Prince Harry and Meghan Markle reportedly have strict rules that they are supposed to follow during their official engagements. But in October 2018, the couple went on their first overseas royal tour to Australia. And when they met a boy who has Down syndrome, they decided to bend them in a way that has warmed people’s hearts.
Harry, 34, and Meghan, 37, started dating in June 2016 after going on a blind date organized by a friend they have in common. And four months later, their relationship became public knowledge. At that time, moreover, the Duchess of Sussex was starring on the legal drama Suits as Rachel Zane.
Harry and Meghan’s relationship then blossomed quickly. And after the couple announced that they were engaged in November 2017, Meghan also confirmed that she was retiring from acting. Then just five months later, on May 19, 2018, the pair exchanged vows at St. George’s Chapel in Windsor Castle.
October 2018 then saw the Duke and Duchess of Sussex set off on their first official royal tour. They visited Australia, New Zealand, Tonga and Fiji. What’s more, the tour had been planned in conjunction with the Invictus Games – a sporting competition for wounded veterans created by Harry.
After Harry and Meghan landed in Sydney, however, they revealed some exciting news: they are expecting their first child in spring 2019. “Their Royal Highnesses have appreciated all of the support they have received from people around the world since their wedding in May and are delighted to be able to share this happy news with the public,” a statement from Kensington Palace read.
As part of their tour, meanwhile, Harry and Meghan traveled to Dubbo in New South Wales, Australia, for a one-day trip. The couple were there to witness the donation of a new plane for the Royal Flying Doctor Service.
While they were in the area, Harry and Meghan also planned to visit a local school and a farm that had been impacted by drought. And they would later go on to attend a community picnic. When the couple arrived in Dubbo on a Royal Australian Air Force flight, meanwhile, they received an incredible greeting.
Children between the ages of four and 12 were there to welcome Meghan and Harry to Dubbo. Among them were several students from nine different schools. And according to Buninyong Public School principal Anne Van Dartel, the visit was an unforgettable experience for the kids.
“It was so lovely,” Van Dartel told Australia’s 9News. “We took 21 students to the airport and joined all Dubbo primary schools to greet the duke and duchess. Harry walked along the line speaking personally to every student, asking them their name, their school and favorite subjects and sports.”
Van Dartel continued, “It was really special for each of them. The way the duke and duchess gave every student individualized attention was truly exceptional.” And their interaction with one of the principal’s pupils was particularly memorable.
Why? Well, the last child in the line of those waiting to meet Harry and Meghan was Luke Vincent. The five-year-old has Down syndrome, a chromosomal condition that causes learning disabilities and certain physical traits. And when the Duke and Duchess of Sussex met the young boy, they decided to break protocol.
You see, Van Dartel had instructed her students not to touch Harry or Meghan, as is royal etiquette. And according to historian Kate Williams, this goes back to the Middle Ages. “Monarchs were divinely appointed to rule by God, so they were kind of seen as gods, so they demanded to be treated as [such],” she told the BBC.
However, video captured the moment when protocol was thrown out the window. In it, Harry bends down to say hello to Vincent – and the child hurries towards him. Then the five-year-old wrapped the royal in a big hug.
But the moment didn’t end there. Vincent then presents Meghan with a bunch of flowers before giving Harry a sweet embrace. He also affectionately plays with the prince’s beard. In turn, the laughing royal rubs the little boy’s chin.
Eyewitnesses appeared to be in awe of the sweet exchange. And at one point, Harry even suggested that Vincent give his wife, Meghan, a cuddle, asking him, “Can you give her a hug, too?” Although the child obliged, he soon went back to hugging Harry.
Van Dartel went on to reveal that Harry was a good sport about meeting her pupil who is fascinated by facial hair. “Prince Harry was completely gracious and was so polite and realized what was happening and his infatuation with his beard,” she told the U.K.’s Daily Mail. “Luke’s favorite person in the world is Santa Claus, who has a beard. And now his next favorite is Prince Harry.”
She added that following the terrible drought that Dubbo has been experiencing, it was just what they all needed. “This is a real morale boost,” she said to the Daily Mirror. “It’s been a wonderful experience for these little country kids to meet people they’ve only ever seen on TV.”
And when footage of Vincent’s meeting with the royal couple was published online, fans were thrilled, adding how “adorable” the exchange was. One user wrote on YouTube, “Aww! That’s so sweet! Harry and Meghan will be such great parents!”
Yet while Vincent captured hearts worldwide, the other children were just as excited to meet Harry and Meghan. “It’s the first time I have met a princess, and I will remember it forever,” five-year-old Lyra Rose told the Daily Mirror. Ten-year-old Millie Sutcliffe added, “My wish came true. I said congratulations on the baby, and they thanked me. I said ‘I love you guys,’ and I got a hug.”
Following this heartwarming encounter, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex returned to the United Kingdom on November 2, 2018. Before leaving, though, Harry used a speech at the opening ceremony of the Invictus Games in Sydney, Australia, to thank locals for their support. He said, “I’ve been so proud to be able to introduce my wife to you, and we’ve been so happy to be able to celebrate the personal joy of our newest addition with you all.”