Prince Harry in love:
the inside story of the sexy American actress who stole his heart
Are wedding bells in the air at Kensington Palace? It is the question that many in royal circles are pondering, as Prince Harry’s romance with US actress Meghan Markle becomes serious. According to Harry’s friends, the relationship has stepped up a notch, with Meghan having effectively “moved in” with him after Christmas and the pair of them now “inseparable”.
While Meghan, who found stardom in the US television legal drama Suits, lives in Toronto, Canada, where the show is filmed, she has been staying with Prince Harry at Nottingham Cottage, his Kensington Palace home, for much of the past few months. They have enjoyed dinner at London’s fashionable Soho House, West End theatre, cosy dinner parties at the Palace and, just after Christmas, a romantic getaway to Norway, where Harry whisked Meghan off to a secluded log cabin on the edge of the Arctic Circle to see the Northern Lights.
Meghan is said to have met the Prince of Wales and the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, and those close to Harry say he seems “happier than ever”, with a new confidence as he goes about his royal and charitable work.
His girlfriend appears to be very much part of that contentment and although the couple officially lives thousands of kilometres apart, they have made every effort to spend as much time together as possible.
In early March, Harry and Meghan made their most high-profile appearance together yet, during a romantic getaway to Jamaica, attending the wedding of one of Harry’s closest friends, Tom Inskip, to Lara Hughes-Young. Meghan flew by private jet from Toronto to Jamaica to join Harry for the three-day celebrations at the exclusive Round Hill Hotel in Montego Bay.
The couple stayed in the resort’s most luxurious accommodation – a six-bedroom villa with a private pool – and were said to be “inseparable” throughout the festivities.
One friend of Harry’s said, “This was the first time that she and Harry have socialised so openly as a couple and is a significant step up in their relationship. Make no mistake, he is head over heels about her. This one could go all the way.”
Harry and Meghan are thought to have been introduced in London last June by their mutual friend, Markus Anderson, a consultant for private members’ clubs, the Soho House Group, and the
attraction was said to have been instant. Within weeks, Meghan was seen enjoying the tennis in the Royal Box at Wimbledon and, last July, sightseeing in London, she posted a picture on Instagram of a visit to Buckingham Palace. Another post showed a picture of a lolly bearing the caption, “Kiss me”, accompanied by the words, “Love-hearts in London”, perhaps hinting at her blossoming romance with Harry. He then flew to Los Angeles in July to spend time with her before heading to Africa for much of the past northern summer to work on conservation projects.
At his cousin George McCorquodale’s wedding in South Africa last August, while his new relationship was still under wraps, Harry’s friends teased him for not having a girlfriend.
His response hinted at his feelings for Meghan even in the early stages of their relationship. “Well, I have got one and I hope something is going to come out of it,” he told them.
Meghan then visited Harry when he returned to London in September and was reported to have spent time with him at Balmoral, the Queen’s Scottish estate, for a shooting party for his 32nd birthday. The Queen was in residence, hosting Prime Minister Theresa May at the time, but it is very unlikely that Meghan would have met Her Majesty or even stayed at the castle on this occasion.
More likely is that she would have stayed at Birkhall, the Prince of Wales’ home on Balmoral estate, where William and Harry sometimes take their friends. The party included Princess Eugenie and her boyfriend,
Jack Brooksbank, with whom Meghan has formed a friendship.
Harry has also made several trips to Toronto, where Meghan lives in The Annex, an exclusive neighbourhood. They have enjoyed cosy nights in with her two rescue dogs, Bogart and Guy, but have also hit the city’s social scene.
In October, they donned costumes and masks for a Halloween party at Soho House in Toronto as news of their romance was about to break. And just hours after their relationship became world news, Meghan posted a picture of cuddling bananas on Instagram with the caption, “Sleep tight. xx”.
Who is Meghan?
