Duchess of Sussex has henna tattoo as she and Harry visit schoolchildren in Morocco

Hannah Furness

For most tourists, it is a pretty souvenir from a trip to a new and vibrant culture they will never forget.

For the Duchess of Sussex, the henna tattoo painted gently on to her hand by Moroccan schoolgirls meant rather more.

The Duchess, who visited the rural mountainous region of Morocco with her husband, was decorated with a flower emblem on her left hand, in a gesture intended to honour her pregnancy and bring good luck to Baby Sussex.

It marked the start of a day of activity for the Duke and Duchess, who spoke emphatically about the importance of girls’ education and tried out their “high school” French.

If it were a competition in the language stakes, there was only one winner: the Duchess, who impressed schoolgirls with a stream of conversation about their futures.

The Duke and Duchess of Sussex during a Henna ceremony Credit: Getty 

The Duke, who was less bold in front of the cameras and asked only whether his young hosts could speak English, nevertheless made an impression, telling them how heartening it was to see so many looking happy at school with the support of their parents.

If the Royal couple had missed one another while the Duchess was at her New York baby shower, they more than made up for it with a public display of affection, holding hands and touching one another’s arms, backs and necks as they went along.

Arriving in Asni, in the Atlas Mountains, they visited one of six girls’ boarding houses run by charity Education for All, where the Duchess sat down with one of the boarders, 17-year-old Samira Ouaadi, to receive three delicate flowers painted in henna on her left hand.

The henna tattoo, intended to celebrate Meghan's pregnancy Credit: Getty

“How lovely” she said. “Merci”.

Miss Ouaadi said: “It’s tradition for pregnant women in Morocco to have a henna tattoo.

“It’s like the plant of paradise so we use it to mark all major occasions.”

After one concerned official asked if she wanted to wash it off immediately, the Duchess laughed and replied that it would soon dry.

Not for the first time, the Duchess’s pregnancy quickly became the theme of the day, with girls singing songs wishing peace for her baby.

A henna ceremony in Asni, Morocco Credit: Getty

Hearing about the progress made by the charity in convincing Moroccan families about the importance of educating their girls, the Duchess told pupils: “What’s happening here and so many places all over the world with more girls getting an education, it changes the future and changes the future for everyone not just the girls.”

Looking at a board containing student biographies, the Duke noted: “This is very interesting, they always mention the father, ‘my father wanted me to do this’, ‘my father that’ etc.”

“Yes that paternal narrative is very strong” replied his wife.

In a second engagement at Lycee Qualifiant Grand Atlas school, the Duke asked teenagers: “Should you be at school on a Sunday?”

Told no, he joked: “Well we’re very sorry for that. “By a show of hands, who was encouraged to come to school by their father?”

As around two thirds of the girls raised their hands, he said: “That’s very good to know, and encouraging.”

Education for All, the charity, was founded in 2008 to help combat a lack of education in rural areas of Morocco, with girls in particular dropping out of school to be kept at home with their families.

The Duke speaks to goalkeeper Salima Baaziz Credit: Samir Hussein

The Duke and Duchess, who may have read studies about the continuing practice of girls being married under the legal age of 18, asked one 16-year-old student who was playing in goal during a football match whether she was engaged.

In a tour of dorm rooms, the Duchess asked: “Qu’est-ce tu veux etre quand tu quittes l'école? “Vous voulez aller à l'université?”

She also used a smattering of French words mid conversations, asking “On peut rentrer” the girls bedrooms and acknowledging their permission with a chic “parfait”.

Complimented on her French, the Duchess laughed and said: “It’s high school French! I’m trying!”

Harry and Meghan take a moment while watching a football match Credit: Samir Hussein

Saida Obha, 18, declared: “She was better than her husband.” Later in the day, after accepting many warm words about the Duchess’ pregnancy, the royal couple poked gentle fun at the topic de jour after being congratulated once again.

Sitting next to one another, the Duchess’ prominent bump visible through her open jacket, the Duke turned to his wife and pulled a face of mock shock.

“Surprise!” said the Duchess.

“She’s pregnant?!” asked the Duke, as a room of teachers who could understand their pantomime gestures laughed.

The Duke and Duchess of Sussex meet sisters Rania Minejem aged 5 and Rayhana Minejem aged 2 Credit: PA

Before flying back to Rabat by helicopter, the Duke presented co-founder of Education For All, Michael McHugo, an MBE in the New Year’s Honours for services to improving gender equality in Morocco and read out a citation on behalf on his grandmother, the Queen.

“We are very proud of all of you,” the Duchess told the girls through an interpreter, “You are such good role models.”

Tomorrow, the Duke and Duchess will meet with King Mohammed VI, visit a stables to see how equine therapy is helping disabled and disadvantaged children, and attend a cooking session in which they include a recipe from the Duchess’s Hubb Community Kitchen cookbook, Together.