Meghan Markle – now of course the UK’s Duchess of Sussex – has spoken out in support of the arts and written heartfelt words of support for sex workers during a visit to Bristol.
Meghan told young performers that after-school creative activities were just as important as sport as she toured the city’s famous Bristol Old Vic theatre with husband Harry.
And when the couple made an unannounced trip to a charity helping sex workers break free from prostitution, the duchess wrote personal messages of love and empowerment on bananas destined for food parcels for the women.
Meghan penned the words, often followed by a heart, “You are strong”, “You are special”, “You are brave” and “You are loved” on the fruit at the One25 organisation based in the St Paul’s area of Bristol.
The couple had faced harsh weather conditions of snow and freezing temperatures when they arrived in the city.
But wrapped up against the cold in a William Vintage coat, Oscar de la Renta dress and Sarah Flint boots, the heavily pregnant duchess greeted dozens of royal fans with her husband.
Inside the theatre, which is undergoing a multimillion-pound restoration, Meghan and Harry watched young performers during a workshop then joined them onstage, with the duchess saying she had just been speaking about the importance of theatre opportunities for young people.
The former actress added: “There’s so much emphasis in after-school clubs on sport.
“Channelling energy that you have into the creative arts and theatre is equally as important. Sport isn’t for everyone, just like theatre isn’t for everyone.”
Meghan, who is the new patron of the National Theatre, spent a decade working as an actress in television, where she was best known for her role in the hit US legal drama series Suits, playing paralegal-turned-lawyer Rachel Zane.
The duchess revealed she was inspired to leave positive messages in the food bags after learning about a similar gesture made for school children.
Some of the 150 women who are still street sex-working in Bristol will receive the parcels from One25 containing the actress-turned-royal’s message later in the evening.
The duchess said: “I was thinking about this the other day. I saw this programme this woman had started in the States on a school lunch programme when on each of the bananas she wrote an affirmation or something to make the kids feel really empowered.
“I thought it was the most incredible idea – this small gesture.”
When the duke and duchess first arrived, they found they were not the main attraction for a group of young children.
The two and three-year-olds from Abbeywood Tots Nursery were more excited about the digestive biscuits they had been given by a member of staff.
India Leachman, 25, a nursery practitioner, said: “We’ve been describing them as the prince and princess, which is easier to explain to the kids, and they were like, ‘Oh my gosh, they’re coming, they’re coming’, then I gave them biscuits and they had like a giggle party to themselves.
“Harry and Meghan found it so funny that the children beckoned them over like, ‘We’re excited to see you’, and as soon as they came over they were interested in their biscuits.”
The duke shared a private moment with a bereaved youngster when the couple ended their day at the Empire Fighting Chance charity – which combines non-contact boxing with education, mentoring and therapy.
Harry spent 10 minutes alone with the young person, who became emotional talking about the loss of a parent.
The duke’s mother Diana, Princess of Wales died in a Paris car crash in 1997 when Harry was aged just 12, and he has spoken in the past of the effect it has had on his mental health.
Martin Bisp, co-founder of the charity, said: “There was a moment where him and a young person shared an experience.
They sat down and asked us to leave the room and talked candidly.”