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Thursday, 26 March 04:11 pm

Foreign investment in China : it’s even harder than it looks

AT FIRST glance, Vodafone has nothing to complain about. On September 8th it sold for $6.6 billion the 3.2% stake in China Mobile that it had bought for $3.3 billion between 2000 and 2002. Such a handsome profit ought to be a cue to crack open the champagne and roast some Beijing duck. Yet the British mobile-phone giant did not get what it really wanted: a way into China. In other countries, Vodafone has had a knack of turning a small investment into a controlling stake, but not in the Middle Kingdom. And it is not alone.

Since the late 1990s, several large state-owned Chinese companies have listed their shares. These initial public offerings typically included “cornerstone” investments by big Western firms. For example, BP, Exxon and Shell (three oil firms) and ABB (a Swiss-Swedish conglomerate) took strategic stakes in PetroChina and Sinopec (two big Chinese oil companies). Alcoa, an American aluminium company, invested in Chalco, a Chinese one. And Western banks bought chunks of the leading Chinese state banks when they were listed.

Foreign firms brought several things to the table: capital, technology, management skills and the prospect of better corporate governance. The Chinese press often referred to them as “elder brothers”. In return, these Western firms wanted access to China’s huge domestic market.

It did not work out that way. The Chinese state-owned firms did not need capital so badly that they were prepared to cede control to foreigners. Some also found that the Westerners had less to teach them than they had hoped. “Fly-in” expat managers were often unfamiliar with China, says David Michael, a partner at the Boston Consulting Group. Chinese firms tended to learn more from multinationals that had taken the trouble to build their own large sales forces in China, he says.

Chinese firms no longer feel like little brothers. China Mobile now has a market value half as large again as Vodafone’s. PetroChina is much bigger than BP. Both Chinese firms are now rich enough to buy whatever expertise they want.

Western energy companies were quick to notice this shift. BP, Shell, ABB and Exxon all sold their holdings in state-owned Chinese firms by 2005. Alcoa got out in 2007. Financial firms followed, in whole or part, during the financial crisis. When China’s state-owned Agricultural Bank was recently listed, no big Western bank bought a significant stake.

Western firms grumble about their failure to turn their stakes in China Inc into a foothold in the Chinese market, but not too loudly, so that they do not annoy the government. Besides, thanks to a rising stockmarket, most made sacks of money from their investments.

A few have not yet cashed out. Telefónica, a Spanish telecoms firm, owns 8.8% of China Unicom and politely rebuffs bankers who advise it to sell. AT&T has 25% of a telecoms business in the Pudong district of Shanghai. Despite regulatory problems, it provides a nationwide service from Pudong, largely to multinational clients. It is a nice business, but a far cry from the dreams some Westerners once had about China.

The Economist Sep 16th 2010

 

Questions (answer briefly and quote from the text if necessary)

  1. What did Vodaphone expect after its profits in China ?
  2. What did foreign companies have to offer to China ? (quote from the text and explain)
  3. What did they expect in return ?
  4. What were the results of this strategy ? Was it a failure or a success ?
  5. In what sectors did foreign companies invest ? Explain why

Writing : Choose between subject 1 and subject 2

– Subject 1 : why is strategic for companies to expand abroad ?

– Subject 2 : would you be ready to become an expat ? Why or why not ?

200 words

 

BTSC1 texte 1

Wednesday, 18 March 09:36 am

Marketing in the digital age /

A brand new game : As people spend more time on social media, advertisers are following them

Aug 29th 2015 | SAN FRANCISCO | The Economist

 

EARLIER this year BMW advertised on WeChat, a popular messaging app in China with around 550m monthly users. But its ads were shown only to those whose profiles suggested they were potential buyers of expensive cars. Others were shown ads for more affordable stuff, such as smartphones. […] The carmaker’s experience shows the complexities of advertising today, when it is so easy for dissatisfied customers to make their voices heard. But it was also an example of how marketing chiefs are struggling to find the right way to reach consumers on new digital platforms, where they are spending ever more of their time.

Not long ago social-media marketing was something that brand managers might ask their summer interns to deal with. Today it has become a pillar of the advertising industry. Social networks like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn have cultivated vast audiences: 2 billion people worldwide use them, says eMarketer, a research firm. Online advertising of all sorts continues to grow, and within that category, spending on social-media ads has gone from virtually nothing a few years ago to perhaps $20 billion this year (see charts).

