Yes, they’re joyfully in love. So why do I have a niggling worry about this engagement picture?
... in photos taken near the burial site of the last US divorcee to wed a royal!
‘Her choice was far from conventional’
IT is the most extraordinary of royal engagement portraits.
Meghan Markle poses in a see-through £56,000 couture dress – yards from the burial site of the last American divorcee to marry into the Royal Family.
Forget the shapeless off-the-peg suits and awkward poses of Princess Diana or Sophie, the Countess of Wessex, the newly released pictures of Prince Harry and his fiancee are pure Hollywood glamour.
Three pictures put out by Kensington Palace yesterday – also seen on the front page and overleaf – were taken this week at Frogmore House in the grounds of Windsor Home Park, a stone’s throw from the castle where the couple will marry on May 19.
The royal residence has a particularly interesting history: It is the burial place of Wallis Simpson, whose husband Edward VIII abdicated in order to marry her, and where Harry, 33, introduced his first serious girlfriend, Chelsy Davy, to the Queen.
An aide said Harry and Meghan, 36, have happy memories of sharing private time at Windsor, and that Frogmore’s beautiful grounds provided a ‘relaxed setting’ for the portrait sittings.
Their choice begs the question whether they might choose Frogmore as a venue for their wedding reception rather than the formal of state rooms at Windsor Castle. One source told the Daily Mail last night: ‘I think this is a very strong possibility.’
In the end, however, the backdrop was immaterial to that dress.
An LA-born, red carpet veteran, Miss Markle’s choice of a daring transparent gown, by the British design duo Ralph & Russo, in two of the photographs was far from conventional. Priced at an eyewatering £46,650 excluding vat – £55,980 in all – it is a complete one-of-a-kind from the luxurious in-the-know label for high-profile women with a love of fashion (which sums up Miss Markle perfectly). The handmade creation would have taken hundreds of hours to make and comes from last year’s autumn/winter collection.
It comprises a silk organza skirt, hand appliqued with silk tulle ruffles, and a sheer bodice decorated with intricate gold feather thread-work and beads.
A fashion source said: ‘It’s not clear whether the dress was fitted to Meghan before coming off the catwalk, but it’s definitely couture.’
Royal aides have confirmed that the gown was ‘purchased privately’ but it is unlikely that Miss Markle – or whoever bought it for her – would have paid the ticket price, not least because of the publicity the fashion house has received as a result.
A spokesman for Ralph & Russo, who are now being tipped as possible designers of Meghan’s wedding dress, declined to comment last night. The haute couture fashion house and luxury goods company was founded in 2007 by Australian couple Tamara Ralph and Michael Russo and became the first British brand to be elected in almost 100 years by the Chambre Syndicale de la Haute Couture to show its collection on the official schedule at Paris Haute Couture Week.
The third photograph released yesterday, which shows the royal lovebirds in a more intimate pose, depicts Meghan in a white £921 cashmere and silk pullover by Victoria Beckham.
Harry, meanwhile, is believed to be wearing a £995 wool-cashmere double-breasted black pea coat by Burberry. Minutes after the portraits appeared on the royal Twitter
account, journalists and fashionistas had identified both Meghan’s dress and her cream jumper for those eager to know who they were by.
Indeed the jumper, much like everything the actress wears these days, sold out in under an hour.
Among those confirming the designer details were a group of well- connected fashion bloggers who have established themselves as the ultimate authority on Meghan’s wardrobe.
Meghan’s Fashion, a style blog which chronicles every item of clothing she wears, was first into action, followed shortly by Meghan’s Mirror, an almost identical website which has become the expert on the so-called ‘Markle effect’.
Meghan’s Mirror is run by bloggers Amanda Dishaw and Christine O’BrienRoss, based in Vancouver and Washington respectively, who are also behind What Would Kate Do?, a website which charts the Duchess of Cambridge’s fashion.
They operate an intricate and experienced network of stylists, fashion PRs and Twitter users who are not only familiar with everything in Meghan’s wardrobe, but have insider knowledge of some of her favourite brands – and lightning- quick reactions when it comes to identifying them. Meghan is said to be somewhat predictable in the labels she endorses. She has made a point of shunning classic and luxury fashion houses for obscure or little-known designers, many of them based in LA (where she was born) or Canada (where she has lived since 2010 while making TV drama Suits).
This time, it can be no coincidence that both she and Harry wore British brands head-to-toe, suggesting royal aides may have had a hand in the selection.
The photographs were taken by Polish prince and fashion photographer Alexi Lubomirski, a protege of the legendary Mario Testino.
He said: ‘It was an incredible honour to be asked to document this wonderful event, but also a great privilege to be invited to share and be a witness to this young couple’s love for one another. I cannot help but smile when I look at the photos, such was their happiness together.’
Sheer elegance: Meghan poses with Harry in one of their official engagement portraits released yesterday. Left: The dress as seen on the catwalk last year
New official Meghan pictures