UK

Meghan praised as 'inspiration' to young people in the Commonwealth

The Duchess of Sussex meets crowds during a walkabout in Auckland, New Zealand Image copyright Chris Jackson/Getty Images
Image caption The Duchess of Sussex delighted crowds during a visit to New Zealand last year

The Duchess of Sussex has been praised as an "inspiration" for young people by the Commonwealth's secretary-general.

Baroness Scotland said the duchess was a "vibrant, professional woman" who was dedicating herself to public service.

She said many people in the 53-strong group of nations were "very excited" about Meghan's mixed-race background.

The Duke and Duchess of Sussex both had "such a deep interest in young people... and they love to see them", Baroness Scotland added.

She said the "young, committed" couple's promotion of learning and development issues was an "inspiration for many of those young people".

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Image caption The Duchess of Sussex and Baroness Scotland at the Your Commonwealth Youth Challenge reception in London last July

Calling the former actress "a great example", Baroness Scotland said: "Our Commonwealth is very, very mixed but as someone said to me lots of people are getting very excited about the fact the duchess is mixed race."

And she agreed with the suggestion citizens from the Commonwealth's culturally diverse 2.4 billion population would say Meghan "looks like me".

But while the US-born duchess's background would be relevant to many across the globe, she also stressed she was not the first mixed-race member of the British monarchy.

Baroness Scotland, who was herself born in the Commonwealth country of Dominica and brought up in the UK, was being interviewed by the Press Association to mark the family of nations' 70th anniversary.

It is thought Queen Charlotte, wife of George III, was of African descent and she has been described as Britain's first black queen.

Meghan, who is due to give birth to her first child in the next few weeks, has taken on the role of patron of the Association of Commonwealth Universities and is vice president of the Queen's Commonwealth Trust.

Prince Harry is the trust's president and the Commonwealth's youth ambassador.

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Image caption The Duke and Duchess of Sussex visited Tonga as part of their first official tour last year

About 2.4bn people live in the Commonwealth, which includes the UK, Canada, India, Pakistan, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Rwanda, Mozambique, Nigeria, Malaysia, Singapore, Jamaica and Cyprus.

About 60% of its citizens are aged 29 or under.

The Queen heads the Commonwealth and Baroness Scotland said she had been a passionate supporter, adding that it had benefited from "her wisdom, her support, and her total lifelong commitment".

Britain's first black royal?

Image copyright Royal Collection Trust

Queen Charlotte was born in the German duchy of Mecklenberg-Strelitz in 1744. Married to King George III in 1761, she was the mother of two British monarchs - George IV and William IV.

The City of Charlotte in North Carolina was named in her honour in 1768 and she died at Kew Palace in London in 1818.

Historians have suggested she had African ancestry.

They say this can be traced back to King Afonso III of Portugal, who in the 13th Century conquered Faro from the Moors and was thought to have had three children with the city governor's daughter.

One of their sons, Martim Afonso Chichorro, is also said to have married into a family with black ethnicity. He and his wife, Ines Lourenco de Sousa de Valadares, founded the Portuguese house of Sousa-Chichorro, which had many descendents, including Queen Charlotte.

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