Advertisers like social-media platforms because they gather all sorts of data on each user’s age, consumption patterns, interests and so on. This means ads can be aimed at them with an accuracy that is unthinkable with analogue media. […] Such fine-tuned targeting means that the distinction between advertising and e-commerce is becoming blurred. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and other platforms are selling ads containing “buy now” buttons, which let users complete a sale on the spot.

But the digital-media business is still young and volatile, and it is hard to predict which social networks are destined to become the new-media equivalents of America’s big four broadcast-TV networks.

Texte 3 BTSCG2

Wednesday, 18 March 09:26 am

Lego’s turnaround : Picking up the pieces : The venerable toymaker has recovered after a mistaken over-diversification

Oct 26th 2006 |
From The Economist print edition

[…] For seven decades Europe’s biggest toymaker […]  prospered with openly professed disregard for maximising profits. Lego became one of the strongest brands in the toy industry. […] Yet a couple of years ago the company’s very survival was at risk. After six years of slowing sales and falling profits, […]  rumours abounded that America’s Mattel, the biggest toymaker, would take over its long-coveted European rival. […]  They considered it as a perfect prey : a mismanaged, medium-sized firm in the hands of a single owner, the family of Ole Kirk Christiansen, a carpenter who founded the company in 1932. Mr Christiansen’s heirs decided to stand by the family business. They injected some of their own money […].

The logic of diversification was compelling[1], says Mr Knudstorp, but Lego went about it the wrong way. […] .As it tried to attract more girls, it started to neglect its main customers, boys aged five to nine. […] Lego was also hit by the general malaise in the traditional toy industry, which has been shrinking as a result of competition from high-tech gadgets and falling birth rates in many developed countries. Lego’s turnaround plan, launched in March 2004, was painful. […]  Factories in Switzerland and America are being closed down and production moved to Eastern Europe and Mexico. […].

[…] As Lego gets ready for the busiest shopping time of the year, the mood at the firm is festive. The toy industry has been stagnant for five years […] but things are looking up. Toymakers have reported strong results in the past couple of weeks. And with Lego preparing to celebrate its 75th birthday next year, Mr Knudstorp sounds confident when he says the firm can remain independent for another 75 years.

[1] Compelling = irrésistible

texte 2 BTSCG2

Wednesday, 18 March 09:19 am

Texts can be great for business but don’t overdo it

Feargal Quinn

Published 28/08/2014 | 02:30 THE IRISH INDEPENDENT

Text messaging is a great marketing tool when properly used

Text marketing is a bit like all other forms of marketing in that if it is not used correctly, or is overly used, it can have a negative effect with consumers and end up with these very same consumers requesting that they be taken off your database.

The idea behind text marketing is excellent. It is instant, timely and allows you to personalise to some degree the message you are giving.

I met a business owner recently who had spent some time testing different types of wording and found that when he included his name on the text, the response rate jumped by 20pc. His conclusion was consumers were far more likely to read a text if it was worded in the same way as one would send any other texts and includes your name at the end of it.

The most powerful example I can give you of a successful text initiative was a florist who decided to send a text to all customers on the database on the Monday of the week preceding Mother’s Day. The text was simple and read: “Kim here, from Liberty Flowers. Just to remind you that next Sunday is Mother’s Day.” The result was phenomenal. They doubled their business compared to the same week last year and lots of customers actually thanked them for reminding them well in advance and providing them with a solution.

Of course there are rules and regulations that are associated with maintaining any database and, first and foremost, you need to have the customer’s permission to use their mobile number.

Secondly, do not over use the database and, as a rule of thumb, I would advise not to send a text to customers more than once a month.

Texte 1 BTSC2

Saturday, 14 March 08:29 am

Driveless cars

Driverless cars

Aug 30th 2013 / The Economist

Earlier this week, Nissan, Japan’s second-largest carmaker, became the first manufacturer to announce plans to put a driverless car into production. Andy Palmer, the firm’s executive vice president, expects it will roll down an assembly plant by 2020. Just as significantly, it hopes to offer autonomous driving capabilities on all of its models within the following decade.

