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Prince Harry and Meghan Markle made Nigeria the first African country to take part in…

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Nigeria became the first African country to take part in the games last year, with General Christopher Gwabin Musa OFR, the country’s highest-ranking military official, extending an invitation to the prince this year to help raise its profile.

But it wasn’t a royal tour, it couldn’t be. Not after the duke and duchess’ decision in 2020 to step back as senior working members of the royal family.

After failing to reach a compromise over a hybrid working model, the couple traded in their lofty titles for the chance to earn a private income, swapping the rigid spotlight of the United Kingdom for carefree California.

Four years later, the British high commissioner in Nigeria was at pains to stress this point, releasing a statement that the couple’s visit was in a private capacity and “not an official one”.

“They are not representing the work of His Majesty’s government on this visit,” Richard Montgomery told the News Agency of Nigeria.

It did not prevent the three-day spectacle from making the news locally and within the country Harry and Meghan once considered home.

Some of this attention could not be helped given the stark absences of other senior royals in the public eye in recent months due to illness.

The couple, whether they intended to or not, have demonstrated in their Nigeria stopover, the gap they could have filled had they stayed on as working royals.

And given how small that circle is at the moment, perhaps they have also showed how helpful that would have been.

According to author and former Vanity Fair editor Tina Brown, the visit has drawn recollections of the position the duke and duchess once occupied.

“After all the trashing of Harry … actually when I saw him and Meghan in Nigeria, I had a nostalgia,” she told the BBC.

“I felt this is what could have been, these two — who are enormously appealing to the public, and who are very good at it — were out there in Nigeria looking very attractive and being appealing people. And what a pity it is they’ve gone”

In her view, the couple’s sleek visit was a reminder of the grim realities looming over the slimmed-down royal family and the “Harry-shaped hole in the monarchy”.

The importance of a royal tour
Royal tours by their very nature are filled with pomp and ceremony and are considered to be an important part of making the public believe in the power of the monarch.

One of Queen Elizabeth II’s favourite mantras was that royals “have to be seen to be believed”.

Since medieval times, a monarch’s highly orchestrated trips around the country or (in more recent times) the globe has provided their subjects with proof of life and reinforced the magic of the palace.

The late queen was a firm believer in the importance of these public voyages, embarking on dozens throughout her reign after first coming to the role of monarch while on a royal tour.

The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh walk from the red dirt onto the red carpet as people line up to see them.

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