If a prince of the realm decides to court an American divorcee, he can probably expect a degree of public interest. There’s a certain history to these things, after all.
So it was understandable that Prince Harry and Meghan Markle did their best to keep things under wraps. Insofar as that was possible, at least.
Inevitably, the news eventually leaked out, interest and speculation grew until it became the most talked-about royal courtship of modern times.
Then finally, on this day six years ago, Harry and Meghan announced they were formally engaged – to huge enthusiasm and acclaim.
Happy-go-lucky Prince Harry was pretty much Britain’s favourite royal, of course. While Meghan Markle, who was achieving some measure of success with her US legal soap, Suits, was as glamorous as she was intriguing.
‘I fell in love with Meghan so incredibly quickly – it was a confirmation to me that all the stars were aligned,’ said Harry at the time.
A judgment that seemed to be confirmed when, with time, the details of a truly breathless romance finally emerged…
On the anniversary of their engagement, we take a look at the timeline of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s romance
July 1, 2016 – They meet in London through a mutual friend
During the first episode of their Netflix docuseries, Harry & Meghan, the couple claimed that they first connected on Instagram.
‘I was scrolling through my feed and one of my friends and someone who was a friend had this video of the two of them, like a Snapchat,’ Harry said. ‘I was like, ‘Who is that?’ ‘
Meghan said that their mutual friend Violet von Westenholz told her that ‘Prince Haz’ had asked about her, suggesting that she meet up with Harry. The next day they exchanged numbers.
The pair began texting and eventually set up a first date at Soho House at 76 Dean Street while Meghan was in the city to watch the Wimbledon tournament.
In what might have been the end of their romance before it began, Harry arrived late.
‘You were late,’ Meghan told Harry, adding, ‘and I didn’t know him. So I was like, ‘Oh, is this what he does?”
Things picked up after that, however and, although they lived thousands of miles apart, the the two agreed to see each other every few weeks.
Meghan was introduced to Harry by mutual friend Violet von Westenholtz. Harry and Meghan set up a first date at Soho House in July 2016 while Meghan was in London to watch Wimbledon
August 2016 – They take a trip to Botswana, Africa
For their third date, Harry took Meghan away on a romantic trip to Botswana where the pair camped under the stars.
‘It was three, maybe four, weeks later that I managed to persuade her to come join me in Botswana, and we camped out with each other under the stars,’ Harry explained during their engagement interview.
‘She came and joined me for five days out there, which was absolutely fantastic. Then we were really by ourselves, which was crucial to me to make sure that we had a chance to get to know each other.’
Prince Harry later said it was during this trip that he knew Meghan was his ‘soulmate.’
Harry took Meghan away on a romantic trip to Botswana where the pair camped under the stars for their third date
November 2016 – Their relationship is confirmed by Kensington Palace and Harry tells the media to leave Meghan alone
Rumours had been gathering for around a month when, on November 8, Kensington Palace released a statement confirming Harry and Meghan’s relationship.
In a rare turn of events, Harry also issued a lengthy appeal to the media claiming that Meghan had been at the receiving end of harassment, ‘sexism and racism’ .
He acknowledged that there was ‘significant curiosity about his private life’ but appealed to people to respect Meghan’s privacy.
‘Prince Harry is worried about Ms Markle’s safety and is deeply disappointed that he has not been able to protect her,’ the note read. ‘It is not right that a few months into a relationship with him that Ms Markle should be subjected to such a storm.’
Kensington Palace released a statement on November 8 confirming Harry and Meghan’s relationship
January 2017 – Harry and Meghan visit Norway
Harry and Meghan celebrated the New Year in style as they jetted off to Norway to take in the Northern Lights.
During their first publicly known getaway together, the pair holidayed in the small town of Tromso, staying in a luxurious, secluded cabin.
A source claimed they spent time whale watching, watching sunsets in the snow and taking in the breathtaking sights of the Aurora Borealis.
Harry and Meghan celebrated the New Year in style as they jetted off to Tromso in Norway
April 2017 – Meghan shuts down her lifestyle blog
Meghan shut down The Tig, her food-and travel-focused lifestyle blog in April.
In a letter addressed to her ‘Tig friends,’ she wrote: ‘After close to three beautiful years on this adventure with you, it’s time to say goodbye to The Tig. What began as a passion project (my little engine that could) evolved into an amazing community of inspiration, support, fun, and frivolity.
‘You’ve made my days brighter and filled this experience with so much joy. Keep finding those Tig moments of discovery, keep laughing and taking risks, and keep being ‘the change you wish to see in the world.”
The Suits actress concluded the letter, which was titled, ‘Farewell, Darling,’ saying, ‘Above all, don’t ever forget your worth – as I’ve told you time and time again: you, my sweet friend, you are enough. Thank you for everything.’
Meghan shut down The Tig, her food-and travel-focused lifestyle blog in April 2017
May 2017 – Their first public outing together at charity polo match
Meghan was on hand and at the ready to cheer Harry on during a polo match on May 6, 2017.
She was spotted applauding him from the royal box and was later pictured kissing her beau after the game in support of his Sentebale charity.