Autonomous driving will reduce accidents and improve safety, reckons Mr Palmer, perhaps even ending road-traffic fatalities altogether. The technology should also allow more efficient use of public roads, especially in traffic-snarled cities, reducing energy consumption as vehicles have to stop-and-go less frequently. Mr Palmer estimates the technology could cut CO2 emissions from cars by as much as 300m tonnes a year worldwide.

Nissan is by no means the only firm interested in autonomous driving. Virtually every carmaker is now experimenting with the concept, as is Google which has logged many thousands of miles with its own prototypes. Indeed, Google has been perhaps the most ambitious proponent. It thinks it could be ready to partner with an established automaker by 2017, although industry-watchers think the middle of the next decade is more realistic.

Many of the underlying technologies, including cameras, laser, radar and sonar sensors and heavy-duty microprocessing power are already found on production models. The 2014 Mercedes-Benz S-Class features what the German maker describes as a “sensor fusion”, bringing together various systems designed to detect obstacles, traffic and even read road signs. It can, for example, automatically stop if a pedestrian walks out in front of it. […]

Human drivers must constantly adapt to obstacles and unexpected conditions.

[…]

This means Nissan’s target date might be ambitious. And there are other obstacles beyond construction sites and speed bumps to overcome. America may be tech-friendly but it is also highly litigious. Attorneys, one suspects, are eagerly awaiting the first crash involving an autonomous vehicle to create a new line of legal work that could keep them as busy as the engineers developing the technology. […]

food for thought

Sunday, 28 April 12:34 pm

Sports and heroes

 

 

sujets de bac 2018

Saturday, 9 June 06:02 pm

2018_general_amerique_nord_LV1

2018_pondi_general_LV1b

2018_pondi_techno_LV1b

The irish referendum on abortion

Thursday, 31 May 01:37 pm

When was the abortion referendum in Ireland?

The polls officially opened on May 25, with many Irish citizens around the world flying home to cast their votes.

Around 2,000 residents on islands off Counties Donegal, Mayo and Galway went to the polls on May 24, a day ahead of the rest of the country.

The Irish electorate voted by 1,429,981 votes to 723,632 in favour of abolishing the controversial eighth amendment to the constitution.

The Government now intends to allow terminations within the first 12 weeks in the event.

Counting began on the morning of Saturday May 26.

The result was a two-thirds majority: 66.4 per cent yes to 33 per cent no.

What happens now?

Victory for the yes side means that the only part of the United Kingdom and Ireland where abortion remains banned in almost all circumstances is Northern Ireland.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, a campaigner for the yes vote, said that he hopes to pass the proposed legislation within six months.

He said: “The fact that the result is so clear that is a more than 2-1 in favour, will make it much easier to get the legislation through the Dail.”

The proposed legislation that will be introduced by the Government will allow abortions within the first 12 weeks of pregnancy.

Childish Gambino

Thursday, 31 May 01:18 pm
YouTube Preview Image

 

10 Symbols You Missed in Childish Gambino’s ‘This is America’, Explained

Donald Glover a.k.a. Childish Gambino’s newest single “This Is America” is a catchy track, but what has people really talking is its music video.

The best videos are always the ones where viewers are enticed to go back for multiple views, and look a little harder for something they might have missed the first time around. “This Is America” is exactly that.

The video expertly tackles not just the warped landscape of the United States, but touches on cultural points from the past that have led us to where we are now. Gambino and the video’s director, Hiro Murai, are both subtle and incredibly blunt about getting the message across.

The video which takes place entirely in a warehouse is shot single-camera style, and touches heavily on gun culture and its ties to the African-American experience. Gambino’s dancing and smirking grin might give an illusion of joy at first, but even in that there lies a darker message.

Here’s the meaning behind the powerful references of the video:

1. Jim Crow pose.

Fifty seconds into the video, Gambino executes a hooded man who seconds earlier was strumming a guitar to the song.. As the man falls to the ground and is quickly dragged away, the gun is delicately handed off to a man who cradles it in a cloth. T

2. Minstrel show face.

One of the more subtle references that might be difficult for even the most “woke” viewer is Glover’s smirk at the camera. As writer Blue Telusma points out, this isn’t just Glover casually making a goofy face, but a nod at racism from the minstrel show era. “It appears Glover is also keenly aware of the dehumanizing, grotesque and cartoonish way Black people used to be portrayed to white audiences,”

3. The gunned down choir.

There’s no missing the message when Gambino pulls out an assault rifle and guns down the choir that is singing behind him. It’s a direct and in-your-face reference to the 2015 Charleston, South Carolina massacre in which white supremacist Dylann Roof opened fire in a black church. “Childish Gambino really made a reference to the Charleston church shooting that happened in 2015,” “He shows how mass shootings are normalized in America, even if you’re shooting up a place of worship.”