So who is the woman who appears to have captured Harry’s heart? Born in Los Angeles to an AfricanAmerican mother, Doria, and a father of Dutch and Irish descent, Thomas, Meghan encountered showbusiness as a child when her father worked as a Hollywood lighting director.
She studied theatre and international relations at Northwestern University in Illinois, before finding small parts in US television series, including General Hospital, Knight Rider and CSI:NY. Her big break came in 2011, when she landed the role of sassy paralegal Rachel Zane in Suits.
Meghan is also a businesswoman and entrepreneur, with her own lifestyle website and blog, The Tig, named after her favourite red wine Tignanello, which covers food, fashion, travel and beauty. She has described herself as a “foodie” and a hopeless romantic. In one blog, she confessed to being “a sucker for Valentine’s Day” and gave a hint of what she may expect from Harry in the romance stakes, “Be it breakfast in bed, a sweet love note or a single flower, it’s really the thought that counts.”
In a magazine interview, she also said, “I love how British guys dress for the cold. There’s something so romantic about a man in a scarf and a knitted hat.” Harry has taken note, donning a woolly hat on their date nights in London.
Meghan has also added the “designer” string to her bow. Last November, she launched a fashion range for Canadian department store Reitmans. In an interview to promote the range, she said, “My cup runneth over. I’m the luckiest girl in the world.” Yet it is her humanitarian work, a shared passion of Harry’s, which is said to be a key attraction for the Prince. Meghan is a Global Ambassador for World Vision, a charity once supported by Harry’s late mother, Diana, Princess of Wales. In January, Meghan travelled to India for the charity, promoting young women’s health and hygiene. She has also worked for the United Nations, supporting its gender equality campaign, and delivered a speech in front of then UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon, in which
she declared, “I am proud to be a woman and a feminist.”
Discussing her humanitarian work, she has said, “While my life shifts from refugee camps to red carpets, I choose them both because both these worlds can co-exist. And for me, they must.”
Royal biographer Ingrid Seward, editor of Majesty magazine, says, “Meghan’s keen charity work will be appealing to Harry. He will also be attracted to her because she is so different from girls he has previously dated, plus she is glamorous and driven.”
It hasn’t been smooth sailing, though. Since emerging as Harry’s girlfriend, Meghan has faced some difficult headlines. In January, her halfbrother, Thomas Markle Jnr, was arrested for allegedly holding a gun to a woman’s head during a drunken argument, although he has since been cleared. And her half-sister, Samantha Grant, gave an interview accusing Meghan of being “narcissistic and selfish”, a “shallow social climber” and of abandoning her family, including their bankrupt father. “The royal family would be appalled by what she’s done to her own family,” she said. “The truth would kill her relationship with Prince Harry.”
While Meghan remained silent, her half-brother defended her, saying the royal family would be lucky to have her, while his former girlfriend,
Eri Specht, added, “She’s very smart, very well educated and very poised. If anyone is well suited for a prince, Meghan is.”
She has, however, been married before. In 2011, Meghan wed her longterm boyfriend, film producer Trevor Engelson, in Jamaica, but they divorced two years later.
Divorce was historically a no-go for the royal family, famously forcing King Edward VIII to abdicate in 1936, when Wallis Simpson, an American divorcée, was deemed an unsuitable bride. And, in the 1950s, Princess Margaret also gave up hopes of marrying the love of her life, Group Captain Peter Townsend, a divorced war hero, because, as she said in a statement, a royal must be “mindful of the Church’s teaching that Christian marriage is indissoluble.”
Yet times have changed and divorce is no longer a royal taboo. After all, the future King and his consort – Charles and Camilla – are both divorcées, as are Princess Anne and Prince Andrew. Ingrid Seward believes that neither Meghan’s divorce, nor her different background to Harry’s, would stand in the way of a possible marriage. “If Harry loves someone, the royal family would embrace her, whoever she is,” she says. “The world has changed so much, I really don’t think it would matter where she was from.”
