Prince Harry and Meghan Markle charmed staff and students at the University of Chichester today on the second leg of their first visit to Sussex as a married couple.
The Duke and Duchess of Sussex were invited to open the university’s £35million Tech Park at its Bognor Regis campus – and as the royal couple stepped out of their car by the entrance, students from the Barbara Smith Halls opposite could be heard declaring their love for Harry through their windows.
The pair met dignitaries, cadets and reservists for the Royal Navy and Army who work at the university. To them, Harry said: “I take my hat off to you.”
Their first stop in the new building was the live animation studio, where the couple were given a brief lesson by Max Tyrie, head of 3D Animation and VFX and a BAFTA award-winning animator whose credits include the Amazing Spiderman franchise.
Former actress Meghan was in her element here, chatting to first year students about their work and career aspirations. ‘Art direction so overlaps with acting’, she said to one student.
At one stage, Harry’s eye was caught by the view outside: specifically, one iconic Bognor landmark. He said: “Is that Butlin’s? Wow, it looks like a circus.”
Next on their visit were the engineering labs, where they saw a stress-testing experiment on a piece of plastic using state-of-the-art Mecmesin equipment made in Horsham. The machine is only the second in Europe, the other being in Zurich, Switzerland.
Meghan, dressed in a bottle-green leather skirt and blouse, found an unexpected accessory to her outfit – safety goggles – as she started the machine using a large touchscreen.
Ushered in to a performance of the third movement of Vivaldi’s Four Seasons by the strings section of the university’s chamber orchestra, Harry and Meghan were wowed by the Tech Park’s three-storey high sound stage, the largest of its kind at any UK university.
Harry said: “For this to land on your doorstep is absolutely incredible. What a room.”
To the musicians, Meghan said: “You are all so good; it was beautiful. How long do you practice for?”
Among them was a professor with links to Northwestern University near Chicago, Meghan’s alma mater. “Well hello Wildcats!”, she said, in reference to the university’s American football team.
The performance by the university’s music department was filmed by media students using industry-standard recording equipment, which Harry was given the chance to operate. The demonstration was designed to show off how the university promotes interdisciplinary working.
The couple’s final engagement was to officially open the campus, unveiling a plaque in front of dozens of dignitaries including the West Sussex County Council leader Louise Goldsmith.
Ahead of the unveiling, Professor Jane Longmore, vice-chancellor of the university, said it was a ‘really special day in the life of this university’ and that the new campus would put Bognor Regis at the heart of the ‘fourth industrial revolution’. She said: “This building is the physical embodiment of the ideal of our commitment to the communities of our coastal region, of social justice and to ensuring that the children of this region have the strongest possible life chances and that they can become the engineers, technologists and filmmakers of the future.”
On their way out, the duke and duchess were presented with a posy by 22-year-old Jack Greenwood, president of the university’s student union. Prince Harry noted the military colours in his tie and asked if he would consider a life in the armed forces – before Meghan jokingly said ‘that’s too much pressure right now!’.