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Meghan Markle charms crowds on first joint royal engagement: 'Hi, I'm Meghan!'

The newly-engaged couple will visit a World Aids Day charity fair and a nearby school

by Gemma Strong

Prince Harry and his bride-to-be Meghan Markle have arrived in Nottingham for their first official joint visit. Huge crowds descended on the city – as did the world's press – to catch a glimpse of the happy couple, who announced their engagement earlier in the week. And they weren't disappointed. Harry, 33, and Meghan, 36, smiled and waved to cheering members of the public as they alighted their car, taking the time to shake hands and speak to a few lucky locals, before heading to the National Justice Museum. Meghan looked beautiful for her first public engagement with Harry, dressed in a navy blue winter coat by Mackage and black heeled boots, her striking trilogy diamond engagement ring adorning her hand. The couple spent around 25 minutes meeting the crowds in Nottingham, with Meghan charming members of the public as she introduced herself with a cheery "Hi, I'm Meghan." "I'm so happy," she said at one point. "It's just such a thrill to be here." 

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Meghan Markle charmed the crowds during her first official royal engagement

Some people had been waiting since 6am to meet the newly-engaged couple, braving the freezing cold with gifts including bunches of flowers, Haribo - Harry's favourite sweet - and homemade cards. Meghan appeared to make a beeline for children, dogs, and seemed thrilled to meet the many American students who had turned out to see her. Accepting congratulations from hundreds of wellwishers, she showed her engagement ring to interested admirers, and smiled at the many compliments about Prince Harry.

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Prince Harry and Meghan were greeted by cheers and applause as they arrived in Nottingham

After spending time in the museum, the couple then made the short journey to the Nottingham Contemporary to attend the Terrence Higgins Trust charity fair, in honour of World Aids Day - a cause very close to Princess Diana's heart. Dominic Edwards, from the Terrence Higgins Trust, told the BBC the charity was "thrilled" they had chosen to visit Nottingham, and said: "I think it really underlines his great support for HIV as a cause." The couple will also visit the Nottingham Academy during their time in the city, where they will meet with staff and pupils from the 3,600-pupil school.

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Meghan, 36, looked beautiful in a navy coat by Mackage

Prince Harry has become a regular visitor to Nottingham over the last four years, meeting up with youth workers and young people helped by the Full Effect project. The community group, which is backed by the Prince's Royal Foundation, works in the St Ann's area of the city to stop youth violence and crime through a variety of projects, from rapping workshops to film production and sports programmes. His communication's secretary, Jason Knauf, said the Prince was looking forward to introducing Meghan to a community that had "become very special to him", adding that the actress "could not wait" to meet people she had heard so much about.

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It is the couple's first joint royal visit since announcing their engagement

The couple's visit is expected to benefit the local economy by hundreds of thousands of pounds with huge crowds attracted to the city centre hoping for a glimpse of Harry and Meghan. Tourism bosses say Harry and Meghan's visit will showcase Nottingham on a global scale with the event being covered by television and media from around the world.

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Meghan appeared to make a beeline to talk to small children

On Tuesday, it was confirmed that Meghan - an actress who until then had been a UN women's advocate and worked for World Vision - was to start royal life with a "clean slate". Mr Knauf said she planned to focus her attention on the UK and Commonwealth. "This is the country that's going to be her home now and that means travelling around, getting to know the towns and cities and smaller communities," he said. She will also become the fourth patron of the Royal Foundation of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry.

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