Don’t call it a comeback. Meghan, the Duchess of Sussex has given her first speech on British soil since stepping back from her role as a senior royal over two years ago.
Speaking to delegates from over 200 countries at the One Young World Summit in Manchester, England, Duchess Meghan smiled and said, “It is very nice to be back in the U.K.”
The duchess addressed over 2,000 young delegates during her opening ceremony speech. “I see the world through my children and try to imagine how the world will be when they will be adults,” she told the young leaders. “You are the ones driving the positive and necessary change across the globe now, in this very moment. And for that I am so grateful to be in your company today.”
Her words quickly stirred an enthusiastic audience at Manchester’s Bridgewater Hall on the first day of the summit, an event which brings together delegates and ambassadors from around the world to share new ideas to build a better future.
Over the next four days, the young leaders will be joined by counsellors and influential people including thinkers, politicians, and role models, to help inspire and lead important conversations around issues including gender inequality, misinformation, conflict prevention, climate change, and the importance of ethical leadership.
As well as being able to share a platform with impactful figureheads, attendees will also receive mentorship and make lasting connections. It is, as founder Kate Robertson said at the opening ceremony, “a summit with a power to change the world.”
The duchess has been an ambassador of the youth-focused event since the 2014 summit in Dublin, Ireland, where joined a panel discussion on challenging gender stereotypes and bias in the media. During her September 5 speech, Meghan described the “pinch me moment” she experienced attending her first summit.
“And there I was, the girl from Suits,” she smiled. “I was surrounded by world leaders, humanitarians, prime ministers, and activists that I had such a deep and long-standing respect and admiration for. And I was allowed in, to pull up a seat at the table.”
She continued, “I was so overwhelmed by this experience, I think I even saved my little paper place-marker with my name on it. Just proof—proof that I was there, proof that I belonged, because the truth was, I wasn’t sure that I belonged.”
But Meghan explained that “[One Young World] saw in me, just as I see in you, the present and the future. And I want to make that point because often times I speak to young girls about the years ahead. About what you will do, about what you will have to adopt to fix from previous generations and also what legacy you will leave. Too often in that, we neglect the point – you are doing it now. You, here, in this present moment, this is where it is all beginning.”
As she thanked the auditorium, Meghan received rapturous applause, with the entire venue standing to clap and cheer for almost two minutes after she returned to her seat.
Before speaking, Meghan and Harry sat center stage to watch bearers carry the flags of each country represented at the One Young World Summit. For the first time at the event, a flag was carried for the Refugee Nations—an orange and blue design mimicking the colors often used for live vests and life rafts. Since its introduction at the 2016 Olympics, it has become a symbol of hope.
The Duke and Duchess of Sussex arrived earlier in the day after a two-hour train ride from London. Before the opening ceremony they held a private round table discussion with some of the delegates taking part in the summit.
Though Manchester was not the first choice for the 2022 gathering (plans for Tokyo had to be shelved due to ongoing Covid-19 travel restrictions in Japan), the new location was an apt alternative. The second largest city in the UK is well known for its humanity and community spirit, seen around the world after a 2017 terrorist bombing on the Manchester Arena during an Ariana Grande concert left 23 dead. It is also famously where the suffragettes first walked, with women taking to the streets of Manchester in 1898—an act which went on to empower women and girls around the world.
Tomorrow, the Sussexes will travel to Dusseldorf, Germany, where Prince Harry will launch a one-year countdown to the next Invictus Games. He is scheduled to meet some of the athletes taking part and make time for a brief press call, though journalists gathered will not be able to ask him questions.
On Thursday, the pair will be back in London for the annual WellChild Awards, which celebrates the bravery of Britain’s seriously ill children and young people. Harry, as long-standing patron of the charity, will deliver a speech.
Omid Scobie is BAZAAR.com’s Royal Editor at Large and has covered the lives and philanthropic work of the younger members of the British Royal Family for over eight years. As well as spearheading exclusive coverage of major royal milestones (including the weddings of both the Cambridges and Sussexes), Scobie has traveled extensively with Harry, Meghan, William and Kate on their engagements in the U.K. and around the world. As ABC News’s Royal Contributor, Scobie is a regular on Good Morning America and host of the network’s forthcoming podcast, The Heir Pod.