Prince Harry and Meghan Markle made an unannounced trip to Northern Ireland’s capital, Belfast, today, as they continue their tour of the UK ahead of their wedding. The couple visited Amazing the Space, the historic Crown Liquor Saloon and the Titanic Belfast museum at the docks.
Details of the visit were not released in advance for security reasons, as with all royal Northern Irish visits.
Their first stop was Amazing the Space, which is an organisation that encourages young people to become ambassadors for peace within their communities; this is particularly apt in Northern Ireland, but something Harry has championed for a while, to stop young people falling into the wrong sort of life, like being in a gang.
The organisation is housed in the former Maze prison at Lisburn; 10 Irish Republicans starved themselves to death during a hunger strike to protest for re-establishment of their political status, but today’s visit was of a happier nature.
Prince Harry and Meghan – whose wedding invites were sent out yesterday – were greeted formally outside by the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, then went indoors, where they sat in the front row to watch children deliver “peace pledges” as part of the Amazing Space celebration.
Cheers and screams show the couple received a ‘rockstar’ welcome to the event, clearly popular with the young people there.
On stage, they presented awards and Harry told to the young people: “The previous generations have caused such problems but with your help it can never happen again. You’re trying to educate the older generation which is just amazing. Well done.
“Clean the slates guys, you got this!” the Prince added.
Next stop for the soon-to-be married couple was the Crown Liquor Saloon, one of Belfast’s most historic buildings. Formerly a gin palace, it is now a National Trust property.
A Victorian gin palace dating back to 1849, the pub has a bar fitted out by Italian craftsmen in their off time after they were brought to Belfast by Protestant mill-owners to build churches for their growing Catholic workforces.
Here, the couple learnt about the history of the place before enjoying a private lunch. Staff report Meghan chose Irish stew, while Prince Harry opted for sausage and champ. They only tried half a pint of Guinness, however.
— Chris Ship (@chrisshipitv) March 23, 2018
After lunch, it began to rain, but that didn’t deter the crowds, who were given a royal walkabout by Prince Harry and Meghan. The couple spent 30 minutes greeting those who had waited to see them.
Prince Harry meets crowds waiting outside The Crown in Belfast. pic.twitter.com/qdmdVW2kIt
— Kensington Palace (@KensingtonRoyal) March 23, 2018
Earlier in the day, the Prince and his fiancé met with guests including DUP leader and former Stormont first minster Arlene Foster.
Speaking after the event, Rossa Smallman, 17, from St Joseph’s in Derry, said the couple had not been what he had expected.
“We were told all the proper etiquette we had to carry out before we met them – and then when we actually met them they were very humble and down to earth,” he said. “They were above that etiquette, they just seemed like normal people.
A science park – Catalust Inc – was next on the agenda, to meet some of the area’s young innovators.
Prince Harry & Meghan Markle look at some prosthetic limbs made by @FxTitanic during a visit to @CatalystIncHQ in Belfast Northern Ireland today. #RoyalVisit #HarryAndMeghan @pa pic.twitter.com/gFocDp5G00
— Niall Carson (@niallcarsonpa) March 23, 2018
Meghan also hinted at the couple’s desire for children; she gestured at a display of baby equipment from Shnuggle and said: “I’m sure at one point we will need the whole thing.”
The items she looked at included a baby bath which allows the child to sit up, a changing mat and Moses basket, describing them as ‘very sweet’.
Harry seemed to know some stuff about the equipment too: “As soon as he saw the bum bump [which stops the baby slipping down] he understood immediately. He said, ‘Oh, non-slip.'” founder Sinead Murphy said.
Prince Harry and Meghan’s final stop was the location of the Titanic museum in the historic dock area of Belfast. It tells the story of the creation of the doomed ocean-liner, which was largely created in the city, beginning in 1909; Titanic sank in 1912.
Exhibitions include transcripts of the emotional mayday calls sent out from the ship, recreations of the different classes’ rooms, and a look at the steam engines that powered Titanic. Most of it is interactive, with views of the docks in which Titanic once stood.
The couple were given a guided tour by the chief executive, Judith Owens, and they also went into a 3D interactive room to watch a film recreating each floor of the ship.
While exploring the Titanic Experience galleries, Prince Harry and Ms. Markle enjoy a 3D virtual tour and cabin recreations illustrating the ship’s opulent interior. #RoyalVisit #HarryandMeghan@KensingtonRoyal @NIOgov pic.twitter.com/4vRMolaf8B
— Titanic Belfast (@TitanicBelfast) March 23, 2018
Harry and Meghan received a replica of Titanic and flowers by Leyton Jackson, 6, and his sister Rosie, 4.
Ms Owens said: “In particular I think Meghan was very interested in the industrialisation of Belfast, and how the different industries developed and how Belfast had the wealth to build the biggest ships in the world.”