Harry and Meghan to make their final appearance as senior royals

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By Rachel Elbaum and Molly Hunter  with NBC News World News
Image: Meghan, the Duchess of Sussex, at a school in Essex on Friday.
Meghan looks on after handing the podium at a school to student Aker Okoye to discuss the importance of International Women's Day. Friday's visit marked her last solo engagement as a working royal.   -  Copyright  Ben Stansall

LONDON — It's been a send-off fit for a prince.Since Prince Harry and Meghan returned to the U.K. from Canada for their final engagements as senior royals, they've been embraced by the very public they are leaving.On Monday, the couple will perform their last official royal engagement surrounded by Harry's immediate family, marking the end of a short era that saw the couple go from embracing their royal role to all out rejecting it."It will be fascinating to see how it plays out," royal biographer Penny Junor told Reuters ahead of Monday's ceremony. "I imagine everybody will be on absolutely best behavior. But goodness knows what they will all be thinking privately."The Commonwealth Day service at Westminster Abbey comes after four days of engagements oozing with glamour, as Meghan made her first return to the U.K. since the couple's shock announcement in January that they intended to step back from their roles at senior royals.The couple's farewell tour has featured across the front pages of Britain's tabloids."Harry and Meg's final salute" read the cover of the Daily Mirror. "Kiss and Meg up" wrote the Metro, referring to the couple meeting up with the queen at church on Sunday.Since returning to the U.K., Meghan and Harry have appeared at events celebrating causes they support — and been greeted by cheering crowds along the way. On Sunday, the palace released details of Meghan's solo visit to a school, where she marked International Women's Day in the town where female sewing machinists from the Ford Motor Plant held a strike for equal pay in 1968.In a speech to the students, she asked for one of the young men in the audience to come up to the stage to share what he thought of the importance of the day.When one 16-year-old boy bounded up, he prefaced his remarks with a tribute to Meghan, saying, "She really is beautiful, innit?"On Monday, Harry and Meghan will join his grandmother, Queen Elizabeth II, along with his father Prince Charles, and brother Prince William at the Commonwealth Day service. Britain's prime minister Boris Johnson, boxing champion Anthony Joshua and singer Craig David, as well as a host of ambassadors, politicians, faith leaders and school children will also be at the ceremony."My goodness, we'll be looking at that body language on Monday really closely just to see what's going on and what the relationships are like between them all," said Chris Ship, royal correspondent for NBC News' British partner ITV News."I think it could well be awkward behind the scenes. I think they will do their best to put on their best public faces," he added.This year's event will stand in sharp contrast to last year's when Meghan was pregnant, and the couple stood in the church side-by-side with William and his wife, Kate. And it's just two years since the service — held during her engagement to Harry — marked the first time that Meghan appeared at an official event with the queen. At the time, Meghan was hailed for modernizing the monarchy, and reflecting the reality of mixed-race families in Britain.This year, all eyes will be on how Meghan and Harry interact with the other members of his immediate family. There have long been rumors in the British press of a rift between Harry and William, which Harry alluded to in an interview broadcast in October, saying they were on "different paths."

Meghan looks on after handing the podium at a school to student Aker Okoye to discuss the importance of International Women\'s Day. Friday\'s visit marked her last solo engagement as a working royal.
Meghan looks on after handing the podium at a school to student Aker Okoye to discuss the importance of International Women\'s Day. Friday\'s visit marked her last solo engagement as a working royal.Ben Stansall

Their new role independent of the royal family begins this spring and will be reviewed in 12 months."The door has been left open for Harry to come back," said Ship. "This is a transition period they are entering at the moment. It is a 12 month period. If it works out fine. If it is doesn't work out, the door is open, they will have him back."From their new base in Canada, they will no longer carry out official duties for the queen and won't use their royal highness titles or the word royal in the non-profit organization they intend to establish. Although he is stepping away from royal duties, Harry will remain sixth in line to the throne, behind his father, brother, and niece and nephews.Although their January announcement was a surprise, it was no secret that the couple felt the strain of the constant media attention and negative headlines. In October, they filed suit against the Daily Mailnewspaper's parent company after the tabloid published a private letter written by Meghan last year.Meanwhile, Meghan said in a documentary filmed while on tour in Africa that things had been challenging and that "not that many people have asked if I'm OK."As the couple transition to a new life an ocean away, the exact details on their future plans are still unknown. What is known is that their new role outside the royal family is somewhat different to what they had originally planned."Our hope was to continue serving the queen, the Commonwealth and my military associations without public funding. Sadly that wasn't possible," the prince said in a speech in January.Other than the fact that they plan to establish a new non-profit, they have said little about the causes they intend to focus on, how they plan to make money and even where in Canada they intend to live.One thing is certain however. Even without their royal trappings, Harry and Meghan will be making headlines wherever they are.