When Haz met Meg

Nick­names, roast-chicken-fu­elled pro­pos­als, se­cret mu­seum assig­na­tions and sa­faris… but the course of this royal ro­mance wasn’t with­out a bump or two, says Sophia Money-coutts

The Daily Telegraph - Telegraph Magazine - - News -

Sophia Money-coutts traces the un­likely ro­mance of the sixth in line to the throne and the Amer­i­can ac­tor, blog­ger and hu­man­i­tar­ian turned royal

It was in March last year that se­ri­ous talk of mar­riage started cir­cu­lat­ing in royal cir­cles, just af­ter Prince Harry took Meghan Markle to Ja­maica for the wed­ding of one of his best friends, Tom ‘Skippy’ In­skip. There had been a frenzy about Harry’s new girl­friend for months, but royal in­sid­ers and Sloaney pals of Harry’s know bet­ter than to pay at­ten­tion to ex­citable head­lines. Skippy’s wed­ding, how­ever, was deemed a more sig­nif­i­cant sign. A chap doesn’t in­vite his girl­friend to a wed­ding half­way around the world with­out se­ri­ous in­ten­tions, af­ter all. ‘They’ll be en­gaged by the end of the year,’ I was told by a well-con­nected friend.

In­deed they were, with the Prince of Wales an­nounc­ing their en­gage­ment in Novem­ber, just 15 months af­ter their first date at Dean Street Town­house, a Soho House-owned ho­tel and restau­rant in Lon­don. Less a whirl­wind, more a tor­nado com­pared to Prince Wil­liam, who took a rel­a­tively se­date seven years to get down on one knee. The speed of Harry’s ro­mance has raised eye­brows among some of his friends but, on the other hand, he’s 33 and Meghan is 36. They’re hardly love-struck teens rush­ing into mar­riage to spite their par­ents.

They’re cer­tainly love-struck, though. That much was clear from the very be­gin­ning. No blonde Sloane stood a chance af­ter that first date, set up by one of Harry’s clos­est friends, Vi­o­let von Westen­holz. ‘Vi’, a fash­ion PR for Ralph Lau­ren, met Meghan when the Amer­i­can la­bel in­vited the ac­tor to Wim­ble­don (which the fash­ion house spon­sored) for a day in the royal box. How prophetic. Meghan duly In­sta­grammed a smi­ley selfie of her and Vi, cap­tion: ‘How much more could I adore this gem?’ At the time, Harry had a se­cret In­sta­gram ac­count with a dis­guised pro­file pic­ture. Did he hap­pen to see the Insta photo of Meghan with his friend Vi and What­sapp her pes­ter­ing for a date with the hot wo­man from Suits? It’s a cheer­fully mod­ern way for a royal to go about things if so.

Meghan, in­ci­den­tally, thought noth­ing of mak­ing in­flu­en­tial friends via so­cial me­dia and the in­ter­net. The Cal­i­for­nian had spent sev­eral unglam­orous years in Hol­ly­wood, hostess­ing at a restau­rant and tak­ing bit parts in soaps and on Deal or No Deal, be­fore she landed the role of Rachel Zane in Suits and started

net­work­ing in star­rier cir­cles. She made friends with Ser­ena Wil­liams at a Su­per Bowl char­ity football game and wrote about their friend­ship on her blog, The Tig, named af­ter an Ital­ian wine she likes called Tig­nanello (she’s re­as­sur­ingly into wine); she enlisted the likes of Heidi Klum and ac­tor Emmy Ros­sum to con­trib­ute to the blog. She mes­saged Piers Mor­gan on Twit­ter and ar­ranged to have a drink with him on the same trip to Lon­don, in The Scars­dale Tav­ern, a pub just off Kens­ing­ton High Street. Over dirty mar­ti­nis, they dis­cussed Suits, gun con­trol in Amer­ica and Meghan’s TV am­bi­tions. Piers says she was ‘fab­u­lous, warm, funny, in­tel­li­gent and highly en­ter­tain­ing’. But her drink with him was hardly her most im­por­tant diary en­gage­ment that week.

Meghan’s first date with Harry at Dean Street Town­house – a

For their third date, Harry ramped up his courtship and in­vited Meghan to Botswana

proper ‘blind date’, they in­sisted in their en­gage­ment in­ter­view – was im­me­di­ately fol­lowed by a sec­ond date the next day be­cause Meghan then had to fly back to Toronto, where she lived at the time, for the film­ing of Suits. In his re­cent bi­og­ra­phy of Meghan, Andrew Mor­ton goes very Barbara Cart­land at this junc­ture: ‘As they say in the movies, they had each other at “hello”. She was im­me­di­ately sen­si­tive to him, aware that this was a man who, be­tween the ban­ter and the sur­face chat­ter, was look­ing for a safe har­bour.’ Per­haps, but I imag­ine Harry – a typ­i­cal Old Eto­nian in suede shoes and a col­lared shirt – was also im­pressed by Meghan’s Amer­i­can pol­ish, given that posh English girls of­ten ap­pear on dates with grubby fin­ger­nails and messy hair.

For their third date, Harry ramped up his courtship and de­ployed what had be­come a se­duc­tive trade­mark move – he in­vited Meghan to spend five days in Botswana with him, as he’d done with for­mer girl­friends Chelsy Davy and Cres­sida Bonas. Meghan’s In­sta­gram ac­count, nor­mally fairly ac­tive (and shut down since their en­gage­ment), went quiet for a week in

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