Prince Harry and Meghan Markle's romance is, in many ways, unconventional.
After a year and a half of dating, Harry, 33, proposed to Meghan, 36, during what they described as a "typical night" at home. As they revealed in a BBC News interview, they were "roasting a chicken" at their Kensington Palace cottage earlier this month when Harry got down on one knee. He gave the Suits actress a ring of his own design, using a center stone he sourced from Botswana, flanked by two smaller diamonds—from his mother's Princess Diana's archives.
During their courtship, they did their best to "stay as close as possible, but on two different time zones," Harry explained. "Five hours apart does have its challenges, but we made it work." Meghan was filming USA's Suits in Toronto, often reporting directly to set at 4 a.m. after long flights. Harry, meanwhile, was carrying out royal engagements in the U.K. and other territories.
Meghan will now leave her acting career behind to focus building a new life as a royal philanthropist. She isn't just entering into a marriage—she's entering into a royal marriage, one that comes with a certain set of expectations and responsibilities. Harry was born into the spotlight, of course, so he's been coaching her on how to handle her newfound fame. "I think I can very safely say, as naïve as it sounds now, having gone through this learning curve in the past year and a half, I did not have any understanding of just what it would be like. I don't think either of us did," Meghan said. Turning to his fiancée, Harry said, "I tried to warn you as much as possible, but I think both of us were totally surprised by the reaction [to our relationship]."
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Harry had "frank" discussions with Meghan on their sofa, he said, to ensure she knew what being with him would entail. "I think you can have as many conversations as you want and try to prepare as much as possible, but we were totally unprepared for what happened after that," he said. In the beginning, especially, Meghan's ethnicity was scrutinized—prompting the prince to come to her rescue—and, in a rare move, issue a statement in the biracial actress' defense.
"Of course it's disheartening," Meghan said of the racist commentary. "It's a shame that that is the climate in this world, to focus that much on that." The "discriminatory" comments hurt her feelings, of course, but she learned to ignore them. "At the end of the day, I'm really proud of who I am and where I come from. We have never put any focus on that. We've just focused on who we are as a couple. And so, when you take all those extra layers away and all of that noise, I think it makes it really easy to just enjoy being together and tune all of the rest of that out."
Admittedly, neither Harry nor Meghan knew much about each other before they began dating. And the once-married, L.A.-born actress certainly didn't know what it was like to be in a relationship with one of the world's most eligible bachelors. "There's a misconception that because I have worked in the entertainment industry, that this would be something I would be familiar with. But even though I'd been on my show for, I guess six years at that point...I've never been part of tabloid culture. I've never been in pop culture to that degree. I lived a relatively quiet life, even though I focused so much on my job," Meghan explained. "So, that was a really stark difference out of the gate. I think we were just hit so hard at the beginning with a lot of mistruths that I made the choice to not read anything, positive or negative. It just didn't make sense, and instead we focused all of our energy just on nurturing our relationship."
Meghan's family and friends were initially "concerned" about her dating Harry, she said, "because we got very quickly swept up in a media storm...But they also had never seen me so happy. After they met him, and time passed, she said, "It was obvious that no matter what we were being put through, it was temporary—and we were going to be able to get through that."
During their candid conversations about how to navigate life in the public eye, Harry said he repeatedly asked Megan if she knew "what you're letting yourself in for," because as his late mother would attest, "It's a big deal." In fact, he often told Meghan, "It's not easy for anybody." Harry eventually realized she would be "unbelievably good" at the "job part" of their marriage. "I know that at the end of the day, she chooses me and I choose her," Harry said. "Therefore, whatever we have to tackle—together or individually—it will always be us together as a team."
With that, Meghan gazed at Harry lovingly and commented, "So nicely said, isn't it?
"The fact that I fell in love with Meghan so quickly was confirmation for me that all the stars were aligned," Harry explained, all while holding Meghan's hand. "Everything was just perfect."
And in the end, Meghan said, "It's all been worth every effort."