Little Luke Vincent, 5, had an extra-special reason for wanting to touch the prince's hairy chin

Prince Harry loves a hug — and he’s used to kids wanting to stroke or tug at his red beard.

But when Harry, 34, and pregnant wife Meghan Markle, 37, visited Dubbo, Australia, little Luke Vincent, 6, had an extra-special reason for wanting to touch the prince’s hairy chin.

“Luke’s thing is Santa Claus,” Anne van Dartel, principal of Buninyong Public School, Dubbo, tells PEOPLE. “And so as soon as he saw it [Harry’s beard], we went into the panic mode because he’s touching a member of the royal family! And he continued to do it. And he hugged him. So what you and I can’t get away with, my beautiful friend can.”

Harry was completely relaxed, van Dartel adds. “He said ‘Hello young man.’ And Luke just said, ‘Hello Harry.’ And Prince Harry graciously realized that his language is limited. And he introduced him to his wife and said, ‘She would love a cuddle too.’ And he said, ‘Luke will you please give my wife a hug as well?’ ”

Credit: Samir Hussein / WireImage

“So young Luke handed flowers to the duchess and then she said, ‘I would love a cuddle’ so in he went. And then he went back to Harry and then gave him another big cuddle. The man with a beard. And that is him. That is the beauty of Luke.”

Credit: Samir Hussein / WireImage
Credit: Samir Hussein / WireImage

Van Dartel says that Luke, who has special needs, didn’t necessarily realize he was meeting a prince. “He just thinks he met a nice man today. Who had a lovely beard. Luke’s a man of very few words, but very lovely actions. What he can’t express in his words, he expresses in his actions,” she adds.

“I was explaining to Prince Harry about Luke’s infatuation with beards and Santa Claus and he just laughed and said, ‘How wonderful.’ So he introduced him to his wife. She said something along the lines of ‘Oh, what a beautiful little boy.’ ”

The elementary school was among a group of local schools invited to take 20 pupils along to meet the couple in Dubbo — and some of the students chatted with Meghan about her pregnancy news. “Some of the students said lovely to meet you, congratulations. A couple of the girls were so excited,” she adds.

Dubbo is the second stop on the couple’s whirlwind tour, and Harry made a speech about the local drought — just as rain began.

The tour also takes the royal couple to Melbourne on Wednesday, and later the Pacific Islands of Fiji and Tonga. Then they head to New Zealand near the end of the 16-day journey.