4. Death gets a police escort.

Throwing a white horse in your music video isn’t at first a groundbreaking move. The symbolism here isn’t meant to showcase the beautiful animal though, but rather a Biblical reference to the end times. Revelation 6:8 mentions Death riding a pale horse; in this case, we see a dark cloaked figure galloping on a white horse along with a police escort.

5. Viral violence.

It’s quick, but at 2:28 the camera pans past a group of teens casually watching the chaos and filming it all with their phones. the white bandanas over their mouths could be seen as a symbolism of a white supremacist system attempting to muzzle police brutality.

6. All the empty cars.

Older model empty cars populate the video. Sometimes they’re on fire, other times a door is merely left hanging open with the hazard lights flashing.  the empty cars represent the news stories of black men killed by police during traffic stops. the empty and abandoned cars could represent the stalled economic mobility of many black Americans.

7. The warehouse itself.

Yes, even the warehouse is believed to have a meaning. After all, Gambino and the director could have chosen any location to shoot the video, so why a warehouse? Some on social media believe that the greyish white warehouse could represent the structure that America is built on, one of white supremacy.

8. 17 seconds of silence.

At 2:44 the music cuts and Gambino mimics firing a gun before lighting a joint with the music coming back in at 3:01. That’s 17 seconds of silence, with some believing it is yet one of the video’s many ways of denouncing gun violence. Only in this instance, the 17 seconds of silence is done in reference to the 17 people who lost their lives in the Parkland, Florida school shooting.

9. The sunken place.

The video’s final scene has Gambino desperately running while being chased down by a mob of strangers is believed to reference the 2017 film Get Out. The “sunken place” that is portrayed in the movie is a concept described by the film’s writer/director Jordan Peele, as a marginalization of black people in the United States. “No matter how hard we scream, the system silences us,”

10. The dancing kids.

If you had a hard time concentrating on Gambino’s lyrical message because of the dancing, well, that was exactly the point. If Gambino isn’t dancing himself, he has a group of kids dancing behind him at almost all times, even in the middle of a riot.

Royal wedding

Thursday, 31 May 01:16 pm

 

The date

Harry and Meghan’s wedding will take place on Saturday 19 May 2018 – which breaks royal protocol due to being at the weekend. While there’s no official rule, royal weddings have always traditionally taken place on a weekday (Prince William and Kate Middleton married on Friday 29 April 2011; Princess Diana and Prince Charles on Wednesday 29 July 1981; Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip on Thursday 20 November 1947). Having the wedding in May will allow the Duchess of Cambridge some time to recover from the birth of her third child, due in April.

The venue

The couple will say their vows at the picturesque St George’s Chapel in Windsor Castle. The chapel reportedly has space for around 800 guests, in contrast to the 2,000-person capacity of Westminster Abbey, where William and Kate got married.

The cost

While it’s not known exactly what the royal wedding budget is (and it’s unlikely to ever be disclosed), Kensington Palace confirmed that the event will be paid for by the royal family – at no cost to the taxpayer.

The royal titles

After the wedding, Prince Harry and Meghan Markle will become known as their Royal Highnesses the Duke and Duchess of Sussex.

The Queen has also made her grandson Earl of Dumbarton and Baron Kilkeel.

Buckingham Palace said in a statement: “The Queen has today been pleased to confer a Dukedom on Prince Henry of Wales. His titles will be Duke of Sussex, Earl of Dumbarton and Baron Kilkeel.

“Prince Harry thus becomes His Royal Highness The Duke of Sussex, and Ms. Meghan Markle on marriage will become Her Royal Highness The Duchess of Sussex.”

The invitations

Kensington Palace confirmed that the invites were issued mid-March, and created by Barnard & Westwood, a company which has held a Royal Warrant for Printing & Bookbinding by Appointment to Her Majesty The Queen since 1985.

