Prince Harry and Meghan Markle's fairy tale romance is just beginning.
Clarence House announced Monday that the prince proposed to the Suits actress earlier this month in London—after receiving her parents' blessing, of course. "We're thrilled. We're both thrilled," Prince Charles said on behalf of himself and Camilla Parker-Bowles, Duchess of Cornwall. "We hope they'll be very happy indeed." This will be the first marriage for Harry and the second for Meghan, who was married to Heathers producer Trevor Engelson for two years.
Hours after announcing their engagement, Harry, 33, and Meghan, 36, hosted a photo op in Kensington Palace's Sunken Gardens, one of the late Princess Diana's favorite spots. For her debut as Harry's fiancée, the bride-to-be modeled a white coat by Line the Label, an emerald green dress by P.A.R.O.S.H, nude pumps by Aquazzura, and yellow gold and opal earrings by Les Plaisirs de Birks. Of course, Meghan also flashed her engagement ring, which Harry himself designed with a center stone from Botswana and two smaller diamonds from Diana's collection.
In a brief Q&A with members of the press, Harry said they are "thrilled" to be tying the knot, and joked that he was "very glad it's not raining!" Harry's fiancée added that she is "so happy." The duo had just taped their first joint TV interview, which aired in the U.K. later that evening.
BBC News broadcaster Mishal Husain interviewed the couple about their relationship's origins. A new documentary, titled Harry And Meghan: A Royal Engagement, aired afterward on BBC1.
In the interview, Harry and Meghan said a mutual friend—whom they declined to name, out of respect for her privacy—had introduced them. They went on two dates in July 2016, and after three or four weeks, Harry said, "I managed to persuade her to come and join me in Botswana. We camped out with each other under the stars." They spent five days in Africa, "which was absolutely fantastic." It gave them a chance to be by themselves, away from the world, Harry said, "which was crucial to me to make sure that we had a chance to get to know each other."
This wasn't just any set-up, either—it was a blind date. "It's so interesting, because we talk about it now, and even then...you know, because I'm from the States, you don't grow up with this same understanding of the royal family," Meghan said. "I now understand very clearly: there's a global interest there. I didn't know much about him, and so the only thing I had asked her when she said she wanted to set us up was...'Is he nice?' Because if he wasn't kind, it just didn't seem like it would make sense. And so we went and met for a drink, and then I think very quickly into [our first date] we said, 'What are we doing tomorrow? We we should meet again.'"
"It was like, 'Right! Diaries! We need to get the diaries out and find out how we're going to make this work,'" Harry said, jumping in. "Because I was off to Africa for a month and she was working. We just said, 'Right, where's the gap?' And the gap happened to be the perfect place."
For the first six months, they kept their budding relationship under wraps, giving them time to "connect" on a deeper level. During their courtship, Meghan said, "We never went longer than two weeks without seeing each other, even though we were obviously doing a long-distance relationship." Despite his royal responsibilities and her TV filming schedule, "We made it work."
Just as she'd known little about Harry, he knew little about her before their first date. "I'd never even heard about her until this friend said 'Meghan Markle.' I was like, 'Right? OK, right. Give me a bit of background? Like, what going on here?'" Harry recalled as Meghan laughed. "So, no, I'd never...I'd never watched Suits. I never heard of Meghan before, and I was beautifully surprised when I walked into that room and saw her. There she was, sitting there. I was like 'OK, well, I'm going to have to up my game [and] have a sit down and make sure I've got good chat.'"
The unfamiliarity worked in their favor. "I think for both of us, it was really refreshing," Meghan explained, "because given that I didn't] know a lot about him, everything I've learned about him, I learned through him—as opposed to having grown up around different news stories or tabloids or whatever else. Anything I learned about his family was what he would share with me, and vice versa. It was just a really authentic and organic way to get to know each other."
Harry added, "It was hugely refreshing to be able to get to know someone who isn't necessarily within your circle, doesn't know much about me, I don't know much about her, so to be able to start almost afresh...taking that huge leap of only two dates and going on holiday together in the middle of nowhere...It was absolutely amazing to get to know her [in those circumstances]."
The proposal happened a few weeks ago at their cottage in Kensington Palace. "It was a cozy night," Meghan told the BBC. "We were roasting chicken. It was just an amazing surprise. It was so sweet and natural and very romantic. He got down on one knee." Her fiancé chimed in, "It was a really nice moment—it was just the two of us. I think I managed to catch her by surprise."
Meghan, still giddy over the romantic gesture, leaned into her soon-to-be husband and recalled, "As a matter of fact, I could barely let you finish proposing! I said, 'Can I say yes now!'"
"She didn't even let me finish. She said, 'Can I say yes? Can I say yes?' Then were hugs, and I had the ring in my finger, and I was like, 'Can I give you the ring?'" Harry said with a smile. "She goes, 'Oh! Yes! The ring!'" Later, Meghan said she wouldn't calls theirs a "whirlwind romance," despite how it may look to the public. "I think we were able to really have so much time just to connect, and we never went longer than two weeks without seeing each other, even though we were obviously doing a long distance relationship, " she explained. "So, it's...we made it work."
Harry and Meghan will tie the knot in the spring of 2018, Clarence House said.
Prince William and Kate Middleton, who will welcome Baby No. 3 in April 2018, were among the first to congratulate the couple. "We are very excited for Harry and Meghan," the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, who tied the knot on Apr. 29, 2011, said in a statement Monday. "It has been wonderful getting to know Meghan and to see how happy she and Harry are together."
"We are incredibly happy for Meghan and Harry. Our daughter has always been a kind and loving person. To see her union with Harry, who shares the same qualities, is a source of great joy for us as parents," Meghan's parents said in a joint statement, issued through Clarence House. "We wish them a lifetime of happiness and are very excited for their future together."