Harry and Meghan carry out first royal engagement of the decade with visit to Canada House to say thanks

The Duke and Duchess of Sussex have spoken of the "unbelievable" welcome they received while in Canada, and joked how their son Archie was mesmerised by the scenery.

Meghan and Harry's first official engagement of the new decade was to publicly thank the Commonwealth country for hosting them during an extended private break over the festive period.

The couple were described by a royal aide as feeling "energised and excited" to be back in the UK, after spending the majority of a six-week break in the province of British Columbia, where they were spotted hiking on Vancouver Island.

The couple visited Canada's High Commission in central London, and sat down for tea with Janice Charette, Canada's High Commissioner to the UK, and her deputy Sarah Fountain Smith, and were even served the popular chocolate treat of Nanaimo bars from British Columbia.

In a possible indication of the months ahead - with the Sussexes' royal foundation expected to be launched this year - Harry said later about their chat with Ms Charette: "There's a hell of a lot of work to be done and things to be talked through but a very useful conversation."

The High Commissioner said during the conversation the couple talked about their holiday and "some of the things on their minds in terms of priorities for the next year and areas where they see maybe a shared priority with Canada.

"We talked about a few of those things, whether challenges relating to gender equality and gender empowerment, issues of homelessness - whether that's due to mental health stigma - issues of veterans homelessness, issues relating to the Invictus Games and the challenges of conservation and climate change..."

They later met staff gathered on the Commission's grand staircase, and the duke, in a reference to their successful break, asked: "Anyone here from British Colombia?"

When a few hands went up, he said: "What a beautiful place you live in."

Harry went on to say "Thank you so much", and made the group laugh when he added "not that you had anything much to do with it.

"But the warmth and hospitality we were shown while there was unbelievable, and that's exactly why we chose to go out there."

Meghan, a former actress, lived and worked in Toronto during her time starring in the popular US drama Suits, and the couple were famously pictured together when Meghan joined her then-boyfriend Harry at the 2017 Invictus Games in the city.

The duchess was beside her husband and told the High Commission staff: "I want to say happy new year and thank you, and as my husband said, my goodness it was just such an incredible time we were able to have there, and with our son too.

"And just to be able to take in the warmth that we experienced from the people, but also just to walk around and just see the beauty of Canada.

"To see Archie go 'ahhh' when you walk by, and just see how stunning it is - so it meant a lot to us."

The couple, who were said to be jet-lagged after their recent transatlantic flight, arrived at Canada House from a private visit to the Hubb Community Kitchen, run by a group of women whose recipes were featured in a cookbook backed by Meghan.

The Duke and Duchess of Sussex paid a private visit to the Hubb Community Kitchen before visiting Canada House. Credit: PA

The duchess was the force behind the book, suggesting the idea to a group of women who came together to cook at a Muslim cultural centre in North Kensington in the aftermath of the Grenfell blaze.

Meghan travelled to see the women in North Kensington to hear the latest updates about their project and was joined by Harry.

After more than six weeks away from the public events, the duchess looked stylish and reportedly wore a brown skirt and matching roll-neck top by Massimo Dutti and a Reiss camel coat.

During their visit, they were given a guided tour of Canada Gallery and viewed a special exhibition by indigenous Canadian artist Skawennati.

The award winning new-media artist based in Montreal was not present but her work creating avatars, based on indigenous people, in cyber space was represented by pictures and tiny figures.

A small group of staff were also introduced to the royals after their tour of the gallery which is open to the public.

The couple went on their extended break after they experienced an eventful few months.

Meghan previously lived and worked in Toronto. Credit: PA

During 2019, Harry and Meghan faced reports of a rift, first between Meghan and Kate and then between Harry and his brother William.

In a television documentary broadcast last October, Harry, when asked about the situation, said he loved his brother dearly but they were "on different paths at the moment" and have "good days" and "bad days" in their relationship.

Meghan admitted feeling vulnerable, and spoke of the difficulty in coping with intense tabloid interest, saying: "It's not enough to just survive something, that's not the point of life. You have got to thrive."

The couple's high-profile visit to Africa last autumn was overshadowed on the penultimate day when the duke condemned the British tabloid press for bullying his wife, as Meghan launched a lawsuit against Associated Newspapers.