She may be an American actress about to marry a prince, but according to Meghan Markle: “It’s really simple. We’re two people who are really happy and in love.”
The romance between Markle, star of the US drama Suits, and the Queen’s grandson Prince Harry blossomed when they were introduced by friends in London in July 2016.
Prince Harry and Meghan holding hands at the Invictus Games (Danny Lawson/PA Images)
When news of their relationship broke several months later, smitten Harry was described as being happier than he had been in years.
Theatre dates followed, along with romantic African holidays and expeditions to see the Northern Lights, and a shopping trip to buy a Christmas tree together for Harry’s Kensington Palace pad.
Meghan Markle fanned the flames of speculation over her romance with Prince Harry in online posts (Meghan Markle/Instagram)
Being in a long distance relationship meant plenty of jet-setting between Markle’s home in Toronto and Harry’s in London to see one another as much as they could, amid reports Markle was staying so much at Harry’s home she had practically moved in.
The pair share a strong bond through their philanthropy, with Harry supporting veterans and mental health organisations via his charity work, and Markle pursuing her role as a humanitarian campaigner.
Even in its early days their union appeared to be a serious one.
Six months in and just days after it became public they were dating, Harry took the unusual step of issuing a lengthy statement condemning media treatment of his girlfriend and criticising the “wave of abuse and harassment” she was facing.
“Prince Harry is worried about Ms Markle’s safety and is deeply disappointed that he has not been able to protect her,” his office said.
The statement added: “This is not a game, it is her life and his.”
It was Markle who offered the biggest insight into their affair when she was interviewed by Vanity Fair magazine in September 2017 after they had been dating for just over a year.
She revealed they were in love and declared: “This is our time.”
“I can tell you that at the end of the day I think it’s really simple,” she said.
“We’re two people who are really happy and in love.
“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.”
Harry and Meghan, with friend Jessica Mulroney, Meghan’s mother Doria Ragland and friend Markus Anderson at the Invictus Games Closing Ceremony in September (PA)
She 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.”
Whereas the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge rarely hold hands in public, Harry and Markle arrived at their first official public appearance together hand in hand.
At the Invictus Games in September 2017 where they watched the wheelchair tennis, the tactile pair were clearly devoted to one another, and at the closing ceremony a few days later, the Prince was spotted kissing his girlfriend on the cheek.