On Friday, the Duchess of Sussex — who was back in the U.K. for a final round of royal engagements — visited the Robert Clack Upper School in the town of Dagenham in East London for a special assembly celebrating women’s rights, where she asked one “brave young man” to appear in front of his classmates and speak about the importance International Women’s Day.
As seen in a video shared on the Sussex Royal Instagram account, Aker Okoye quickly volunteered and hopped onstage, remarking about how “beautiful” the former actress is as Meghan jokingly wagged her finger at him, to cheers and laughter from the crowded auditorium.
The pair later embraced which elicited even more cheers from the students.
In a handwritten letter to Harry, 35, and Meghan, 38, published by The Sun newspaper, the 16-year-old apologized if his actions were out of line, explaining that he was simply taken back by the encounter.
Ben Stansall-WPA Pool/Getty Images Meghan Markle embraces student Aker Okoy
“Harry, I hope you don’t mind me writing this letter. I hope you don’t mind me cuddling your wife,” he began. “I was just overwhelmed and shocked to see her arrive at my school.”
“It was a pleasure to hear her speech and to speak in front of her as well,” he continued. “She is truly inspirational.”
The teen went on to tell the prince that he previously missed the chance to see him at a past royal engagement, but hopes “to meet you one day.”
SIMON DAWSON/POOL/AFP via Getty Images Meghan Markle and Prince Harry
“Good luck with the future,” he wrote, ending his note to the royal couple “with kind regards.”
While Meghan has yet to personally address Okoye’s letter, the Sussex Royal Instagram account did share a video of the boy’s speech, captioning the clip with a note about “the important role men and boys play in International Women’s Day.”
“The Duchess asked a young student to come on stage and share his perspective on the importance of the day, and whilst much attention has been focused on his initial comment, what he shared beyond that was compelling and true,” the caption read.
Ben Stansall-WPA Pool/Getty Images Meghan Markle at Robert Clack Upper School
In the video, Okoye explains to the crowd “what International Women’s Day means to me,” telling his schoolmates, “for me, it is a reminder that it’s not only me that’s a part of my life. It’s not just me that’s part of the team of my own success.”
“It reminds me that there are countless of people in my life — lots of strong women — that uplift me as a man,” he continued. “International Women’s Day is a reminder for all men and women that women can do it all and do it all.”
“This is a message to all you guys … [women] are excellent people. They are strong people. They are beautiful people. They are people we want to be with not just for their features, but for who they are as people,” he said in his speech, adding that the day is “a reminder of how strong our community is with women inside.”
At the assembly, Meghan met with Geraldine Dear, one of the original strikers who championed for equal pay in the 1960s, and spoke about a variety of women’s issues that she has taken on in her work.
“When we thought about what I wanted to do for International Women’s Day this year, for me it was incredibly important to be with the women of our future,” Meghan said in her speech. “And that is all of the young women here, as well as the young men who play a very large part in this. Specifically coming to your school made a lot of sense for me because of this social justice and the impact that it’s rooted in.”
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Meghan later added, “I encourage and empower each of you to really stand in your truth, to stand for what is right – to continue to respect each other. For young men, to continue to value and appreciate the women in your lives, and also set the example for some men who are not seeing it that same way. You have your mothers, sisters, girlfriends, friends in your life – protect them. Make sure that they are feeling valued and safe. Let’s all rally together to make International Women’s Day something that is not just on Sunday – but frankly, feels like every day of the year.”
Meghan and Harry, who have been staying on Vancouver Island in Canada with their son Archie, are set to officially step down as senior working royals on March 31.