The protective Prince
Harry has made it clear he is determined to protect Meghan from intrusion into her personal life or their relationship. He has spoken of the difficulties of maintaining a private life and that lack of privacy is said to have played a part in the breakdown of his previous serious relationships with Cressida Bonas and Chelsy Davy.
In a candid interview with me last year, Harry spoke of the “massive paranoia” he feels when he meets someone: “Even if I talk to a girl, that person is suddenly my wife; people go knocking on her door. If, or when, I do find a girlfriend, I will do my utmost... to ensure that me and her can get to the point where we’re actually comfortable with each other before the massive invasion that is inevitably going to happen into her privacy.”
While Meghan and the Prince managed to keep their romance secret for a few months, within days of becoming public it was reported that her friends and family were being offered large sums for interviews and photographers had attempted to gain entry to her home.
The media frenzy prompted an unprecedented and fiercely passionate statement from Harry last November, pleading for the couple to be left alone. It said there had been “a line crossed” with the media’s coverage of Meghan, who had been “subject to a wave of abuse and harassment”.>>
If anyone is well suited for a prince, Meghan is.
Harry was furious at what he described as “the outright sexism and racism” of some reports.
“Prince Harry is worried about Ms Markle’s safety and is deeply disappointed that he has not been able to protect her. It is not right that, just a few months into a relationship with him, Ms Markle should be subjected to such a storm,” said the statement. “This is not a game – it is her life and his.”
Robert Lacey, a revered royal historian, said that this unusual statement spoke volumes about Prince Harry’s state of mind. “He’s stepping up as her knight in shining armour to defend his damsel in distress,” he said. “It’s very gallant. It will be remembered as the day he declared his love for her.”
Meghan is due to return to Toronto to film the seventh series of Suits. Yet there has been speculation it could be her last and that she may quit the show, move to London and try life as a royal consort.
So how would that work? While she is used to being in front of the camera and on the red carpet, the scrutiny that comes with being a member of the royal family is on a different level. As biographer Ingrid Seward says, Meghan would be sacrificing her entire way of life. “It is difficult for anyone coming into the royal family, especially someone who has had such a free life,” she says. “Being royal is very restricting.”
If Meghan does become the next royal bride, there’s almost no doubt she would have to give up her acting career and all her other businesses, to embark on a life of official royal duties and charity work.
That could be tough for Meghan, even if the prize is her Prince. As she once said, “I’ve never wanted to be a lady who lunches – I’ve always wanted to be a woman who works.” And while she might be a Princess, Meghan also recently wrote of the need to “focus less on glass slippers and more on pushing through glass ceilings”.
If a royal marriage is on the cards, children would likely be, too. At 35, Meghan may wish to start a family soon, while Harry, 32, has already said he is ready. “I would love to have kids now,” he said in 2015.
Meghan would be the first American to marry a British Prince and, while his cousins, Princesses Eugenie and Beatrice, have both spent time living in the US, it is highly unlikely that Prince Harry would follow suit.
He is a senior member of the royal family and unless he relinquished his HRH status (which is also highly unlikely), his duty will be to carry out official royal duties in support of the Queen or the future monarch, together with his charitable work. Harry knows this is expected of him and any future wife.
Of course, where the couple might live remains pure conjecture at this stage, but the most likely London home, initially, for the Prince and his future wife would be apartments at Kensington Palace, St James’s Palace or Clarence House.
To marry, Harry would “officially” need the Queen’s consent, a protocol dating back to the Royal Marriages Act 1772, which requires all descendants of George II to obtain the sovereign’s agreement before marrying.
Yet, in reality, the Queen would be unlikely to obstruct her grandson’s path to happiness. And, with Meghan, Harry does indeed seem to be happy.
This is not a game – it is her life and his.
ABOVE: Prince Harry, at 32, is ready to settle down. “I would love to have kids now,” he said in 2015. OPPOSITE: Could US actress Meghan Markle be the one who finally captures his heart?