Prince Harry and Meghan Markle met one of the armed forces’ smallest recruits when they visited Scotland for the first time – a Shetland pony.
Corporal Cruachan IV, the mascot of the Royal Regiment of Scotland, is famed for trying to upstage the Queen when she visited Stirling Castle last summer by nibbling on her posy.
But he was on his best behaviour when he met the prince and his bride-to-be as they made their first joint visit to Scotland, starting with a trip to Edinburgh Castle.
Hundreds of well-wishers had braved cold and wet conditions to meet the couple, who were carrying out their fourth joint engagement together.
Ms Markle paid tribute to her Scottish hosts by wearing a tartan coat by Burberry, a long, navy blue and dark green wool and cashmere-blend said to cost £1,995.
On the eve of Valentine’s Day, one amorous male well-wisher gave Ms Markle a bunch of roses and told her “Don’t marry Harry, marry me” as she and Harry greeted crowds on the castle’s esplanade.
Ryan Davey, 32, had his six-year-old daughter Hannah perched on his shoulders so she could get a better look at the couple as they passed by.
He said: “We’ve come up from Durham to see them, this is the nearest place for us but it’s been worth it.”
Pony Major Mark Wilkinson introduced Ms Markle and Harry to Cruachan IV who has his own Twitter account and seemed intent on nibbling Harry’s fingers in the hope of a treat.
He said: “They were asking about him, saying he’s a wee star, he knows he’s on parade and is showing off – they said it was lovely to meet him.”
Prince Harry meets well-wishers at Edinburgh Castle
During the walkabout, Ms Markle chatted briefly to Vicki Thorpe, 49, and daughter Erin, 11, from Welwyn Garden City, who waited in the freezing weather for hours to catch a glimpse of the couple.
Mrs Thorpe said: “Meghan thanked us for braving the cold for them. We didn’t know they were going to be here – my daughter’s got some history homework on Edinburgh Castle, that’s why we’re here – but we decided to stay for the visit.
“I’ve never been this close to a royal, ever – it was amazing, we never expected to be shaking hands with them.”
Harry met Megan Speirs, 32, and her five-year-old daughter Amelie, and happily posed with the youngster’s classroom cuddly toy, a bear called Bailey.
Ms Speirs said of the prince: “He was lovely. I didn’t expect him to pose for us with the bear – he’s just like his mother Diana, he’s got a way with children.”
Later, inside the castle at the historic Edinburgh Garrison, which looks out across the city, the prince and Ms Markle joined Sergeant Dave Beveridge, District Gunner, Royal Artillery, for the firing of the One O’Clock Gun.
The tradition started in 1861 to mark time for ships in the Firth of Forth and the couple were given ear defenders before the volley was fired.
Harry and Meghan’s whirlwind visit to Edinburgh next took them to the New Town to visit Social Bite, a social enterprise cafe which distributes 100,000 items of food and hot drinks to homeless people across Scotland each year, as well as employing staff who have experienced homelessness.
They are the latest in a string of high-profile visitors to Social Bite premises.
Hollywood star Leonardo DiCaprio stopped for lunch at Social Bite venture Home in Edinburgh’s west end in November 2016 while the Duchess of Cornwall and George Clooney have been to Social Bite’s Rose Street branch.
Harry asked Josh Littlejohn and Alice Thompson, the co-founders of Social Bite, “when are you bringing this down south?” after the pair had explained how homeless people struggle to find employment without an address.
Later, when speaking to staff in the kitchen, Ms Markle said she wanted to work there because it seemed “fun”.