Mark Dyer, who has been dubbed a ‘surrogate father’ to the Duke of Sussex, and actor Eddie Redmayne, who attended Eton with Prince William, were also there to watch Harry play.
Meghan and Mark Dyer watch as Prince Harry plays in the Audi Polo Challenge at Coworth Park Polo Club, Ascot, in May 2017
May 2017 – She is Harry’s date at Pippa Middleton’s wedding reception
While Meghan did not attend Pippa Middleton’s wedding ceremony to James Matthews later that month, she did join Harry for the private evening reception held at the Middleton family home.
It was reported at the time that Harry travelled to London to pick Meghan up, which is around 90 minutes each way, as watchers noted that it was a sign that they were getting serious.
Prince William and the Duke of Sussex at the wedding of Pippa Middleton and James Matthews at St Mark’s Church on May 20, 2017
August 2017 – They vacation in Africa for her birthday
Harry whisked Meghan away for a three-week trip to Africa to celebrate her 36th birthday in August 2017.
The trip included some time in the Meno a Kwena camp in Botswana where they camped out together following their first few dates.
They finished off the trip with a romantic detour to Victoria Falls in Livingstone, Zambia.
A source at the time said: ‘Harry has been planning this holiday for a long time. He’s made the trip incredibly romantic. They’ll go on boats across the lake, walk in the bush at dawn and camp under the stars.’
Meghan’s birthday trip to Africa included some time in the Meno a Kwena camp in Botswana where they camped out together following their first few dates
September 2017 – Meghan publicly acknowledges her relationship for the first time with Vanity Fair
Meghan spoke openly about her relationship with Harry for the first time in an interview with Vanity Fair for the October 2017 issue.
‘I can tell you that at the end of the day I think it’s really simple. We’re two people who are really happy and in love,’ she said.
‘We were very quietly dating for about six months before it became news, and I was working during that whole time, and the only thing that changed was people’s perception. Nothing about me changed. I’m still the same person that I am, and I’ve never defined myself by my relationship,’ Meghan added.
‘I’m sure there will be a time when we will have to come forward and present ourselves and have stories to tell, but I hope what people will understand is that this is our time. This is for us. It’s part of what makes it so special, that it’s just ours. But we’re happy. Personally, I love a great love story.’
Vanity Fair’s October 2017 edition cover, featuring Meghan Markle and the headline ‘Wild About Harry!’
September 2017 – Joint appearance in Toronto for the Invictus Games
Later that month, Harry and Meghan made their official debut as a couple at the royal’s Invictus Games in Toronto, the actress’ home turf.
While Meghan was seated away from her royal beau at the opening ceremony, the pair later walked hand-in-hand and were affectionate with one another during a wheelchair tennis event at the Games.
At the closing ceremony, Harry briefly left his VIP box to visit Meghan, her mother Doria Ragland, and her friends Jessica Mulroney and Markus Anderson in the luxury Air Canada box. Here he was spotted kissing her on the cheek.
Meghan and Harry attending a wheelchair tennis tournament during their first public outing as a couple during the Invictus Games in Toronto
October 2017 – Harry and Meghan have tea with the Queen
At the end of October it was reported that Harry and Meghan met the Queen for tea.
The meeting was said to have been about an hour long, and Meghan and Harry were escorted to the Royal Lodge in Windsor in station wagons with blacked-out windows.
Recalling the day during their docuseries, Meghan said: ‘There wasn’t like some big moment of, now you’re going to meet my grandmother. I didn’t know I was going to meet her until moments before.
‘We were in the car and we were going to Royal Lodge for lunch, and he’s like, ‘Oh, my grandmother’s here, we’re going to meet her after church’. And I remember we were in the car driving up and he’s like, ‘You know how to curtsy, right?’ And I just thought it was a joke.’
Recounting the ‘intense’ moment meeting the Queen during her Netflix docuseries, she performed a deeply exaggerated curtsy as her husband Harry watched on
November 27, 2017 – They announce their engagement
Harry and Meghan officially announced their engagement on November 27, 2017.
The Palace said in a statement at the time, ‘His Royal Highness and Ms. Markle became engaged in London earlier this month. Prince Harry has informed Her Majesty The Queen and other close members of his family. Prince Harry has also sought and received the blessing of Ms. Markle’s parents.’
The same day, the couple took part in their first photocall in the palace gardens, followed by their first joint televised interview with the BBC.
Here they revealed details about the early stages of their romance and how, they said, the proposal had happened during a quiet night at home over a chicken dinner earlier that month.
‘It was just so sweet and natural and very romantic,’ she recalled. ‘He got on one knee. As a matter of fact, I could barely let [him] finish proposing. I was like, ‘Can I say yes now?’ ‘
Harry proposed to Meghan was a ring with a centre diamond ethically sourced from Botswana, where they had fallen in love, with two outer diamonds from his late mother Princess Diana’s collection.
Prince Harry and Meghan Markle attend an official photocall to announce their engagement at The Sunken Gardens at Kensington Palace on November 27, 2017