Britain's Prince Harry (2/L)and his wife Meghan (R) are presented with presents for a baby from Australian Governor-General Peter Cosgrove (2/R) and his wife (L) at Admiralty House in Sydney on October 16, 2018. Prince Harry and Meghan have made their first appearances since announcing they are expecting a baby, kicking off a high-profile Pacific trip with a photo in front of Sydney's dazzling Opera House and posing with koalas.
Steve Christo / POOL / AFP
Prince Harry and pregnant Meghan make first public outing
Andrew Beatty (Agence France-Presse) - October 16, 2018 - 10:19am

SYDNEY, Australia — Prince Harry and Meghan have made their first appearances since announcing they are expecting a baby, kicking off a high-profile Pacific trip on Tuesday with a photo in front of Sydney's dazzling Opera House and posing with koalas.

The happy prince and his US-born wife attended a welcome event at Sydney's Admiralty, laughed as they received a pair of brown Australian-designed baby Ugg boots from the country's governor general and posed for a picture.

Meghan, dressed in a tight white Karen Gee dress, showed few signs of having a baby bump, but smiled broadly against the backdrop of the Opera House sails, which gleamed in the resplendent sunshine of a Sydney spring.

The pair are on a 16-day tour of Australia, New Zealand, Fiji and Tonga that had already been keenly watched but is now set to be a media frenzy that will test Australia's large contingent of royal-sceptic republicans.

Shortly after the pair stepped off the long flight Down Under on Monday, Kensington Palace announced that Queen Elizabeth II's 34-year-old grandson and the 37-year-old actress are "expecting a baby in the spring of 2019", triggering a chorus of coos and rampant tabloid speculation about baby names.

"What fantastic news!" tweeted Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison. "Australia is thrilled for you both. Looking forward to sharing in the joy during your stay down under."

The queen was said to be "delighted", British Prime Minister Theresa May tweeted her "warmest congratulations", and Meghan's mother Doria Ragland said she was "very happy about this lovely news".

As TV stations in the English-speaking world broke into their regular coverage, Google saw a spike in searches for "when is spring?" -- the answer in Britain is from March until May or June -- and newspapers played up an intercontinental rivalry over what the baby, who will become either an earl or lady, will be called.

The bookies' instant pick was Diana -- the name of the late princess who was mother to both Prince Harry and his older brother Prince William -- along with Arthur and Alice.

The pair later visited Taronga Zoo, where they got up close with two koalas and their joeys and were then expected to take a boat trip across the harbour.

They can expect a warm welcome on their tour, even if polls show half of Australians would like to ditch British monarchs as their country's titular head of state.

Hours before the pair's appearance, fans gathered outside the Opera House for a glimpse of the celebrity couple.

- American princess -

The BBC's royal correspondent said scrutiny will only intensify in Australia, New Zealand and the islands of Fiji and Tonga, which the couple will visit despite a notice advising pregnant women to stay away because of the Zika virus.

The decision came after consultations with doctors, Kensington Palace said, adding that no changes are expected to the planned schedule.

"This is now the duchess's pregnancy tour -- every step of the way she will be greeted with a new level of excitement and with some degree of concern," the BBC's Jonny Dymond wrote.

Meghan made her name in acting as savvy paralegal Rachel Zane in the US television legal drama "Suits", a world far removed from Buckingham Palace.

Her first steps as a British royal have therefore been cautious, immaculately scripted and well received. It is all but mandatory for a major royal to have a charity project, and Meghan's choice addressed the biggest tragedy to befall Britain in the past years.

The June 2017, the Grenfell Tower fire in London killed 71 people and raised uncomfortable questions about the government's approach to low income families who lived there.

Meghan wrote the foreword to the recipe collection entitled "Together: Our Community Cookbook", produced by women who suffered in the fatal blaze.

Britons also swooned after seeing Meghan nonchalantly closing her own car door at her first solo engagement last month in London.

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