A glitzy state reception, selfies with adoring crowds and a schedule packed full of cultural activities: All the things Harry and Meghan did during unofficial Nigeria visit that could have been mistaken for a royal tour

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle

 

From state receptions to military welcomes, much about Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s whistlestop visit to Nigeria seemed like a royal tour.

 

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle

However, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex set foot in the West African nation very much on their own terms after being invited by its military for the three-day trip.

Sources within the UK’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office have confirmed to MailOnline that Harry and Meghan were ‘visiting Nigeria in a private capacity’, with the UK Government ‘not involved in arranging or facilitating their programme’.

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle

But while Harry and Meghan quit as senior royals in 2020, their visit had various similarities to foreign trips undertaken by working members of the Royal Family.

Royal expert Michael Cole told MailOnline today that although the couple were on ‘a private visit by two royal personages’, they ‘exploited their royal status to the very limit and in every way, trying to give the impression that it was the real thing’.

He said that although the Sussexes’ trip ‘wasn’t a state visit, an official visit or a royal tour’, it seemed like a ‘tour proposed by Buckingham Palace and sanctioned by the British government’.
wasn’t a state visit, an official visit or a royal tour. It was a private visit by two royal personages.

Meghan Markle and Prince Harry

But they exploited their royal status to the very limit and in every way, trying to give the impression that it was the real thing, a tour proposed by Buckingham Palace and sanctioned by the British government.

They succeeded to such an extent that they will return to California well satisfied with their three days in Nigeria.

That is the magic of monarchy. Nigeria gained independence from Britain in 1960 and became a republic three years later. But such is historical connection with the Crown, and affection for the Royal Family, that Africa’s most populous country opened its ample arms to the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, some people even addressing Meghan as ‘Princess’ – which clearly pleased her.

Meghan Markle

Meghan said she hoped she was worthy of being a role model for the young women she met in Nigeria. I am sure she was not thinking of the fractured relationships the couple now have with not just her husband’s family, but her own, none of whom is on speaking terms with her apart from her mother Doria and a niece.

It was smiles all the way for the Sussexes. As is his way, Prince Harry charmed his hosts by his willingness to get stuck into games and sports, whether it was ultra-posh polo or a game of sitting volleyball.

The visit promoted his brilliant initiative, the Invictus Games, and the couple’s Archewell Foundation which uses sport – in particular basketball – to empower and engage young people.

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle

Buckingham Palace will have watched events closely in Nigeria, a member of the Commonwealth of which King Charles III is head. Are we seeing the Sussexes trying to create an alternative court, based on their hilltop Camelot in Montecito?

No? Would they like to create such a rival court? Meghan might but Prince Harry, who has been a member of the Royal Family for coming up to 40 years now, has enough sense to know there is no substitute for the real thing; and imitations are quickly revealed to be phoney and threadbare.

One good thing, if a somewhat surprising one: Prince Harry didn’t seem concerned about his or his wife’s security.

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle

Even though Lagos vies with Johannesburg for the unwelcome distinction of being the murder capital of Africa, and the British Foreign Office warns travellers that Nigeria is a dangerous destination, the Prince, who is so concerned about security when he comes to Britain that he has taken the Home Office to court over his and his family’s level of armed protection, was smiling throughout the visit, clearly untroubled by any imminent threat.

Obviously four burly bodyguards helped in to reassure him. But it does raise again the justification – let alone the common sense – of his legal action against his father’s government, a case that Harry would have continued had the judge not refused him the right to appeal against the judge’s dismissal of his princely case.