Duke and Duchess of Sussex. Picture: Bronte Coy, news.com.au
Duke and Duchess of Sussex. Picture: Bronte Coy, news.com.au

Harry and Meghan chaos you don’t see

THERE are a number of ways you can tell when Prince Harry or Meghan Markle are getting close to you.

The faint roar of at least two helicopters quickly gets louder - and then louder - until you feel like they must be landing on top of you.

The journalists, photographers and cameramen who had been pretty chill up until that point suddenly begin jostling from all sides to firm up their positions.

The already-impressive contingent of security guards and police seems to suddenly double in size.

Snipers appear along rooftops nearby.

Minders begin taking very quick steps back and forth along the designated royal pathway, muttering to each other and talking into headsets.

And then, after a few security guards have peeped their heads out to make sure the coast is clear, Harry and Meghan finally appear.

This is the moment when that happened on Day One of the royal tour:

Harry and Meghan arrive to meet fans outside the Sydney Opera House. Picture: Bronte Coy, news.com.au
Harry and Meghan arrive to meet fans outside the Sydney Opera House. Picture: Bronte Coy, news.com.au

Months ago, my editor asked me to cover Harry and Meghan's visit to Australia.

Weeks and weeks of filling out lengthy forms, background checks and state government registrations later, I was officially allowed to be in close(ish) proximity to the Duke and Duchess of Sussex.

But nothing can prepare you for what it's actually like in that media pack.

 

I’m in here somewhere. Picture: Bronte Coy, news.com.au
I’m in here somewhere. Picture: Bronte Coy, news.com.au

Journalists and photographers here from all over the world have the exact same brief: Capture any royal "moments".

Think Daphne Dunne, the 98-year-old war widow who gave both Meghan and Harry a kiss outside the Sydney Opera House and had her face beamed all over the world. Or adorable 5-year-old Luke Vincent, the Dubbo schoolboy who hugged Harry and stroked his beard in one of the sweetest greetings ever seen on a royal tour.

That's the stuff we all came here to see.

Tuesday was the first official day of activities. The night before, Kensington Palace had dropped the news that Meghan was pregnant, and in an instant the royal tour became a Much Bigger Deal.

 

Prince Harry is back there in the blue suit. Picture: Bronte Coy, news.com.au
Prince Harry is back there in the blue suit. Picture: Bronte Coy, news.com.au

For every one of the royal engagements, we all have to arrive hours in advance - even if it's to see the duo for a matter of minutes.

Bags are checked, government-issued passes are verified, sniffer dogs sweep the scene, and then we're all moved to a barricaded viewing area, where we then wait for Harry, Meghan, and the most talked-about bump in the world to turn up.

Doesn't matter who you are - Channel Seven, Nine, Ten, SBS, ABC - there's no hierarchy, and everyone's fenced in together.

And then we wait.

And wait. And wait. By 11am on Tuesday, the wind had both chapped my face and whipped my hair into an unmanageable knot, I was desperately wishing I'd packed snacks, I needed to use the bathroom, and I'd have given up everything I owned for a bottle of water.

But to move would be to lose my spot along the barricade, and any chance at witnessing a "moment" during Harry and Meghan's first official meet-and-greet.

So the wait continued.

I've covered red carpets before - and they're far from glamorous - but absolutely no interaction with a Hollywood star could possibly compare with what it's like waiting for these high-profile royals.

There was a slight buzz of desperation in the air. Reporters around me were practising - over and over again - the pieces-to-camera they'd deliver as Harry and Meghan walked past. Cameramen were becoming increasingly more frazzled as they tried to work out whether they'd chosen the right spot.

And underneath it all was a quiet game of Whispers - people nearby muttering: "They've only just left Taronga Zoo, they're running late, I think," "I think they're late - wait, they just arrived at the wharf," and "Do we know how far off they are?"

Once Meghan and Harry finally showed up, time seemed to speed up.

After a fairly slow entry down the stairs - given Meghan's stiletto heels, I wasn't surprised - the couple split up, dividing their meet-and-greet range like a well-oiled machine.

Meghan stayed a few paces ahead of Harry, smiling and thanking the hundreds of people who said "Congratulations". The pair only met up a handful of times - once, to speak with Daphne, and another when Meghan spotted her own little mini-me in the crowd and called her husband over to take their photo.

The whole time, they were surrounded by an entourage resembling a small army.

 

I’ve really gotten used to seeing the back of their heads. Picture: Bronte Coy, news.com.au
I’ve really gotten used to seeing the back of their heads. Picture: Bronte Coy, news.com.au

By Thursday in Melbourne - the third day of the royal tour - the sound of the soft metallic flutter of camera shutters was incorporating itself into my dreams.

I was covered in a constant light sheen of sweat from a combination of non-stop low-key stress, my proximity to other humans and the muggy weather.

Once Harry and Meghan had finally walked up the long driveway to Government House - lined with thousands of fans - and been safely escorted inside, an official walked over to the metal barricade surrounding the media and pulled it forward to let us out.

And it was a stampede, with every single reporter running to grab everyone who'd had any interaction with Harry, Meghan, or (ideally) both.

Duke and Duchess of Sussex. Picture: Bronte Coy, news.com.au
Duke and Duchess of Sussex. Picture: Bronte Coy, news.com.au

A few things have become very clear from watching the Duke and Duchess all week.

The newest member of the British royal family often is the one taking charge of the situation - a number of times, I saw Meghan putting her hand in the middle of Harry's back to gently guide him forward.

Meghan takes the lead. Picture: Bronte Coy, news.com.au
Meghan takes the lead. Picture: Bronte Coy, news.com.au

And did you ever wonder what happens to all the hundreds of gifts people give them? Posters, cards, baby gifts, Aussie souvenirs - it's all very warmly received by Harry and Meghan … and then quickly handed back to one of their many assistants.

(After that, they're recorded in an official Palace document and divided into one of several categories).

Almost every second of their day in the public eye has been seamlessly choreographed. Harry and Meghan barely need to make a decision while the cameras are on them - it's why you so rarely see a photo of a royal looking confused, lost or unsure during a public walkabout.

Just me, Meghan, Harry and a few very close friends. And photographers. And a police boat. Picture: Bronte Coy, news.com.au
Just me, Meghan, Harry and a few very close friends. And photographers. And a police boat. Picture: Bronte Coy, news.com.au

Being part of the royal tour media pack sounds like it'd get you close enough to spot Meghan's freckles.

Mostly, it doesn't. In fact, being a cute kid with a sign near the front of the crowd gives you a much better chance.

But after all the waiting and the stress, there's no denying that when Harry and Meghan eventually turn up, even the most seasoned royal reporters are buzzing.

 

Cool, calm and collected at all times. Picture: Bronte Coy, news.com.au
Cool, calm and collected at all times. Picture: Bronte Coy, news.com.au