Excited crowds gather to see Harry on first official outing with Meghan

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Hundreds of eager royal-watchers have gathered for a glimpse of Prince Harry and fiancee Meghan Markle, who are stepping out on their first official engagement together since announcing plans to wed in the new year.

Crowds of curious and excited onlookers packed the streets of Nottingham on Friday, including avid fan Irene Hardman.

The 81-year-old is well-known for handing bags of Haribo sweets to Harry, and first presented his father, the Prince of Wales, with two bags - the other for brother William - 20 years ago.

She said: "It is absolutely wonderful and fantastic, and we privileged they've chosen Nottingham to be their first official engagement."

She has a goody bag ready to hand over, including copies of the local paper and two fridge magnets "so they don't fight over it".

The city and its people are close to Harry's heart, with the visit his third public trip there since October last year.

Police were out in force ahead of the arrival of the royal couple (Joe Giddens/PA)
Police were out in force ahead of the arrival of the royal couple (Joe Giddens/PA)

But it marks the first formal visit by the couple in what will be a six-month tour of the UK, allowing the American former actress to get to know her new home.

Betty Parker, 78, from Sneinton, Nottingham, said "We love him", and of Ms Markle "She's beautiful".

Asked what she thought of the engagement, she added: "We really wish them all the very best - they're a lovely couple."

Frank Shelton, of Carlton, Nottinghamshire, turned up with Kim, an eight-year-old barn owl which goes everywhere with him, and said he was there as "a fan of William and Harry".

It was announced earlier this week that the royal couple are set to tie the knot at St George's Chapel in the grounds of Windsor Castle in May next year.

Mary Cooper, 60, who had been waiting to see the prince and his bride-to-be since before 9am, said: "I think it's absolutely wonderful that both he and his brother have found happiness."

Nikita Sahni, 17, who turned up with friends from Nottingham Girls' High School, said of the engagement: "She'll be good for the royal family, modernising it and making it more accessible."

The couple will begin their city tour with a civic welcome at the National Justice Museum in Nottingham's historic Lace Market district. They will then take in other engagements in the city.

Holly Burdett, 24, who flew home from Sydney, after taking a "gamble" #HarryAndMeghan would be getting engaged. With her is Emily Teer, University of Nottingham student, originally from Bromsgrove, Worcestershire, who has been "a fan of the royal family for years". pic.twitter.com/JSOUgi1DKt

-- Richard Vernalls (@rvernallsPA) December 1, 2017

Holly Burdett, who is originally from West Bridgford, Nottinghamshire, but now lives in Sydney, Australia, flew back to the UK earlier this month on a "gamble" that the couple would announce their engagement.

She said: "It paid off - I knew they'd be in London, doing something, and it's been about a year since they started properly dating."

She joked: "I always thought I'd marry Harry but you can't win them all."