As any expectant set of parents will know, the period leading up to the birth of a child is often incredibly exciting. Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, for one, can certainly relate to this, as their first baby is due in April 2019. And, with that in mind, the couple’s most recent overseas trip before Meghan’s big day took an interesting – and unexpected – turn.
Harry was born in September 1984 and grew up with his older brother, Prince William, and their parents, Prince Charles and Princess Diana. As members of the British royal family, the boys enjoyed plenty of advantages during those early years. However, their mother was determined that they would also be able to look back fondly on some of the more everyday aspects of childhood – so she put an intriguing plan in place.
Diana wanted to normalize certain activities for young William and Harry, belying their royal status. So, the brothers visited places such as fast-food eateries and theme parks with their mother. But despite the then-Princess of Wales’ best efforts to ground her sons, there were some unavoidable issues.
After all, the media took a keen interest in Charles and Diana’s children – with a group of cameramen capturing Harry’s arrival at school on his first day in 1987, for example. While the press hovered in the background, though, his education continued on as per normal, and he became a student at the Wetherby School in London two years later.
Harry joined his older brother, William, at said institution before the pair both enrolled at another establishment a few years later: the Ludgrove School, based in Berkshire, England. However, the following period proved incredibly challenging for the young royals, as they faced some major changes back home.
In December 1992 Charles and Diana announced their separation through then-Prime Minister John Major. And as a result of this, William and Harry engaged in various activities with their estranged parents – ahead of their eventual divorce some four years later. Then, in 1997, everything changed.
Tragically, of course, Diana died in a car accident that August, and her funeral took place the following month. Unsurprisingly, Harry found it incredibly difficult to cope with what had happened. And two decades later, in a heartbreaking admission, the royal revealed exactly how he had handled his grief during that difficult period.
“I can safely say that losing my mom at the age of 12, and therefore shutting down all of my emotions for the last 20 years, has had a quite serious effect on not only my personal life but my work as well,” Harry told U.K. newspaper The Telegraph in April 2017. And on that note, he explained what his mindset had been like after Diana’s passing.
“My way of dealing with it was sticking my head in the sand, refusing to ever think about my mom, because why would that help?” Harry continued. “‘It’s only going to make you sad; it’s not going to bring her back.’ So from an emotional side, I was like, ‘Right, don’t ever let your emotions be part of anything.’”
And although Harry eventually sought help for these issues, his life prior to doing so definitely had its ups and downs. Indeed, from him joining the military to him facing down a few tabloid controversies, the royal was no stranger to the public eye. But in 2016 everything changed again – when he met Meghan Markle.
Meghan was born in August 1981 and grew up in Los Angeles, California, alongside her parents, Thomas and Doria. Having been raised in Hollywood, the future royal eventually became a student at the Northwestern University School of Communication, where she honed her craft by studying theater and international relations. And the year before her graduation, the aspiring actress enjoyed a big moment.
Specifically, in 2002 Meghan made her small-screen debut, earning a part in the long-running television drama General Hospital. Following that brief appearance, though, the Los Angeles native’s next role didn’t come for another two years – when she featured in an episode of the sci-fi series Century City.
From there, Meghan made her big-screen debut in 2005, taking on a minor role in the romantic comedy A Lot Like Love. And in addition to landing a part in the blockbuster, the actress also featured in a number of other TV shows during that period as she continued to establish herself. However, her career really took off in 2011.
Yes, that year, following roles in projects such as Remember Me, Fringe, CSI: Miami and Horrible Bosses, Meghan joined the cast of the TV show Suits. Playing Rachel Zane, she appeared in over 100 episodes of the legal drama before leaving in 2018. And that decision likely came as a result of some major changes in her life.
Some two years prior to that, you see, Meghan had apparently met Prince Harry in Toronto, Canada, while the royal was spreading the word about the Invictus Games. From there, the famous pair formed a romantic relationship, going public with the news in November 2016. And around 12 months later, they made an even bigger revelation.
Famously, Harry and Meghan got engaged in November 2017, and the wedding was scheduled for May 2018. The high-profile ceremony took place at Windsor Castle, and with it came another significant moment for the pair. They took on their new royal titles as the Duke and Duchess of Sussex.
In the months after Harry and Meghan’s wedding, Kensington Palace then made an exciting announcement regarding their first tour together as husband and wife. The statement read, “The Duke and Duchess of Sussex will undertake an official visit to Australia, Fiji, the Kingdom of Tonga and New Zealand in the autumn.”
“Their Royal Highnesses have been invited to visit the Realms of Australia and New Zealand by the countries’ respective governments,” the statement added. “The Duke and Duchess will visit the Commonwealth countries of Fiji and Tonga at the request of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.” Meanwhile, the couple had more big news on the horizon in October 2018.
Yes, it was revealed that Meghan was pregnant – with the baby due in April 2019. And this news came just six months after Harry’s brother had welcomed his third child, Prince Louis, into the world. Despite the announcement, though, the royal couple continued to carry out their duties together over the next few months.
So it was that in February 2019 Harry and Meghan arrived in Asni, Morocco, and visited a very special boarding school in the town. The facility – which is operated by the Education For All initiative – houses teenage girls from across the region. As a result, they can receive the next stages of their education – unlike a lot of other girls in the area.
“Very few girls from the rural communities of the High Atlas Mountains get the opportunity of continuing their education beyond primary school,” reads a statement on the Education For All website. “Secondary schools, mostly several kilometers away in larger towns, are not accessible to them.” The site then lists some of the reasons why.
