The Vancouver women’s shelter that hosted the Duchess of Sussex on Tuesday had just one day’s notice before her visit - and starstruck staff were not even told who their special guest would be.
The Duchess's visit was her first public engagement since stepping back as a senior royal.
Kate Gibson, 68, the acting executive director of the Downtown Eastside Women’s Centre, located in one of Vancouver’s most run-down neighbourhoods, has told how she was charmed by Meghan, and was even surprised to receive a hug from the royal.
The Duchess, 38, was spotted boarding a flight from Victoria, on nearby Vancouver Island, on Tuesday morning. At 1pm Meghan, unaccompanied by her son Archie, arrived at Ms Gibson’s shelter with an assistant and security staff.
“She was lovely,” Ms Gibson, 68, told The Telegraph on a visit to her office.
“This came about because I got an email on Monday, as it turns out from the Duchess’s assistant, saying she had someone to visit.
“I didn’t know who she was, so anyway I got back in touch and said, ‘I’m not sure what this is about, so probably give me a call.’
“So then she called me, and obviously it’s all confidential, and then they came to visit on Tuesday at around one. They stayed for more than an hour.”
Ms Gibson added: “She’s just a normal person, I thought. I really liked her. She met with some of our staff in our office and she’s open and interested and interesting.”
The shelter leader said that she had taken Meghan to a meeting room downstairs in the shelter where she spoke to frontline women’s support staff.
Asked if they were starstruck by the Duchess, Ms Gibson said: “Oh, yeah! I just asked our staff to come to a meeting, but they didn’t know why. And she was there before they were. And I said: ‘I’d like you to meet Meghan’ - and there they were!
“It was honestly very nice and very fun. But it also was very grounded. It was a great conversation, and she was listening. It was really nice because she had questions, she followed along with the conversation and when someone was talking about something she was able to ask questions. I think that she was great. I’d highly recommend her.”
Founded in 1978, Downtown Eastside Women’s Centre offers shelter, hot meals and support for struggling women in Vancouver. The city’s Eastside has a large homeless community.
Ms Gibson praised Meghan for showing a strong interest in the shelter and the work of her frontline staff.
She added: “I have worked in this community for a long time. And in terms of conversations with people who are not of the community, who come to do exactly what she was doing yesterday - which is have a conversation about what goes on, what do we do, what do women’s needs look like in the community - she was like anyone. It was a conversation that you could have with anyone.
“She didn’t have her crown on. She was just a person we had a conversation with. She looks like she wakes up in the morning and she’s able to dress herself and comb her own hair. Totally.
“She was lovely. But it wasn’t all syrupy. It wasn’t like, ‘ooh, let’s put your back.’ It was great. It was a conversation, and that’s what she wanted to have - a conversation.”
Ms Gibson said Meghan did not discuss anything personal at the meeting - or confirm whether she would be moving to Vancouver’s province, British Columbia - and that she was focused on their work.
Ms Gibson said she was not sure if Meghan will come back to the shelter, and played down the possibility of Harry becoming involved.
She said: “You know, the thing about where we work is it’s women only. So men don’t come here. I can’t imagine him coming here. If he wanted to have a conversation, sure, but my guess is they will probably do quite separate things in terms of interests and things they want to shine a light on. That’s my guess.”