icebreaker game” designed to encourage people to feel relaxed about discussing mental health.

Harry was asked a question about love, to which he replied: “When I think about love I think about happiness and strength. I’m very happy. I love my wife.”