The Duke of Sussex signed off from a lengthy tour with his pregnant wife – their first as a married couple – in brief terms: “It’s been great, thanks guys.”
Harry and Meghan will head back to the UK on Thursday after a marathon 16-day tour which took in four countries and saw the couple meet koalas and crowds in Sydney, try their hand at welly-wanging in New Zealand and take in traditional culture in Fiji.
The buzz surrounding the Sussexes’ visit was already high when Kensington Palace announced on the eve of the tour that the couple were expecting a baby next spring.
At their first engagement, they received their first gift for the future baby Sussex as governor-general of Australia Sir Peter Cosgrove and his wife gave the couple a toy kangaroo and its joey along with some Ugg boots.
The Invictus Games – created by Harry for wounded and sick service personnel – was among the reasons for heading Down Under, with the duke delivering emotive speeches at the opening and closing ceremonies.
The fourth staging of the competition was held in Sydney with 500 competitors from 18 nations.
Speaking on the forecourt of Sydney Opera House at the opening, Harry spoke of the Invictus Generation, who have shown “the true meaning of resilience”.
The tour had literal highs – Harry ascended the Sydney Harbour Bridge with competitors to raise the Invictus Games flag – and metaphorical lows when a tag was visible on the duchess’s Self-Portrait dress as the couple arrived in Tonga.
It also featured a heavy emphasis on mental health, with Harry speaking openly about his previous struggles, telling Wellington-based Voices of Hope: “I think anyone who has overcome mental health problems often go out of their own way to help others.
“It took me about three or four years to start the journey and then after that you still have to find the right people to speak to.”
There were also moments of neat symmetry, with the duke echoing his grandparents as he and his wife were given a traditional welcome in Fiji before waving from the balcony of the Grand Pacific Hotel.
The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh were treated to the welcome in the capital Suva’s Albert Park in 1953, and Harry and Meghan sat in the same location as he was offered roast pig, a whale’s tooth and the traditional drink kava.
After the 45-minute welcoming ceremony, which featured traditional chants and dancing, the couple made the short drive to the Grand Pacific Hotel where hundreds packed in to see them on the balcony.
In Auckland, one young royal fan completed a set of photographs after catching Harry’s eye on Viaduct Harbour with photos of him meeting William and Kate at the same location in 2014.
Harry and Meghan posed for pictures with Max Henry, 10, whose mother Vicci Chawe said: “They’re just lovely people.”
The royal baby was never too far from the mind of the public – or the duchess.
Meghan, 37, opted to skip three engagements on Fraser Island in Queensland, potentially due to the rough terrain of the area, and also missed a medal presentation at Invictus to rest after a late night watching the delayed opening ceremony.
Pictured in a range of outfits from Jason Wu to Emilia Wickstead, and occasionally cradling her baby bump, the duchess was praised by many for sticking to a gruelling schedule of 76 engagements.
Toys for the royal baby were held aloft by well-wishers who had travelled to catch a glimpse of the couple, including a mini lifeguard outfit from the stars of TV’s Bondi Rescue and a Buzzy Bee, a New Zealand toy which became more famous when William played with it during a 1983 tour.
There were also bizarre gifts, with one woman offering Meghan a bunch of carrots on Bondi Beach in Sydney, prompting the duchess to turn to the duke and say: “We got some veggies!”
After facing crowds for 16 days, Harry and Meghan’s last stop on the tour was the relatively calm Redwoods Tree Walk just outside Rotorua in New Zealand.
The couple took in a walkway among century-old redwood trees, spoke to mountain bikers, emerged from the woods hand-in-hand and stepped into a waiting car.