The Duchess of Sussex declared it was “very nice to be back in the UK” as she took centre stage in Manchester to tell young leaders “you are the future… you are the present”.
Meghan delivered a keynote speech at the One Young World summit, making her first in-person address in Britain since quitting as a working royal amid the Megxit crisis more than two years ago.
The former Suits star, who was dressed in a vivid red high-necked sleek trouser suit, smiled broadly and held hands with the Duke of Sussex as they made their way through the auditorium to huge cheers, as delegates held up their phones to film them.
Former actress Meghan told the 2,000 delegates how her life had changed when she last joined the summit in London in 2019 – singling out her role as a wife and a mother – but making no mention of becoming a senior royal the year before.
“I joined you in London in 2019. And by that point, it’s fair to say, my life had changed rather significantly. I was now married, and I was now a mom,” she said, leaving a pause at the end which was filled with huge cheers from the audience.
“My world view had expanded exponentially, seeing the global community through the eyes of my child,” she added, speaking about her son Archie.
— One Young World (@OneYoungWorld) September 5, 2022
The trip comes just days after Meghan’s controversial interview with The Cut magazine, in which she said it takes “a lot of effort” to forgive when asked if there was room for forgiveness between her, the royals and her own family, and hinted that she can “say anything”.
She said in the interview that “just by existing” she and Harry were “upsetting the dynamic of the hierarchy” before they stepped down as senior working royals in 2020.
In Manchester’s Bridgewater Hall on Monday evening, Megan spoke about the first time she was asked to be a counsellor for One Young World in 2014 and having a “pinch me moment”.
“And there I was, the girl from Suits. I was surrounded by world leaders, humanitarians, prime ministers and activists that I had such a deep and long-standing respect and admiration for.
“And I was allowed in, to pull up a seat at the table.
“I was so overwhelmed by this experience, I think, I think I even saved my little paper place-marker with my name on it.
“Just proof: proof that I was there, proof that I belonged, because the truth was, I wasn’t sure that I belonged.”
She added that she had doubted herself despite her what she saw as her “important and meaningful” work, but said One Young World had seen in her “the present and the future”.
“I was so nervous, I doubted myself and I wondered, wondered if I was good enough to even be there?
“What I was doing in the world, albeit important and meaningful as far as I saw it, was it deserving to have a seat at this table?
“But One Young World saw in me what I wanted to see fully in myself. They saw in me, just as I see in you, the present and the future.”
The duchess told the delegates: “You are the future, but I would like to add to that you are also the present. You are the ones driving the positive and necessary change needed across the globe, now, in this very moment.”
Other keynote speakers included former president of Ireland Mary Robinson, musician Sir Bob Geldof and Manchester mayor Andy Burnham.
But Meghan delivered the final address of the ceremony, declaring the summit open.
It was the Sussexes first appearance in the UK since the Platinum Jubilee in June, when they appeared briefly at the service of thanksgiving and were not included in the line-up of working royals on the Palace balcony.
During the proceedings on Monday, the couple sat in the front row on stage, side by side on a bench, as they joined One Young World counsellors to watch the flag bearers enthusiastically parading the flags of more than 200 countries.
Meghan, with her hair in a ponytail, swayed in time to the music, which included Dancing In The Streets and Respect, as she clapped her hands.
Harry leaned over to whisper in his smiling wife’s ear a number of times.
To cheers, Meghan said in her speech: “I’m thrilled that my husband is able to join me here this time.”
She added: “My husband has long advocated for important and necessary impact in the world, focusing a huge part of his life’s work on the youth.
“For both of us, bearing witness to the power that you hold in your hands and the unbridled enthusiasm and energy that you have to see things come to fruition, it is just an absolute privilege.”
The couple travelled by train from London to Manchester, and flew commercial from the US to the UK.
The Sussexes have reportedly hired one of Harry’s ex-Metropolitan Police protection officers, who is said to now work in the private sector, as part of their security team for the whirlwind working trip.
The duke is bringing legal action against the Home Office over a decision not to allow him to pay for police protection for himself and his family when in the UK.
Harry and Meghan are staying at their Frogmore Cottage home on the Windsor estate, but are not expected to meet with the Cambridges, who have moved to Adelaide Cottage, less than a 10-minute walk away.
Next stop for the Sussexes will be Germany, for the Invictus Games Dusseldorf 2023 One Year To Go event, which is taking place on Tuesday, before they return to the UK for the WellChild Awards in London, where Harry will deliver a speech on Thursday.
David Jones, co-founder of One Young World, told delegates that Meghan was an “incredibly powerful voice for gender equality”.