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The invitations were die-stamped in gold and then burnished. The text on the invitation is also die-stamped, while edges of the invitation were bevelled, then gilded. The invitation features The Three Feather Badge of The Prince of Wales, and the names of invited guests were added later by a calligraphy printer.

Around 600 people have been invited to the service at St George’s Chapel and the lunchtime reception at St George’s Hall, which is being hosted by the Queen. The palace also confirmed that 200 guests will also be invited to the private reception at Frogmore House.

The engagement photos

The couple released two photos to celebrate their engagement. The images, which were taken by Harper’s Bazaar regular photographer Alexi Lubomirski, feature a close-up shot, as well as another where the two are sat down. Both were taken at Frogmore House in Windsor.

Alexi Lubomirski

They also released a third, more candid image from the day of the shoot.

The dress

It’s widely expected that Markle will turn to a British designer for the all-important gown – and most fashion experts now believe that she has chosen Ralph & Russo, the only British couture label, to make her dress.

According to a royal insider, the duchess-to-be has opted for a hand-stitched, beaded gown which boasts a serious price tag of £100,000.

The source revealed: “It sounds a lot, but this is the wedding of the year and hundreds of hours of manpower have gone into making it, almost all by hand.”

Other sources have suggested that Markle will be wearing two dresses on her big day, changing for her second reception in the evening into something more modern. If she does this, she will be following in the footsteps of the Duchess of Cambridge wore two Sarah Burton for Alexander McQueen dresses for her wedding. Markle could, however, opt to choose a different designer for the evening. Brands including Roland Mouret, Stella McCartney, Burberry and Erdem are just some of the names being suggested as contenders.

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A Ralph & Russo wedding gown. Image: Getty

Markle previously talked about her “dream wedding dress” in a 2016 interview with Glamour, which took place following the wedding of her on-screen character Rachel Zane in Suits.

“I have the luxury of wearing beautiful pieces of clothing every day for work, so my personal style — wedding or not — is very pared down and relaxed,” she said. “Classic and simple is the name of the game, perhaps with a modern twist. I personally prefer wedding dresses that are whimsical or subtly romantic. Delphine Manivet and Christos Costarellos are faves of mine for their uniqueness and beauty. And I will always be a fan of Elie Saab. J. Mendel is spectacular as well, especially for more structural designs.”

Elie Saab couture autumn/winter 2014

Getty Images
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She also revealed that her favourite celebrity wedding dress was the one worn by Carolyn Bessette Kennedy – a simple silk column dress by Narciso Rodriguez.

The wedding party

After playing best man to brother William at his 2011 wedding to Kate Middleton, Harry is repaying the favour and has asked William to be his best man. The news was announced via the palace’s Twitter account, which shared a number of sweet photos of the duo.

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William’s children, Prince George and Princess Charlotte, will also have roles within the wedding party – as they did at Pippa Middleton’s 2017 wedding – as a page boy and bridesmaid, alongside eight other children.

Prince George and Princess Charlotte with the Duchess of Cambridge at Pippa Middleton’s wedding

Getty Images

After Thomas Markle was forced to pull out of attending the wedding due to health issues (he reportedly suffered a heart attack and had to undergo surgery), Kensington Palace confirmed that Prince Charles will be walking the bride down the aisle. She will travel to the church by car with her mother, Doria Ragland.

The Duchess of Cambridge will make a low-key appearance at the nuptials, having recently welcomed her third child, Prince Louis, and will also not want to risk upstaging the bride.

Markle will not have a maid of honour or an adult bridal party, but will instead have a group of close girlfriends “assisting” her on the day.

A spokesperson for the palace revealed: “She has a very close-knit circle of friends and she didn’t want to choose one over another.”

They continued,”All have been actively involved in helping her prepare for the day and will be there in the days beforehand. She’s very happy to have their support.”

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The coverage

The wedding will be televised on a number of channels in the UK. A pool camera will be allowed inside St George’s Chapel, allowing international media outlets to plug into the source the royal family provides and broadcast the same footage.

“The couple of course wants the day to be a special, celebratory moment for their friends and family,” said a royal spokesperson. “They also want the day to be shaped so as to allow members of the public to feel part of the celebrations too and are currently working through ideas for how this might be achieved.”

