Royal ro­mance: Prince Harry, Meghan Markle towed

The Oneida Daily Dispatch (Oneida, NY) - - Kickoff - Photos and text from wire ser­vices

LON­DON » Newly en­gaged Prince Harry and Meghan Markle on Mon­day lifted the se­crecy that had shrouded their 18-month ro­mance, re­veal­ing they met on a blind date, bonded dur­ing a camp­ing trip un­der the stars in Botswana and that Harry pro­posed over a roast chicken din­ner at their Lon­don home, get­ting down on one knee to pop the ques­tion.

Speak­ing just hours af­ter the cou­ple’s en­gage­ment was an­nounced by palace of­fi­cials act­ing on be­half of Prince Charles, Harry said he was thrilled when she said yes, and he placed an en­gage­ment ring of his own de­sign on her fin­ger that in­cluded two di­a­monds that had be­longed to his mother, Princess Diana, set along­side a large cen­tral di­a­mond from Botswana.

“Just an amaz­ing sur­prise,” said the 36-year-old Markle, an Amer­i­can ac­tress known for her role in the TV le­gal drama “Suits.” “It was so sweet and nat­u­ral and very ro­man­tic.”

Did she hes­i­tate? Not if Harry can be trusted.

“She didn’t even let me fin­ish,” the 33-year-old prince said of his be­trothed. “She said ‘Can I say yes, can I say yes?’ And then there were hugs and I had the ring in my fin­ger and I was like ‘Can I, can I give you the ring?’ She goes, ‘Oh yes, the ring.’”

The cou­ple said they plan to marry in the spring, and Harry —fifth in line for the Bri­tish throne — said he hopes to start a fam­ily.

They seemed very much aglow as they sat on a sofa dur­ing their first ever joint in­ter­view and de­scribed their long-dis­tance courtship, with Markle busy film­ing in Canada and Harry ful­fill­ing royal du­ties in Bri­tain. They said they saw each other ev­ery two weeks, de­spite the pres­sure and put their re­la­tion­ship first.

Markle, whose mother is African-Amer­i­can and whose father is white, said she had been “dis­heart­ened” when early press cov­er­age about their re­la­tion­ship fo­cused on her mixed-race back­ground. But she seemed thrilled to be join­ing the royal fam­ily and spoke glow­ingly about Harry’s brother Prince Wil­liam, his wife Kate and other se­nior roy­als.

They will live in Not­ting­ham Cot­tage on the grounds of Kens­ing­ton Palace, where Harry pro­posed and where they will be neigh­bors with Wil­liam and Kate. Markle has al­ready brought one of her rescue dogs from Canada, while the other is stay­ing with a friend for now.

In many ways, their story mir­rors those of en­gaged cou­ples ev­ery­where — with some cru­cial dif­fer­ences.

When they first went on va­ca­tion to­gether, it was a five-day camp­ing trip in the wilder­ness of Botswana — where one hopes the royal pro­tec­tion of­fi­cers gave them some space. And when Mar- kle met Harry’s grand­mother for tea, she was sit­ting down with Queen El­iz­a­beth II, the long­est-reign­ing monarch in Bri­tish his­tory.

Markle said they man­aged to date for five or six months be­fore the me­dia found out, giv­ing them an “amaz­ing” amount of pri­vacy as they got to know each other.

She said she knew very lit­tle about the royal fam­ily when a mu­tual friend sug­gested a blind date with Harry. Markle had only one ques­tion: “Is he nice?”

Their first date, for a drink, went well and they quickly de­cided to meet again. Harry said it took three or four weeks to per­suade Markle to join him in Botswana.

POOL VIA AP

In this photo taken from video Bri­tain’s Prince Harry and Meghan Markle talk about their en­gage­ment dur­ing an in­ter­view in Lon­don, Mon­day.

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