Meghan Markle is to join her future husband in his work as youth ambassador to the Commonwealth, Prince Harry has revealed, as he says she is “hugely excited” to help young people’s voices be heard.
The Prince, delivering his first speech since being appointed as Commonwealth Youth Ambassador, said he was “incredibly grateful” that the “woman I am about to marry” will be joining him in his new job.
In a heartfelt speech that included tributes to both his grandmother, the Queen, and his father, the Prince of Wales, Harry told a room of Commonwealth youth representatives that he would strive to “listen” to their concerns and ideas.
Adding that he is now planning his first year in the job, he joked: “I know that serving as an ambassador to young people I am going to have to try to keep up with you.”
Prince Harry and Ms Markle are now expected to undertake overseas tours of the Commonwealth as well as convening young people to hear their ideas on how to give them a bigger platform.
The role of youth ambassador is considered particularly important because of the Commonwealth’s demographic, with 60 per cent of the population of its 53 member nations being under the age of 30.
Prince Harry opened his speech with a tribute to his grandmother, saying: “When I was reflecting on how to make the biggest impact with this new role, I turned to the ultimate source of guidance on all things Commonwealth: the words of The Queen herself.
“On the day of her 21st birthday, the then Princess Elizabeth gave an extraordinary radio address from Cape Town. With an eye on the future, and an already unflinching sense of duty, she made a commitment.
“She said that whether her life be long or short, it would be dedicated to the service of the people of The Commonwealth. All of us here today can be grateful that it is a long life The Queen is still enjoying.
“Her Majesty's commitment has meant that The Commonwealth is a thriving family of nations, a common link between nearly two and a half billion people, and a defender of democracy, justice, and peace.”
He also made reference to the Prince of Wales as he pledged to listen to concerns about climate change, explaining: “The young adults I have met across the Commonwealth have shown me time and again that your generation understands something very important: that to tackle a big challenge, you need to focus on the root causes, not the symptoms - something my father has believed for years, yet something society still struggles with.”
Telling a hall full of young people that they would be the ones to change the world, Prince Harry said: “As I travel around the Commonwealth in my work on behalf of The Royal Family, it is striking to see just how different today's generation of young adults are.
“You are connected. You have made positive use of technology to build relationships within your communities, nations and across the globe.
“You care. You want your nations to be cleaner, your planet to be greener, your friends and neighbours to be treated fairly and with respect, no matter their ethnicity, their religion, or their status.
“You are optimistic. The complicated challenges we face – climate change, inequality, conflict – they do not discourage you. Rather, they inspire you to persevere and effect change.”
The Prince concluded: “In my new role, I will work to support The Queen, my father The Prince of Wales, and my brother William, all of whom know that young people are the answer to the challenges of today.
“I am also incredibly grateful that the woman I am about to marry, Meghan, will be joining me in this work, of which she too is hugely excited to take part in.”
Baroness Patricia Scotland, Secretary General of the Commonwealth, later said the Queen could have given no “greater gift” than her grandson to champion the youth of the Commonwealth.
The speeches were delivered on the first day of forums leading up to the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in London.
Arriving at the Queen Elizabeth II conference centre on Monday morning , the Prince was joined by Theresa May, the Prime Minister, to meet 18 youth delegates from the Commonwealth.
In a meeting room, they greeted elected Youth Council representatives from Malaysia, Trinidad and Tobago, Kenya, Namibia, India, Jamaica, Papua New Guinea, and members of the International Youth Taskforce from all five regions of the Commonwealth.
Prince Harry asked each of them how long they had been part of the council, whether they enjoyed the role, and what they hoped to get out of the Commonwealth forums this week.
“Do you feel like people are listening to your generation?” he asked.
After shaking hands, the group moved to a roundtable meeting led by Kishva Ambigapathy, Commonwealth Youth Council chairman, where they spent around half an hour in discussion with delegates.
“I wanted to make sure youth and young people are a priority at this meeting.,” Mrs May told them. “You are the future of the Commonwealth and it’s meant that we listen to you, we hear your ideas.
“You have already shaped the agenda with the issues you want to be discussed, whether that’s youth unemployment or the environment.”
Prince Harry told the group their generation had “inspired” him, after seeing their hard work and passion during his travels throughout the Commonwealth, adding his saw his role as to “support them, listen to them and make sure they are heard”.
The Commonwealth Youth Forum (CYF) is intended as an “opportunity for the young people of the Commonwealth to build cross-cultural connections and networks, debate the challenges facing its young people, and agree youth-led initiatives to influence decision makers and ensure young people have a voice in its future”.
The 2018 Youth Forum’s theme is “Powering Our Common Future”, with an agenda set by young representatives.
The Commonwealth’s 53 member countries have a combined population of more than 2 billion, of which more than 60 per cent are under 30 years of age.