The Duke and Duchess of Sussex have received some very Australian baby gifts – a stuffed kangaroo and a pair of tiny ugg boots – on the first day of official engagements of their Australian tour.
The royal couple, who married in a grand wedding at Windsor Castle in May, also met some real Australian animals, watched a short Indigenous dance performance and met admirers outside the Sydney Opera House.
Prince Harry and Meghan announced on Monday night that they were expecting their first child in the northern spring.
The news, announced on the day the royal couple arrived in Sydney, took many by surprise, including the governor-general, Sir Peter Cosgrove, and Lady Cosgrove, who were due to welcome the couple to Australia on Tuesday morning.
The Australian couple dispatched a staff member to hastily purchase a toy kangaroo with joey and tiny Ugg boots for their pregnant guest. And the royal couple were delighted.
“Here’s your first gift for the nursery,” Cosgrove told the couple during the official welcome at Admiralty House. He and his wife passed on his congratulations on behalf of all Australians.
The couple were thrilled by the gifts. “Thank you, that’s so sweet,” Meghan said on receiving the toy.
The main focus of the morning’s event was to meet Invictus Games representatives from the 18 countries competing in the event, which is starting on Saturday.
Several of them congratulated the couple on their baby news, with Meghan, dressed in a form-fitting, sleeveless white dress by the Australian designer, Karen Gee, replying: “Thank you so much. We are very excited.”
The couple’s next stop was Sydney’s Taronga Zoo, where they encountered some real Australian animals – two baby koalas named in their honour.
The ten-month old joeys were wedding gifts from the people of NSW for the couple.
The little joeys were unfazed by their royal visitors as their mothers, Wattle and Ruby, munched on eucalyptus leaves.
Meghan cooed at the koalas before stroking them, saying: “Sweet, cute” as keeper Suzie MacNamara explained how the animals are threatened in the wild.
Prince Harry – who has previously met koalas – was a tad more irreverent during the meeting.
“It’s not a drop bear, is it?” he joked as he was shown into the enclosure by Taronga Zoo CEO Cameron Kerr.
“No, they’re just a rumour for backpackers,” Kerr replied, referring to the urban myth of dangerous, fang-toothed koalas that drop from trees.
They then walked to the new Taronga Institute of Science and Learning holding hands, inspecting quokkas and wallabies before heading into the koala enclosure.
The Institute, the largest of its kind in the southern hemisphere, will have five science lab rooms, three student classrooms, and will house part of Taronga’s “breed-to-release” program.
After visiting the zoo, the couple crossed Sydney Harbour to the Opera House take in a rehearsal of Spirit 2018 by the Bangarra Dance Theatre, an internationally acclaimed Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander modern dance company.
The four dances were set to a haunting score inspired by the Australian outback and the spirit of the dingo.
The dance group’s chair, Michael McDaniel, welcomed the couple, but first asked them to “stop for a moment and cast our mind to the traditional owners of the land”.
McDaniel hoped the royal couple got a “sense of the spirit” of the dance group and the important stories they were sharing.
The couple were greeted by thousands of well wishers as they later made their way down the Opera House steps.
Many handed the Duke and Duchess flowers, posters and stuffed animals – the koala was the most popular choice.
One man even brought Meghan a box of Lucky Charms cereal, an apparent nod to her American roots.
The couple knelt down to speak with children in the crowd.
Royal fans who started lining up outside the Opera House at 8am were rewarded, including 98-year-old Daphne who asked Harry to introduce her to his new wife.
“Oh my goodness, is this Daphne?” Meghan asked.
“She’s said she had heard all about me, she’s so beautiful,” Daphne said.
“I wished them well with the baby on the way and said this is what Harry has been waiting for for so long.
“I got a cuddle too.”
Tara Keogh, 15, was in tears after meeting the royal couple.
“She was so lovely I can’t believe it,” she said.
“I said to call the baby Tara, after me, and Meghan said she’d consider it!”