The Duke and Duchess of Sussex attended the London premiere of Disney’s upcoming The Lion King on Sunday evening, meeting Hollywood royalty – including Beyoncé and Jay-Z – and teasing a new conservation initiative.
Prince Harry was slated to attend the premiere since the engagement was announced in mid-June, but Buckingham Palace only confirmed last week that Meghan would join her husband, as she is still on maternity leave following the birth of Archie Harrison.
The couple met with the cast and crew behind The Lion King, a remake of the Disney animated classic, as well as representatives from African Parks, the conservation organisation that counts Harry as its patron.
When Meghan met Beyoncé, the singer-actress who voices Nala could be heard saying that baby Archie was “so beautiful” and that she and Jay-Z “love you guys.”
Beyoncé paid tribute to Meghan back in February during Black History Month in a post on Instagram, and later accepted a Brit Award standing in front of a portrait of the Duchess of Sussex dressed in regal regalia.
Other cast members spoke to the media before Harry and Meghan arrived and shared their excitement that the royals would soon arrive.
Billy Eichner, who voices Timon the meerkat, told Entertainment Tonight on the red carpet that “I’m very excited to meet [them]. I never even thought about meeting them or thought I would have the opportunity to, and they seem very cool, so I’m excited.”
Eichner also revealed that he and Meghan both attended Northwestern and might have overlapped in their time there.
Keegan-Michael Key, a comedian who voices Kamari (a hyena), said, “I’m actually excited for her to see it, and I’m really honoured that out of their schedules, this is something that they’d attend. And I’m looking forward to seeing Meghan, to seeing the American royal, if you will.”
Harry and Meghan also met The Lion King director Jon Favreau, musician Pharrell, and Sir Elton John, who provided the music for the animated version in 1994.
The premiere was held in support of Harry’s conservation work, and Disney announced ahead of the event that it had founded an initiative called Protect the Pride, to help recover and sustain the lion population.
“Since Disney’s The Lion King was first released in theatres 25 years ago, half of Africa’s lions have disappeared,” per the Protect the Pride webpage at the Disney website.
“Lions face rising threats, such as poaching, loss of prey and destruction of habitats. However, research shows the lion population can recover.”
Disney announced that it had donated over $1.5 million to the Lion Recovery Fund, and has partnered with organisations to help bring the total to $3 million, with the help of Disney fans as well.
On the Sussexes Instagram account related to Sunday’s outing, they wrote, “As a part of their commitment to this cause, Disney also made a donation to The Duke of Sussex’s upcoming environment and community initiative which will be formally announced this autumn.”
The still-under-wraps environment and community initiative is rumoured to be one of the first major projects for Harry and Meghan’s yet-to-be-unveiled charitable foundation.
The post continued, “The Duke and Duchess are committed to advancing conservation efforts across Africa and around the world, and working with communities to ensure a sustainable future for the planet.”
In the fall, Harry and Meghan, and Archie, reportedly, will undertake an official visit to South Africa. Harry will also visit Angola, Malawi and Botswana in a solo capacity.