The Duchess of Sussex has arrived in Cheshire with the Queen for a masterclass in how to conduct royal engagements, just a month after her wedding.
The former actress enjoyed an inaugural overnight trip on the Royal Train with the Queen, ahead of her first day of engagements with the monarch, and arrived at Runcorn Station this morning after travelling up from London with the head of state on the distinctive burgundy-liveried locomotive.
It was around ten months after her own nuptials before the Duchess of Cambridge undertook a similar day of events – and will no doubt be viewed as a sign of royal confidence in the former actress.
The Queen has been on the throne for 66 years and has conducted tens of thousands of public engagements, shaking hundreds of thousands of hands along the way.
Former actress Meghan couldn’t resist sporting another creation by her wedding designer, and looked elegant in the cream fitted dress with a cape feature at the shoulders, nipped in at the waist with a black belt.
Her Majesty was vibrant as ever in a lime green ensemble by Stewart Parvin and hat by Rachel Trevor Morgan.
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Getting on famously! The Queen and the Duchess of Sussex shared a joke this morning as they watched a ceremony to open the new Mersey Gateway Bridge during their first official engagement together
The new Duchess of Sussex was all smiles as she arrived in Cheshire for her first join engagement with the Queen. The former actress was solicitous over the Her Majesty and kept a watchful eye on the monarch as she followed her lead
Firm friends! The Queen looked in great spirits as she began her day out with Harry’s new wife and the pair showed their lighthearted bond as they laughed together during an opening ceremony for the new Mersey Gateway Bridge
The Duchess of Sussex and the Queen arrive by Royal Train at Runcorn Station to carry out engagements in Cheshire
The new Duchess of Sussex walked behind the monarch as she prepared to dismount the Royal Train at Runcorn Station
Smiling Meghan looked poised and confident as she stood alongside the monarch during their first official engagement together (left). The growing bond between the two women was evident as they shared a joke
Today will offer Meghan the opportunity to learn from the Queen who has been on the throne for 66 years and has conducted tens of thousands of public engagements
Growing confidence! Meghan seemed completely at ease as she chatted with the monarch and the pair shared a joke during the opening ceremony
The former Suits actress teamed her cream Givenchy dress with black heels and a smart black handbag(left). The former Suits actress teamed her cream Givenchy dress with black heels and a smart black handbag (right)
Her royal debut! The Duchess of Sussex looked animated as she chatted during her first official engagement with the Queen
As the pair disembarked from the train, they were greeted by the Lord Lieutenant of Cheshire, David Briggs, who told the Duchess: ‘I understand it is your first trip to the north of England.’
She replied: ‘That’s correct. I’m very happy to be here.’
Her nerves, and lack of experience in the minutiae of royal protocol, were in evidence as they prepared to get into the Queen’s Bentley awaiting them in the station car park.
There was a moment of confusion as the Duchess appeared unsure who should get into the car first. ‘What is your preference?’ she asked the Queen.
‘You go first,’ said the Queen. ‘Oh OK,’ said the duchess.
The Queen and Meghan taking their seats for the official opening of the new Mersey Gateway Bridge, in Widnes, Cheshire. The Duchess of Sussex cut an elegant figure in a cream Givenchy dress as she took her seat beside Her Majesty
After leaving Runcorn, the pair prepared to embark on a round of engagements that would have been all too familiar for the Queen: opening a bridge across the Mersey, watching kids doing stuff, having lunch with the civic worthies of Chester.
For the Queen, this is what she has spent her life doing: for the Duchess, it is the future that lies ahead of her.
Later they will watch a performance by local schoolchildren entitled ‘Bringing Communities Together: Halton’s river crossings over the ages.’
The Queen will unveil a plaque to formally open the bridge before she and Meghan travel to Chester visit the city’s Storyhouse, a remarkable new library, theatre and cinema which has attracted more than a million visitors in its first year.
The Queen and her new granddaughter-in-law are set to open the new Mersey Gateway Bridge, in Widnes, Cheshire
The new Duchess of Sussex and the Queen climbed into a waiting car to make their way to their first engagement of the day
Her Majesty looked vibrant as ever in lime green, while Meghan kept it simple in a cream dress teamed with black heels
Queen Elizabeth II and the Duchess of Sussex walk to their car after arriving by Royal Train at Runcorn Station to carry out engagements in Cheshire
Pleased to meet you Ma’am! The royal party received a warm welcome at Runcorn station after travelling overnight by train. The Queen made sure she stood out in a lime green ensemble, while Meghan kept things simple in cream
The royal visitors walked from the station to their waiting car to make their way to the nearby Mersey Gateway Bridge
First stop on the agenda was a visit to the Mersey Gateway Bridge to conduct the official opening. Meghan seemed to be having a little difficulty keeping her long hair under control on a breezy morning
The Duchess of Sussex looked thrilled to be visiting Runcorn for the first time, for her first official day of engagements with the Queen
They will meet a Syrian settlement group learning craft works and watch a performance by Fallen Angels, a dance theatre company for people recovering from addiction, before moving to watch a medley of songs from the theatre’s latest production, ‘A Little Night Music’.
