Miriam Lord: Meghan and Harry dazzle under terms and conditions
Newly wed prince and actress princess unleash waves of unbridled enthusiasm
What about this handsome couple, with their good hair, smiling eyes and lovely manners?
Gorgeous and utterly charming, a winning combination of impeccable breeding and lustrous celebrity. They won, and they melted, many hearts.
But enough about the President’s fabulous dogs, who stole the show during Meghan and Harry’s visit to Áras an Uachtaráin on Wednesday morning. The Duke and Duchess of Sussex dazzled everywhere else they went on the final day of their visit to Dublin.
They have to dazzle, because it is part of the terms and conditions for working royals on walkabout duty. The royal rambles were in Trinity College and at the CHQ venue in Dublin’s Docklands, where the celebrity drawing power of the newly wed Prince and American actress unleashed waves of unbridled enthusiasm and exaltation among the crowds who came along to have a good look at them.
Their day began in Áras an Uachtaráin, a short distance from Farmleigh House where they lodged the night before. President Higgins and his wife, Sabina, bustled into the State reception room to greet them, a spray of pink-tinged white roses on the mantelpiece behind them and the visitors’ book open on a small table commissioned for the visit of Harry’s grandmother, Queen Elizabeth, in 2011.
Outside, staff raked and reraked the gravel paths, and Bród and Siodá, Michael D’s Bernese Mountain dogs, lumbered lazily around the geraniums and fountains.
“You’re most welcome,” smiled the President, greeting his guests. Meghan was toting a very large black handbag which cost thousands of pounds. Everyone reckoned she didn’t have anything in it, apart from a bit of lipstick and an emergency sliver of lettuce. According to Harper’s Bazaar, it was a Fendi bag, but that doesn’t really matter because apparently whenever she carries a new bag and the photographs appear, they sell out in a matter of hours.
We’ll all just have to wait for the new order to come in.
The two couples made polite conversation for the cameras and nobody in the heaving media contingent uttered a word because of protocol until Newstalk’s Henry McKean roared a question to the immeasurable relief of everyone else.
There was only one question on Wednesday. “Is football coming home?” Michael D smiled and remained silent but, with England’s World Cup semi-final just hours away, the Duke couldn’t resist replying.
“Most definitely!” he declared, and everyone in the room laughed uproariously and went weak at the knees.
Meeting the dogs
The group enjoyed a potter around the gardens and the royals rang the Peace Bell. Then came the news that everyone wanted to hear. “They met the dogs.” Or the “first dogs”.
Staff from the Áras came out to witness the departure. When the presidential couple and the royal couple tried to gracefully exit the main doors, the two dogs barged their way past with not a care for status or office. Then Harry and Meghan had a final few words with their hosts – “Absolutely lovely” said Sabina – before waving farewell to Bród and Siodhá.
Did the President, who announced on Tuesday he will be seeking a second term, say “this is not goodbye, but merely au revoir?”
On the way to Trinity College, hugely important questions had to be teased out. What colour was the dress? Mushroom, stone, taupe? But there was clearly just a single ruffle and it was definitely cocktail length.
Another fact had to be nailed down by the royal reporters. “Did she actually wave to the dog? Did she?” She did.
“And the dog waved back,” snapped an RTÉ cameraman, rolling his eyes.
High heel anxiety
People were anxious about the visit to Trinity. The Duchess was wearing very high heels. Could she cope on the cobbles? She nearly tripped on a very low step leaving the Áras and Michael D had to reach out a steadying hand.
“She will be walking from The Long Hall,” declared an American journalist. We didn’t tell him this was the name of a nearby public house because people were worried enough.
Finally, after viewing the ancient manuscript in Trinity’s Long Room, the couple emerged to delighted screams of welcome and a forest of upheld phones. Megan gingerly picked her way across the cobblestones.
The international TV journalists got to work as the walkabout unfolded behind them. Ireland’s “long and troubled past” got a big airing but the royal visit was a “positive sign of improved relations between the two countries”. Strangers could be forgiven for thinking we were at war with some of the things being said.
“Harreee! Harreee!” came the cries. “Meghan! Meghan! Over here!” The couple got stuck in, covering more space than Dulux, shaking hands, chatting, looking very interested, asking friendly questions, saying nice things.
When the couple left, tourists and locals alike were buzzing with excitement. “There’s hardly a pick on Meghan but she’s perfectly proportioned,” said one woman.
“Harry’s photographs don’t do him justice at all. He’s very handsome,” remarked Una O’Neill, a retired teacher from Templeogue. Beside her, student and top basketball player Chloe Mullins (19) held a framed black and white drawing she did of the couple’s engagement photograph.
Harry stopped immediately when he saw it. “Is that for me? Wow!” He showed Meghan the picture, then said to Chloe: “You’ve given me more hair than I have.” He kept the gift, although Kensington Palace officials had gone around the crowd earlier saying they would not be accepting gifts.
Then the visitors and their entourage broke for lunch at Delahunt restaurant on Camden Street to fortify themselves for the next leg – a trip to see the famine memorial on the Liffey quayside. Then they were introduced to Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe who said “thank you very much” to the royals for gracing his Dublin Central Constituency, along with the Epic emigration museum in the CHQ.
Yet again, the crowd was thrilled to see them in the flesh. “Today is all about Harry – Windsor, Maguire, Kane” read a poster held high by London-born Melissa Moloney. Maguire and Kane would be playing later for England.
Eight-year-old Ayana O’Callaghan from Clontarf in Dublin gave her opinion on Meghan. “I think she’s pretty but she shouldn’t have to wear tights because her skin is really nice.” But it wasn’t all fun and happiness among the selfie-sticks, delirious tourists and screaming girls.
“Daddy, I touched both of them,” said a breathless Twinkle Polgolla (12) from Park West to her dad. “I felt special.” Her sisters Nikishi and Tharu were equally excited because they too shook a royal hand.
But their sister June (14) was inconsolable, tears falling down her face. “She didn’t make it. They moved on,” explained her mum.