Prince Harry and Meghan Markle left their 10-month-old son Archie in Canada over coronavirus fears, it has emerged.
It comes as details of one of Meghan’s last engagements as a working royal were revealed – a meeting with scholars in the Association of Commonwealth Universities.
The Duchess of Sussex invited a select few journalists to cover the event, as the couple seek to move away from the royal rota method by which royal engagements are usually reported.
One of those was Bryony Gordon from The Daily Telegraph, who reported the duchess spoke about “how to prevent the spread of coronavirus throughout the globe”, adding: “the decision to leave Archie behind in Canada came not out of petty spite, as reported in some areas, but out of concern for his health during the threat of a global pandemic.”
There had been reports that the Queen was upset to learn Archie would not be coming on the couple’s trip.
Meghan’s meeting on Monday came before she and Harry joined Prince William and Kate as well as Prince Charles, the Duchess of Cornwall and the Queen at the Commonwealth Day service.
As well as select journalists, the event was photographed by her wedding photographer Chris Allerton. He was with the couple at many of their final engagements in the UK.
Picture show her in the middle of the scholars, wearing a fitted navy cap-sleeve dress with neck scarf detail, in the 1844 Room of the palace.
Meghan told the scholars, who were split into four groups looking at different challenges: “Everyone is connected because of this very holistic approach to tackling climate change. I love how solution-based you all are.”
In an Instagram post, it was explained the groups covered “cleaning up plastic pollution in our oceans, helping to build more sustainable cities, improving health outcomes for citizens, and supporting decent work and economic growth”.
The students included Commonwealth Scholars, Chevening scholars and an ACU Blue Charter Fellow, from 11 Commonwealth countries – Malawi, India, Cameroon, Bangladesh, Nigeria, Pakistan, Ghana, Rwanda, Kenya, Malaysia and Sri Lanka.
A source said: “She was thrilled to have the chance to meet inspirational scholars doing ground-breaking work in the fields of climate and the environment, sustainable cities, health and innovation and technology.”
The duchess has been patron of the ACU since January 2019 and in an Instagram post about the engagement, she explained that her own university education, funded by a scholarship, had led her to be passionate about access to education.
She took over the role from the Queen, who had done it for 33 years.
Royal correspondent Omid Scobie said Meghan will “continue to prioritise the organisation even after officially stepping back”.
He also said the couple were “crushed” to have to make the decision to step back.
Gordon wrote Meghan was “quietly devastated” in the final moments of her engagements.
Buckingham Palace has been contacted for comment.
Many of Meghan’s engagements in the couple’s farewell tour were held privately. She visited the National Theatre, and a secondary school in Dagenham, as well as held meetings with young leaders of the Queen’s Commonwealth Trust.
The Sussexes officially step back on 31 March, but it does not look like they will carry out any more engagements before that date.
They will not use the brand Sussex Royal, having agreed with the palace not to in part because of trademark issues in the UK.