By Helena Williams
NOTTINGHAM, England (Reuters) – Britain’s Prince Harry and his American fiancee Meghan Markle delighted cheering crowds who braved the cold on Friday to watch the couple on their first official engagement together.
Queen Elizabeth’s grandson Harry, 33, currently fifth-in-line to the throne, and U.S. actress Markle, 36, best known for her leading role in U.S. legal drama “Suits”, announced their engagement on Monday, igniting a trans-Atlantic media frenzy.
In the central English city of Nottingham, Harry and Markle, both wearing long navy overcoats, greeted hundreds of smiling well-wishers waving British and U.S. flags, chatting and shaking hands with onlookers who braved freezing weather to welcome them.
“We love Harry, and Meghan she looks beautiful doesn’t she,” Betty Parker, 78, told Reuters as she waited to meet the couple.
“We’re so happy for them both,” Mary Cooper, 60, said. “We always come and see him whenever he comes here and it’s lovely that he keeps coming to Nottingham and has sort of adopted this city.”
The couple were visiting a charity fair to mark World Aids Day, something particularly symbolic for Harry whose late mother Princess Diana is credited with playing a leading role in breaking down the stigma that was attached to the disease.
The event, held by the Terrence Higgins Trust, remembers lives lost to HIV and marks the progress made in fighting it.
Harry has become a prominent campaigner on the issue, following in the footsteps of Diana who opened Britain’s first HIV/AIDS unit in London in 1987 and famously shook hands with and kissed an AIDS patient during a hospital visit.
Afterwards, the couple were visiting Nottingham Academy to meet headteachers from local schools and hear about the Full Effect programme, an initiative supported by the charity of Harry, his elder brother Prince William and wife Kate, which seeks to deter children from becoming involved in violence.
Markle, who has been a campaigner for several causes including work as a U.N women’s advocate, is to give up her previous charity roles as she begins life in Britain’s royal family, Harry’s spokesman said on Tuesday.
She was also keen to travel around Britain to get to know the country that will become her home as she intends to become a British citizen, the spokesman added.
The couple, who got engaged earlier this month at the cottage they share in the grounds of Kensington Palace in central London, are to be married next May in St George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle, the family home of British kings and queens for almost 1,000 years.
“This is good. I’m excited to have some Americans in the royal family,” U.S. student Mark Arnold, who is currently studying at Nottingham University, told Reuters. “It’s really nice, I’m excited.”
(Writing by Michael Holden; editing by Guy Faulconbridge)