Pictures: Harry and Meghan receive rapturous welcome at first public engagement

Prince Harry and his fiancee, Meghan Markle, received a rapturous welcome from the people of Nottingham as they began their public life together.

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle arrive at Nottingham Station ahead of their first official engagement together. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Friday December 1, 2017. See PA story ROYAL Wedding. Photo credit should read: Steve Parsons/PA Wire
Prince Harry and Meghan Markle arrive at Nottingham Station ahead of their first official engagement together. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Friday December 1, 2017. See PA story ROYAL Wedding. Photo credit should read: Steve Parsons/PA Wire

Just a few days after announcing their engagement, the couple were carrying out their first joint royal engagement.

The visit aims to raise awareness of HIV/Aids and efforts to tackle youth crime but it also gave the prince the opportunity to showcase his partner to the nation.

Harry chose Nottingham, a city he knows well, for their first walkabout, a mainstay of royal engagements.

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle arrive at Nottingham Station ahead of their first official engagement together. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Friday December 1, 2017. See PA story ROYAL Wedding. Photo credit should read: Steve Parsons/PA Wire

The couple, who arrived by train, began their tour with a civic welcome at the National Justice Museum in Nottingham’s historic Lace Market district.

Ahead of their arrival, hundreds of curious and excited onlookers had packed the streets, 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’re privileged they’ve chosen Nottingham to be their first official engagement.”

Crowds gather outside the Nottingham Contemporary in Nottingham, ahead of a visit by Prince Harry and Meghan Markle to a Terrence Higgins Trust World AIDS Day charity fair on their first official engagement together.

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

It is the first official engagement 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.

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.”

Police outside the Nottingham Contemporary in Nottingham

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

“As long as they’re happy, that’s all that matters.”

As the couple arrived, they walked towards a group of dignitaries with one arm around each other’s backs.

They then moved along the seemingly endless line of well-wishers.

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle arrive at Nottingham Station ahead of their first official engagement together. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Friday December 1, 2017. See PA story ROYAL Wedding. Photo credit should read: Steve Parsons/PA Wire

Members of the crowd called out Harry’s name, while others held up camera phones to capture the moment, or stretched out their hands for the prince and his fiancee to shake.

Ms Markle was wrapped up against the cold in a long dark blue coat by Mackage, and boots. She was also without gloves, so her engagement ring was on display, and carried a handbag - something the Duchess of Cambridge rarely does.

At points during the walkabout, Ms Markle put a reassuring hand on Harry’s back and she was given a bunch of cream coloured flowers.

With no private secretary yet, she had to hold the flowers and her handbag in the same hand but carried on greeting well-wishers. A little while later one of Harry’s aide took the blooms from her.

The former actress soon left her fiancee’s side and walked to the other side of the road to greet hundreds of fans who were crowded behind crash barriers.

She brushed her long hair from her face and smiled broadly as she shook hand after hand.

Crowds gather outside the Nottingham Contemporary in Nottingham, ahead of a visit by Prince Harry and Meghan Markle to a Terrence Higgins Trust World AIDS Day charity fair on their first official engagement together.

Prince Harry and Ms Markle split up to chat with people lining both sides of the route, accepting everything from bars of chocolate to cards of congratulations.

The crowds were a sea of mobile phones, as people strained to capture the royal rite of passage for Ms Markle.

Police outside the Nottingham Contemporary in Nottingham