Meghan stuns guests at fancy Sydney ball
THE Duchess of Sussex stunned guests at a prestigious awards ceremony in Sydney last night in a beautiful black and white Oscar de la Renta gown.
Prince Harry and Meghan were guests of honour at the Australian Geographic Society's annual awards ceremony at the Shangri-La Hotel in the Sydney CBD, hosted by journalist Ray Martin.
The awards began at 6pm but Harry and Meghan didn't arrive until 8.15pm, due to a minor drama with their Qantas charter flight from Tonga.
The pilot had to pull up several seconds from landing due to another plane on the runway. After landing safely, the royals travelled by motorcade to their Sydney hotel to change into their eveningwear.
For anyone looking to copy Meghan's look, the only option appears to be to "contact a personal shopper" via the exclusive designer's website, however similar pieces by Oscar de la Renta retail for about $4800.
Guests at the ball heard Prince Harry give a passionate speech advocating for action on climate change.
He called on governments to follow advice "rooted in science and fact" and preserve the "most valuable resource we have - our planet".
Harry singled out coral bleaching of the "magnificent" Great Barrier Reef as an example of the damage caused to the environment.
"It's absolutely heartbreaking to see your natural treasures being changed forever," he said.
The Duke and Duchess both presented awards at the ceremony to the Young Adventurer of the Year and Young Conservationist of the Year.
Sophia Skarparis, 15, won the Young Conservationist of the Year Award for her work campaigning to ban plastic bags. The petition she started gained 10,000 signatures and led to the issue being debated in NSW state parliament. Sophia told news.com.au Meghan said she was an "inspiration".
"She congratulated me and told me to keep the hard work up and I thanked her for that," Sophia said.
During his introductory speech Martin warned guests not to approach the royals during the ceremony and allow the couple to enjoy their evening.
"Please don't try to approach them. They're not the Kardashians," Martin said. "We don't want to be bogans. They're here for a relaxed evening themselves."
Guests were also required to go through an airport-style security check prior to entering the Shangri-La's main ballroom.
The royals received a standing ovation when they entered the Shangri-La's grand ballroom.
The awards are Australia's longest running awards for adventure and conservation, and Prince Harry has a personal connection to the prestigious event.
As well as being hugely passionate about the environment and conservation - Harry is the president of wildlife conservation group African Parks - in 2013 he accompanied two Australian soldiers to the South Pole, both of whom were later recognised by the society's Spirit of Adventure award.
Tonight Prince Harry will present his grandmother the Queen with an special award for outstanding contribution to global conservation for the Queen's Commonwealth Canopy project.
The special award has been created especially for the Queen and Prince Harry will accept it on her behalf tonight.
The Duke and Duchess had a quick change into their eveningwear this afternoon after flying back into Sydney from Tonga.
Meghan changed out of her $840 blue dress from American label Veronica Beard for the couple's final activities in Tonga this morning.
Tonight is the third black tie event the couple have attended during their jam-packed tour schedule.
Meghan wore a floor-length, white gown with silver beaded embellishments by evening wear label Theia for a special evening reception during her first night in Tonga yesterday.
The designer Don O'Neill revealed some last-minute alterations were made to the white dress, just two weeks before the royal couple announced their pregnancy on October 15.
Mr O'Neill said Meghan "loved" the dress but requested it include "extra seam allowance".
"We knew immediately why this extra allowance was required, but Mum's the word," the designer told Daily Mail.
Earlier yesterday, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex visited Tupou College in Tonga to unveil part of the Queen's Commonwealth Canopy project, where Harry had praised the nation for "leading by example."
The QCC provides a network of forest conservation programs throughout the 53 countries of the Commonwealth. So far, 42 countries have committed to 90 projects covering 7.85 million hectares of native forests.
Prince Harry will also present two youth awards this evening, honouring the Young Adventurer of the Year and Young Conservationist of the Year.
The royals have just one weekend left in Australia before they head to New Zealand for the last leg of their tour.
This evening, Prince Harry and Meghan will attend the Invictus Games Wheelchair Basketball final and the Closing Ceremony, before flying out of Sydney on Sunday.
AUSTRALIAN GEOGRAPHIC SOCIETY AWARD WINNERS
Lifetime of Adventure Award: Syd Kirby AO
Lifetime Conservation Award: Atticus Flemin
Conservationist of the Year: Numbat Task Force - Robert Mclean and John Dawson
Adventurer of the Year: Steve Plain
Young Adventurer of the Year: Jade Hameister
Young Conservationist of the Year: Sophia Skarparis
Spirit of Adventure: Paul Pritchard