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Meghan cheered for speaking Maori during suffrage speech in New Zealand

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The Duchess of Sussex received a big cheer when she opened a speech about women’s suffrage in New Zealand in indigenous Maori.

Meghan Markle was speaking at an event at Government House in Wellington – celebrating the 125th anniversary of women being given the vote – when she said: “Tena koutou katoa [greetings to all].”

Local media praised the royal for her effort to speak the tricky te reo Maori language, even if her pronunciation was apparently not quite accurate.

The Duke and Duchess of Sussex with New Zealand's prime minister Jacinda Ardem
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The Duke and Duchess of Sussex with New Zealand prime minister Jacinda Ardern

New Zealand was the first country in the world to give the vote to women.

Meghan said: “The achievements of the women of New Zealand who campaigned for their right to vote, and were the first in the world to achieve it, are universally admired.

Prince Harry and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, meet actors in costumes during a visit to Courtenay Creative, in Wellington, New Zealand
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The royals met actors in costumes during a visit to Courtenay Creative in Wellington
Prince Harry and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, meet actors in costumes during a visit to Courtenay Creative, in Wellington, New Zealand

“In looking forward to this very special occasion, I reflected on the importance of this achievement, but also the larger impact of what this symbolises.

“Because yes – women’s suffrage is about feminism, but feminism is about fairness.”

She ended her speech with a phrase from Kate Sheppard, the most prominent member of the women’s suffrage movement in New Zealand.

The country’s most famous suffragette was born in Liverpool, and emigrated to New Zealand with her family in 1868.

Meghan, who wore a black Gabriela Hearst gown and a Maori inspired necklace, said: “In the words of your suffragette Kate Sheppard, ‘All that separates, whether race, class, creed, or sex, is inhuman, and must be overcome’.”

Earlier in the day, Prince Harry and Meghan received a traditional welcome to New Zealand when they rubbed noses with Maori elders on the grounds of Government House.



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The Duke and Duchess of Sussex get traditional Maori greeting

The couple also watched the fearsome haka and met schoolchildren, with the duchess saying the weather in windy Wellington had left her cold.

The country is the final stop for the royals who are on a 16-day tour which has seen them also visit Australia, Fiji and Tonga.

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