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!

Daily Mail - - Front Page - SARAH VINE

‘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

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