The Duke and Duchess of Sussex/Chris Allerton
Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, privately hosted a group of Commonwealth students on Monday at Buckingham Palace to hear about their work envisioning solutions for four of our planet’s biggest issues: climate and environmental changes, the need for sustainable cities, health innovation, and technology’s impact on economies and jobs. The event was part of the Duchess’s work as patron of the Association of Commonwealth Universities (ACU) and came shortly before Meghan stepped out for her final event as a working senior member of the royal family: Commonwealth Day Service at Westminster Abbey.
ELLE understands the meeting the Duchess had with the group of scholars was “emotional.” Students included Commonwealth Scholars, Chevening Scholars, and an ACU Blue Charter Fellow from 11 Commonwealth countries in total: Malawi, India, Cameroon, Bangladesh, Nigeria, Pakistan, Ghana, Rwanda, Kenya, Malaysia, and Sri Lanka. Meghan was said to be “thrilled” to meet the students and hear about their work. She wore a dark navy tie dress and posed with the students for a group photo:
The scholars were split into groups based on which of the four issues they were studying. During the meeting, Meghan told the students that they were united in one aspect of their work: “Even though the groups are divided, everyone is connected because of this very holistic approach to tackling climate change,” she said. “I love how solution-based you all are.”
Ahead of the Duchess’s arrival, Joanna Newman, the ACU’s secretary general, told the group, “You are all going to have a short period of time with our patron. She’s really interested in the work that we’re doing; she’s incredibly supportive. She is herself a scholar from the university where she got a scholarship [Northwestern University], so she understands the importance of scholarships. And she’s been a real champion of the work that universities do.”
Halima Ali, a lawyer from Kenya who is researching energy and natural resources at Queen Mary University of London, spoke glowingly of Meghan’s time with them. “For Commonwealth and also African countries, to see her, her interest, her participation means a lot to us,” Ali said.
Timothy Biswick, a University of Leicester research fellow from Malawi, is researching micro plastic pollution in the oceans and ways it can be reduced. He was also moved by Meghan’s interest in the group’s studies. “She was commending what the ACU is doing, especially bringing scientists from across the Commonwealth so they share knowledge. Once that knowledge comes out, it has a ripple effect wherever you go,” Biswick said. “I’m impressed with what she’s been saying here. It’s not just coming here and listening to us; she was talking about things in quite some detail, so you know that this person knows what they are talking about and are passionate about it.”
Meghan became patron of the ACU last January. She will remain patron even after her transition out of her role as a senior working member of the royal family. In her time working with the ACU, the Duchess publicly announced new gender grants for ACU member universities in South Africa and met with students at City University London to hear about how access to higher education changed their lives. The Duchess is expected to announce more details on her non-profit with Prince Harry and their roles outside the royal family later this spring.