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Queen adopts Meghan as her new apprentice

Meghan, the Duchess of Sussex (left), and Queen Elizabeth at the opening of the new Mersey Gateway Bridge in Widnes, northwest England, on Thursday. (AP)

London: The Queen took her new daughter-in-law, the Duchess of Sussex, on her first royal engagement on Thursday without the comforting presence of her husband, Prince Harry, and showed her young apprentice how the job is done.

The Queen, who is 92, is to the manner born and been performing royal duties all her life, while for the 36-year former American actress Meghan Markle, this was an introduction to what she will have to do from now on - smile and wave and never complain.

The Queen and Meghan arrived on a blustery morning at Runcorn station in Cheshire by royal train to open a bridge, visit a museum, and watch children perform a play.

There was only a moment's hesitation as Meghan seemed unsure about the protocol of getting into a car ahead of the Queen.

The duchess was shown to the open door of the waiting car but appeared hesitant about getting in ahead of the Queen, whom she consulted first before climbing aboard, followed by the monarch.

The tabloids would have been merciless had she got it wrong.

Britain's so called "special relationship" with the US is currently being tested by President Donald Trump who has imposed unfriendly tariffs on the import of British steel and aluminium, and scrapped the Iran deal plus the Paris climate accord which the UK supports.

But Meghan's arrival on the scene is a plus factor, as was clear from the forest of Union Jack flags and Stars and Stripes that greeted her and the Queen.

As with the royal wedding, she again chose Givenchy for what royal watchers said was "her all-important first joint engagement with the Queen". She wore a neutral fitted belted pencil dress, featuring an unusual cape shoulder detail but no hat or gloves.

The Queen, who favours bright block colours and coordinated hats, wore a spring green coat by Stewart Parvin and matching hat by Rachel Trevor Morgan. And gloves, as always.

The Queen and Meghan inaugurated the Mersey Gateway Bridge, a £1.86 billion six lane toll crossing designed to ease traffic between Runcorn and Widnes. They also opened the Catalyst Museum in West Bank, Widnes, which offers a bird's eye view of the new crossing from a glass top observation gallery.

Later they headed to the historic city of Chester for more engagements.

Meghan's school report card at the end of day one would have been marked: "Promising."

She described the new bridge as "magnificent" and was described as "very friendly" by Mick Noone, who previously worked as an operation director for the local council.

Meghan and her mother-in-law watched a performance by children from the Andrew Curphey Theatre Company and appeared to share a joke as they sat next to each other.

Curphey, 32, who met the royals after the performance, said: "Meghan seemed really, really calm considering it was her first official engagement with the boss!"

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