One hug from Prince Harry was all it took to bring a woman to tears, and make thousands of others jealous, in Melbourne today.
The Duke and Duchess of Sussex arrived in the Victorian capital this morning and, on their way to meet the state’s Governor, spent time meeting and greeting a crowd of eager monarchists who began gathering near Government House well before dawn.
And when Harry stopped to give one of their admirers — India Brown, 19 and a “massive monarchist” — a Royal hug, he delivered the surprise of her life.
Hours earlier, on ABC TV, she had said that just seeing the Royal couple would be amazing — “but if I’m lucky enough to hug Prince Harry, it would be phenomenal”.
While a Royal visit is always a major event, interest in this visit — the couple’s first to Australia since their marriage in May — has reached fever pitch after Kensington Palace revealed Meghan was pregnant earlier this week.
“They bring such a fresh perspective on the old traditions of the Royal family,” said one teenage girl. “They are really cute.”
With balloons, billboards and babies, Melbourne’s most ardent Royal watchers had been waiting to see the couple from as early as 4:00am.
There was one thing almost every person in the crowd had in common — an umbrella.
Even though the parents-to-be were able to bring drought-breaking rain to Dubbo, they couldn’t drag the sun to Melbourne.
They took their positions from as early as four this morning, jackets drawn close, in the hope of catching a glimpse of the glamorous pair, arguably the most loved members of the Royal family.
Hundreds jostled for a spot along the barriers, desperate for a smile or a glance, and — in their wildest dreams — a chance at a hug.
“I love the royals, I always have,” said Shelley McLean from Melbourne’s Mornington Peninsula.
Her love of the royals started decades ago, when she wagged school to see Princess Diana and Prince Charles open the Bourke Street Mall.
“No social media back then, no-one believed us,” she said.
“We went back to school, everyone hated us.
“We had to put our little Kodak film in at the chemist, wait a week for it to be developed to prove it with the photos. I was vindicated.”
While most people opted for royal-inspired regalia, Dianne Murphy instead chose to wear her Western Bulldogs guernsey at today’s event with the royal couple.
“I’ve always just loved them,” she said.
“They’re beautiful. They’re bringing tears to my eyes just thinking about them.”
Matt Carey got up at 5:00am to get front row seats to the visit with his daughter Olivia.
“Thought it was an AFL game,” he laughed.
“We just want to see them in real life. We’ve seen so much of them on the TV.”
But Candice Collao is perhaps Melbourne’s biggest Royal fan.
She purchased a piece of William and Catherine’s wedding cake on eBay for $500.
Her mother, Sherry, who came with her today, had to fly to London and ferry it home.
She checked it in and declared it at customs.
Ms Collao was today celebrating Harry and Meghan’s five-month wedding anniversary.
“I celebrate every month. My husband thinks I’m crazy,” she said.
The Duke and Duchess are now attending a reception with the Governor of Victoria, Linda Dessau, before visiting a restaurant and a primary school.
Their day in Melbourne will also include a ride on a tram to South Melbourne beach, where they will meet members of the local life saving club.
The couple were yesterday in Dubbo, in central New South Wales, where a five-year-old boy stole the show by hugging the pair and stroking Prince Harry’s famous ginger beard.
Dubbo has been hit hard by drought, and as the Duke made an afternoon speech to a crowd of thousands, the heavens opened up.
The 16-day official Royal tour will also include visits to Fiji, Tonga and New Zealand, but the main focus of the trip will be the Invictus Games, which celebrate wounded, sick and injured veterans.
Police said they arrested a 27-year-old man who was in the Melbourne crowd over an outstanding warrant and drug possession this morning.