Before they leave they will also be treated to a performance by local schoolchildren alongside actors from ‘Swallow and Amzons’ and the monarch will unveil her second plaque of the day to mark the Storyhouse’s official opening.
No royal visit would be complete without a walkabout, and although Meghan has done a number of these already, she will join the Queen for a short meet and greet on their way to nearby Chester Town Hall for a civic lunch.
The Queen invited Harry’s new bride to join her for a day of engagements, in order to help her learn the ropes of royal life
Meghan kept her look simple in a cream Givenchy dress and carried a simple black clutch bag
The pair travelled by train, which costs around £900,000 a year to run, is only used by the sovereign, Prince Philip, Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall.
Even the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry have never been on it for an official engagement.
But the Queen, now 92, prefers to use the train overnight when travelling long distances in the UK.
ON BOARD THE ROYAL TRAIN
The monarch has invited Meghan to accompany her for a day of engagements today and MailOnline understands that, given the distances involved, the train set off yesterday – arriving at Runcorn station this morning.
While the Queen always tends to make long distance journeys on her train overnight, it will be quite the eye-opener for her new grand-daughter-in-law.
The locomotive consists of nine carriages in total, however, these are often reduced to seven depending on the number of people travelling, and Her Majesty is said to described it as one of the few places where she can relax in total privacy.
At over 150 years old it is the only private, non-commercial train service catering to one family still in operation in the UK and these photos offer a rare glimpse into Britain’s most exclusive railway service.
Much of the nine-carriage train currently in service dates back to 1977 when it was extensively used during the Silver Jubilee tours and while a novel experience, it is terribly dated and not entirely luxurious.
In fact, photographs of inside the train show how it is now a lot more functional, in contrast to the plush interiors that it used to boast in its glamorous heyday.
This comes after criticism over the expense of the royal train, which cost taxpayers £900,000 in 2016.
Royal sleepover! The Duchess of Sussex stayed on board the Royal train (pictured) alongside the monarch who has invited Meghan to accompany her for a day of engagements
The pair, who were last seen together at Trooping of the Colour, set off yesterday – arriving at Runcorn station this morning
Her Majesty’s personal saloon is 75ft long and fitted with secondary air suspension giving passengers an exceptionally smooth and comfortable ride.
It has a bedroom, decorated in light pastel shades, with a 3ft-wide single bed in one corner (there are no double beds on the Royal Train) made up with cotton sheets and woollen blankets.
While Prince Philip’s pillows are plain, the Queen’s are trimmed with lace, with a small Royal cipher in one corner. The ceiling has subdued strip lighting and there are several reading lamps near the bed.
The adjoining bathroom has a full-size bath, but the fittings are modest and functional.
Photographs of inside the train show how the decor is a lot more functional now. Pictured are chairs situated in The Duke of Edinburgh’s Carriage aboard the royal train, featuring a neutral colour scheme
The table is set in the dining room in this photo, taken back in 2006, and shows that the train has received a simpler makeover through the years
In fact, the train used to look a lot more glamorous in its heyday. Pictured: The royal carriage built in 1869 for Queen Victoria (1819-1901) by the London and North Western Railway at their Wolverton Works in Buckinghamshire
The train operators make sure the carriages are not crossing any bumpy points just after 7.30am: that could make the water slop around when the Queen is taking her bath. The train’s speed is always lower than the normal maximum for any route.
The sitting room has a sofa with hand-stitched velvet cushions, armchairs and the small dining table where the Queen and Prince Philip have breakfast.
The table can be extended to seat six people. There is also a desk in one corner where Her Majesty works on her official papers.
Although she has enjoyed several meetings with the Queen and spent time with her at Windsor Castle, the overnight journey will be unprecedented for Meghan.
A photo of the Prince of Wales’s Lounge on the royal train, taken in 2001, demonstrates how the train has been updated to reflect changing tastes and trends
Staff accommodation aboard the train features a single bed and several illustrations to brighten up the interior
The train also features an office for Her Majesty (pictured in 2002) to conduct her work while travelling
How old is the Royal Train?
At over 150 years old, the Royal Train is the only private, non-commercial train service catering to one family still in operation in the UK.
The train came into existence during the reign of Queen Victoria who was the first reigning sovereign to make a train journey when she travelled from Slough to Paddington, London, on June 13, 1842.
In 1869 she commissioned a special pair of coaches at a cost of £1,800: a considerable sum in those days. Victoria remains to this day the only monarch to have paid with her own money for Royal carriages to be built.