“[The girls’] parents cannot afford to pay for lodgings or transport near secondary schools,” the website continues. “Their parents [also] do not have the confidence in existing facilities to entrust their daughters to be away from home.” And while the higher-ups in Morocco are attempting to address this state of affairs, it remains a widespread issue.
The Education For All website in fact reveals some concerning statistics on that front. The site reads, “Despite the Moroccan government’s support of education policy and women’s rights, half of the country is not literate. And in rural areas, up to 83 percent of women are illiterate. We believe that investing in girls’ education is essential, as an educated girl educates her family and whole community.”
With that in mind, then, Harry and Meghan met the students at the Education For All boarding school in Asni, thereby getting a first-hand look at their work. What’s more, by this point, the Duchess was around seven months pregnant, edging ever closer to the big day. So this was set to be her final royal tour before the birth.
However, the pair’s tour of the school was given a twist when they were taken aside by one of the students. That student was Samira Ouaadi – who, having noticed Meghan’s baby bump, offered to give the Duchess a special henna tattoo on her left hand. So it was that after accepting the request, Meghan and her husband sat down while the teenager got to work.
Ouaadi proceeded to trace a flower pattern on Meghan’s hand and forearm – and she hadn’t chosen to do so lightly. You see, the tattoo serves a traditional purpose in Morocco. There, when a pregnant woman reaches her seventh month, she gets a henna tattoo to commemorate the health of both the baby and herself ahead of the big day.
After completing the tattoo, Ouaadi then went on to reveal a bit more about it. She told U.K. newspaper the Daily Mirror, “It is a traditional practice for pregnant women in Morocco. It is to bring luck for the baby.” The mark itself usually stays on the skin for a couple of weeks, and the dye comes from the bark of the henna tree.
Now sporting a brand-new tattoo, Meghan continued to tour the boarding school alongside Harry, and the pair met several more students. However, the majority of the pupils could only speak French, leaving the British royal in a tricky position. The same couldn’t be said of his wife, mind you, who put her high school language skills to the test.
“What do you want to do when you leave school?” Meghan asked the girls in their native tongue. “Do you want to go to university?” And the subsequent responses drew praise from the Los Angeles native, who commended their ambitions of becoming doctors and teachers. She then relayed the answers back to Harry.
“It’s so impressive that so many of the girls are studying maths and physics and the sciences,” Meghan told her husband. “It is really good to see that science is promoted among girls.” Yet several residents at the boarding school were just as impressed with the royal couple.
“[Meghan’s] French was good, and it was a surprise that she spoke so well,” one of the girls recalled while speaking to Sky News. “But Harry said he didn’t speak French at all. She was better than her husband.” Elsewhere, teenager Khadija ait Talat lavished even more praise upon Meghan. And she noted the Duchess’ reaction to one point in particular.
“We have been learning about the Duchess,” Talat revealed to the Mirror. “She is a beautiful lady. l told her I will be a science teacher, and she seemed very impressed.” In addition, student Nawal ait Idmou said of Harry and Meghan, “They both seemed very impressed by what was happening at our school.”
After touring the boarding school, Harry and Meghan were then greeted by two more youngsters outside the facility. Indeed, Rania and Rayhana Minejem – sisters of both British and Moroccan descent – spoke to the couple while bathed in sunshine. “Hi girls, how are you?” the Duchess asked them. “Thanks for waiting to see us.”
Rania and Rayhana’s mother then explained why the youngsters were at the boarding school that day. Clare McCaugey told the Mirror, “It was so lovely that Meghan and Harry stopped to speak to the girls. I wanted them to come, as they are half Moroccan and half British.”
“Because [Rania and Rayhana] live in Morocco, they know about their British side,” McCaugey added. “But I wanted them to celebrate their British side as well.” And the henna tattoo wasn’t the only Moroccan tradition that Harry and Meghan embraced while on their memorable trip to the school in Asni.
After shaking hands with each of the students, Harry and Meghan then touched their hearts. And yet they weren’t the only ones to be excited by the Duke and Duchess’ visit. Thomas Reilly, the British ambassador to Morocco, was also buzzing ahead of their arrival – as proved by his social media activity.
Already boasting close to 2,000 followers on Instagram, Reilly posted a number of images of his sock collection – most of which bore the Union Jack – in February 2019. However, while his posts were certainly tongue-in-cheek, the ambassador’s excitement was the result of something more serious. In his mind, you see, Harry and Meghan’s visit was incredibly important.
Before greeting Harry and Meghan upon their arrival in Morocco, Reilly in fact went into a bit more detail regarding their trip. As he told U.K. newspaper the Daily Mail in February 2019, “It’s hugely exciting to have Their Royal Highnesses the Duke and Duchess of Sussex here for the next few days.”
“I’m really excited to showcase the vital roles that girls’ education and youth employment are playing in shaping modern Morocco,” Reilly continued. “When we began planning for this visit, I had a very clear view in my mind of the story we wanted this visit to tell.” He then outlined some of the other initiatives that Harry and Meghan would see alongside the school.
“From a girls’ education project in the High Atlas Mountains, to programs working with children with disabilities and young people with mental health challenges, to meeting with young social entrepreneurs,” Reilly added. “[Harry and Meghan] will be shown first-hand the transformational impact of community-based programs and Morocco’s changing social attitudes towards women.”