There have been two other televised royal weddings in history, that of William and Kate in 2011 (to which an estimated 23 million people tuned in) and Charles and Diana in 1981.

Find out more about exactly how you can watch the royal wedding here.

Alexi Lubomirski

The cake

Claire Ptak, owner of London-based bakery Violet Cakes has been chosen to create the royal wedding cake.

“Prince Harry and Ms Markle have asked Claire to create a lemon elderflower cake that will incorporate the bright flavours of spring,” confirmed Kensington Palace. “It will be covered in buttercream and decorated with fresh flowers.

“Claire Ptak, who was raised in California, focuses on using seasonal and organic ingredients in her cake. Ms Markle previously interviewed Chef Ptak for her former lifestyle website The Tig,” they continued, adding that the couple are “looking forward to sharing the cake with guests at their wedding”.

The flowers

Meghan and Harry have selected London-based florist Philippa Craddock to design their wedding flowers, which will follow a natural wildflower theme. Her team will partner with a team from St George’s Chapel and Buckingham Palace to locally source white garden roses, foxgloves and branches of beech from the gardens of the Crown Estate and Windsor Great Park. Craddock will also incorporate peonies, which are Markle’s favourite flower, according to her now-deleted Instagram account.

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“The Royal Parks will also supply pollinator-friendly plants from their wildflower meadows,” said a statement released by Kensington Palace. “These plants provide a great habitat for bees and help to sustain healthy and biodiverse ecosystems.”

“Where possible, Philippa will use flowers and plants that are in season and blooming naturally in May,” they added.

The music

Harry and Meghan have announced the music plans for the ceremony, which includes a number of group and solo performances, including from a gospel choir and 19-year-old cellist.

“Both Prince Harry and Ms Markle have taken a great deal of interest and care in choosing the music for their service, which will include a number of well-known hymns and choral works,” the Palace tweeted.

The couple have chosen to appoint Karen Gibson and the Kingdom Choir, which is made up of a group of British musicians that have been performing together for over 20 years. Meanwhile, 19-year-old Sheku Kanneh-Mason will be performing. The cellist was the winner of the 2016 BBC Young Musician competition. The Choir of St. George’s Chapel will of course also be taking part.

Read more about the music at Harry and Meghan’s royal wedding below.

The carriage

The couple have selected the Ascot Landau carriage for their anticipated procession through Windsor Town. The royal newlyweds will travel in a one horse-drawn carriage in the Carriage Procession from St George’s Chapel, taking the couple through Windsor Town and returning to Windsor Castle along the Long Walk, Kensington Palace has confirmed. William and Kate used the Imperial State Landau on their wedding day, as it usually remains stationed in London. Their wedding was also a state wedding, and the Imperial State Landau is often used by the Queen to meet Foreign Heads of State when they arrive on State Visits to Britain.

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The honeymoon

The notoriously private couple (who managed to keep their relationship a secret for the first six months) will likely seek somewhere away from prying eyes for their post-wedding getaway. Botswana would be an obvious choice, as a country that holds a special significance for the pair; they holidayed there in the early stages of their relationship and Harry sourced a diamond from the country for Markle’s engagement ring. However, it’s more recently been strongly rumoured that the couple have chosen Namibia as their honeymoon destination.

However, what we do know is that the couple will not be going away on honeymoon straight after their wedding, but will instead be heading off a little later. Kensington Palace confirmed that the newly married couple would be undertaking royal duties the week after their wedding.

“The couple will be going on honeymoon, but not straightaway,” said Kensington Palace spokesman Jason Knauf at a press conference. “They will have their first engagement as a married couple in the week after the wedding.”

Elephants at the Mashatu game reserve in Botswana

Getty Images

Reports also suggest that the newlyweds may choose a different African country to honeymoon in – with the neighbouring Namibia one of the rumoured destinations. As the least densely populated country in the world it would certainly provide the privacy they’d be craving after such a public wedding.

The royal titles

Buckingham Palace said in a statement: “The Queen has today been pleased to confer a Dukedom on Prince Henry of Wales. His titles will be Duke of Sussex, Earl of Dumbarton and Baron Kilkeel.

“Prince Harry thus becomes His Royal Highness The Duke of Sussex, and Ms. Meghan Markle on marriage will become Her Royal Highness The Duchess of Sussex.”