"They kept it very close to the chest," a friend tells PEOPLE in this week's cover story

By Simon Perry
October 17, 2018 08:00 AM

Fans weren’t the only ones surprised when Meghan Markle and Prince Harry announced early Monday that they are expecting their first child.

Some friends were caught off-guard too, at least by the timing.

“Her friends knew she was trying and that she wasn’t going to wait long because she’s older,” a source tells PEOPLE in this week’s cover story. “But everyone was so surprised it happened so quickly.”

Another close family friend adds, “One or two people were suspicious,” especially by the Oct. 12 of the royal wedding of Princess Eugenie but “they kept it very close to the chest.”

The couple’s office at Kensington Palace shared the happy news on Oct. 15 as their tour of Australia, New Zealand, Fiji and Tonga was about to kick off.

Credit: Getty

“Their Royal Highnesses the Duke and Duchess of Sussex are very pleased to announce that the Duchess of Sussex is expecting a baby in the spring of 2019,” Kensington Palace said.

For more on Meghan and Harry’s pregnancy news and the royal wedding of Princess Eugenie, pick up a copy of this week’s PEOPLE, on newsstands on Friday.

As they stepped out on their first day of visits in Sydney, Harry, 34, shared his excitement and Meghan, 37, bonded with a new mom.

Meghan Markle meeting a new mom in Sydney on Oct. 16.
| Credit: Samir Hussein/WireImage

The 16-day tour, with more than a dozen flights and 75 appearances, will present its own challenges for Meghan.

“I think it is very brave [to have announced the pregnancy] ahead of one of the most grueling trips they will have to make,” a friend tells PEOPLE.

“The great thing is that [Meghan] is in the best possible hands,” the pal adds.