It's been a whirlwind couple of weeks for the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, as they've bounced around Africa on their first royal tour with 4-month-old baby Archie in tow. While taking a newborn overseas for the first time is undoubtedly stressful, Prince Harry and Meghan Markle's Africa tour has actually brought them closer together, according to a new report from Us Weekly. And now, the trio is set to head back home on Wednesday evening following their 10-day itinerary filled with events shedding light on social issues, ranging from wildlife conservation to reducing HIV stigma to gender inequality in education.
On Sept. 23, the family-of-three kicked off their travels, which included more than 35 engagements in four different countries around the continent. From the beginning, Harry has expressed his excitement about the trip. As he wrote in the initial Instagram announcement, "Our team has helped create a meaningful programme that we’re so excited to share with you. On a personal note, I can’t wait to introduce my wife and son to South Africa!"
Coinciding with their time in Africa coming to a close, a source told Us Weekly that the couple is "calling it a life-changing experience." The insider also added, "Meghan and Harry’s trip to Africa was better than they could’ve ever imagined." As royal watchers may already know, several of the trip's meaningful moments were tied to Harry's late mother, Princess Diana, who visited Africa for her own royal tour shortly before her untimely death in 1997. "This [tour] is all about wanting to fulfill his mother's legacy," a senior palace source recently revealed to The Daily Mail.
Harry's visit to Botswana was particularly special, as he traveled to the country immediately following Diana's death and has continued to return since. "Fifteen years I've been coming here," he told a crowd there on Sept. 26, as seen in the video below. "It's a sense of escapism, a real sense of purpose. I came here in 1997 or 1998 straight after my mum died, so it was a nice place to get away from it all. But now I feel deeply connected to this place and to Africa." Botswana has become a special place for Harry and Meghan too, since the duke took his future wife there for their third date back in July 2006. They also returned for Meghan's 36th birthday the following year, just a few months before announcing their engagement.
While in Botswana, Harry primarily focused on wildlife conservation and environmental issues. "There's an emergency, there's a race against time and one in which we are losing," he told the crowd, as reported by CBS News. According to the outlet, he spent time with local children, including planting trees in the Chobe Forest Reserve and meeting with a youth group from the Sentebale Project — an organization he founded in 2006 that "improves the lives of those living with HIV and AIDS, and it continues the legacy of Harry's mother Princess Diana, who fought to destigmatize the virus," as per CBS.
Another noteworthy moment from their trip was when baby Archie met Archbishop Desmond Tutu. As the royals explained on Instagram, "The Archbishop, a globally respected figure in anti-apartheid movement, is one of the world’s great champions of equality, and has spent his life tirelessly battling injustice." During their meeting, they learned about the Archbishop and his daughter's foundation, which is focused on youth leadership development and social justice.
Similar to Harry's solo trip to Botswana, Meghan ventured out on her own. During a roundtable discussion at the University of Johannesburg on Oct. 1, the duchess encouraged gender equality in education, as E! News reported. "The goal here is ... to be able to support women as they are working in research and higher education roles," she explained, "and also to be able to have workshops to convene things that are really helping people understand the importance of gender equality." And putting that goal into action, Meghan announced multiple scholarships and gender grants.
Harry, Meghan, and Archie are heading back to the U.K. soon, but that doesn't mean things are completely quieting down post-tour. On Tuesday, Oct. 1, the duke and duchess announced a lawsuit against British tabloid, The Mail on Sunday (as well as its parent company Associated Newspapers), for "relentless propaganda" and "false and malicious" reporting about Meghan and her family. The Mail on Sunday denied the allegations, telling Bustle the publication "stands by the story it published and will be defending this case vigorously." (Bustle reached out to Kensington Palace and Buckingham Palace for comment, but has not yet heard back.)
While it's unclear when the proceedings against The Mail will officially begin, once they get home, the royals will have some time to rest and regroup. For now, they can celebrate their successes abroad and focus on the little things in life — like Archie's first steps, perhaps? But based on their track record, they'll probably stay just as busy supporting similar initiatives back in the U.K.