Since they made their very first appearance together at the Invictus Games in September, the royal couple has held hands, rubbed each other’s backs and linked arms in public — moves almost never seen by Prince William and Kate Middleton.
The couple’s closeness was on display again during Meghan’s very first royal outing with her fiancé on Friday in Nottingham, about 125 miles north of London. They walked around holding hands and with their arms around each other as they greeted enthusiastic fans in the town center.
“While Prince Harry and Meghan holding hands is atypical for royal engagements, it is a seemingly welcomed gesture to show unity and celebration of their engagement period,” royal etiquette expert Myka Meier, founder and director of Beaumont Etiquette, tells PEOPLE. “There is no protocol that says they can not show affection on official engagements, and this gesture makes them relatable and lovable to the public.”
“Meghan and Prince Harry holding hands at a royal engagement is a refreshingly modern approach to their new role both as a couple and as representatives of the royal family,” she continues.
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Harry and Meghan’s open affection is indeed a departure from usual royal behavior. A certain decorum tends to be the norm when it comes to official royal outings. Will and Kate, for example, rarely show PDA.
“It is rare to see royal couples holding hands on official outings,” Myka adds. “While we are much less likely to see The Duke and Duchess holding hands in public, we often see Prince Charles and The Duchess of Cornwall holding hands – it’s all simply a matter of preference for each couple and is also likely dependent on the nature of the event they are attending. A more serious engagement would warrant a more serious level of professionalism, which each royal is sure to follow.”
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Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip never show affection in public either. Despite their closeness (70 years of royal marriage!), they are never seen holding hands in public due to the “stoic values” of their generation, royal biographer Gyles Brandreth told PEOPLE.
- With reporting by MARIA MERCEDES LARA