Prince Harry has said he is “thrilled” after announcing that he is to marry the American actor Meghan Markle next spring.
Congratulations have flooded in for the couple, who appeared in public for a photoshoot at Kensington Palace on Monday afternoon, hours after making their engagement public.
Holding hands, the couple spoke briefly. Harry, wearing a navy blue suit and matching tie, said he was “thrilled, over the moon”. He declined to give details about the engagement, which happened this month in London, but joked: “Of course it was romantic.” Asked when he knew Markle was “the one”, he said: “The very first time we met.”
Markle, wearing a white wrap coat, displayed her engagement ring and said she was “so very happy”, rubbing Harry’s arm affectionately as the couple smiled for the cameras.
The couple will move into a two-bedroom Nottingham Cottage in the grounds of Kensington Palace after the wedding.
The announcement of their engagement was made by Clarence House on behalf of Prince Charles earlier on Monday. Later, the Prince of Wales, speaking for himself and the Duchess of Cornwall, said: “We’re both thrilled. We hope they’ll be very happy indeed.”
The Queen, Prince Philip, the prime minister, Theresa May, and Jeremy Corbyn, the Labour leader, were among others who offered their congratulations.
Downing Street moved quickly to dampen speculation that there would be a bank holiday to celebrate the wedding. The prime minister’s spokesman said: “There are no plans for a bank holiday. There isn’t precedent in this area. There was no bank holiday for Prince Andrew’s wedding in 1986 or Prince Edward’s in 1999.”
However, the wedding of Princess Anne, the Queen’s second-eldest child, and Mark Phillips in 1973 was marked by a bank holiday.
The ceremony is likely to be conducted by Justin Welby, the archbishop of Canterbury, who said he was delighted by the news and had been impressed by Harry’s “immense love for his family”.
Harry’s brother and sister-in-law, Prince William and Kate, said: “We are very excited for Harry and Meghan. It has been wonderful getting to know Meghan and to see how happy she and Harry are together.”
Details of the venue and timing of the wedding are expected to be released on Tuesday, with aides saying only that it will be “a happy church wedding”. March is the most likely month, leaving enough time to ensure Kate is not about to give birth to her third child.
News of the wedding will prompt a media frenzy that is likely to further test Harry’s relationship with the press. The prince, 33, spoke out about the way Markle, who is divorced, was portrayed when news of the relationship became public just over a year ago.
He condemned some of the newspaper reports and comment pieces as racist – Markle, 36, is of mixed race – and sexist. His spokesman criticised the “racial undertones of comment pieces” and referred to “the nightly legal battles to keep defamatory stories out of papers”.
Among the headlines that were believed to have angered the palace was one on Mailonline.com that read: “Harry’s girl is (almost) straight outta Compton”, referring to the city in Los Angeles that has become known for gang violence.
Harry also complained of “a smear on the front page” of the Sun, which ran still images of Markle in the television drama Suits appearing on Pornhub, an adult website. It was headlined “Harry girl’s on Pornhub” even though what was posted were clips of intimate scenes from the programme, and not pornography.
The news sparked a torrent of vitriol against Markle on Twitter and other social media platforms as well as in public comments below online news stories.
Markle has spoken of her heritage as a source of pride. “My dad is Caucasian and my mom is African American,” she has said in the past. “To say who I am, to share where I’m from, to voice my pride in being a strong, confident mixed-race woman.”
Harry is understood to have told his close staff two weeks ago that he wanted to make the engagement public, and planning has been under way since then.
The delay in the announcement was partly due to Markle needing to finish filming on Suits, which she completed the week before last.
Like her fiance, Markle has been involved in humanitarian work. She has travelled to Rwanda as a global ambassador for World Vision Canada and has worked as a women’s advocate for the UN.
Her parents, Thomas Markle and Doria Ragland, said in a statement on Monday: “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. We wish them a lifetime of
happiness and are very excited for their future together.”
Thomas Markle is a former Emmy award-winning television lighting director who worked on shows including Married With Children and General Hospital. He married Ragland in 1979, but they divorced in 1988. Tennessee-born Ragland is a former TV makeup artist and lives in Los Angeles.
Markle and Harry were reportedly introduced by the consultant Markus Anderson in 2016. Their relationship became public after about six months.
As well as the tone of the coverage of Markle, there have been complaints of harassment, a sensitive subject for Harry given the circumstances of his mother Princess Diana’s death 20 years ago. Kensington Palace protested last year at the “bombardment of nearly every friend, co-worker, and loved one in [Markle’s] life”.
In September this year, in an interview with Vanity Fair, Markle spoke about her relationship with Harry, saying: “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.”
In the same month, the couple made their first public appearance, at the Invictus Games in Toronto.
A Buckingham Palace spokesman said the Queen and Duke of Edinburgh “are delighted for the couple and wish them every happiness”.
May offered her “very warmest congratulations” to the couple. The prime minister said in a statement: “This is a time of huge celebration and excitement for two people in love and, on behalf of myself, the government and the country, I wish them great happiness for the future.”
Corbyn said: “I hope they have a great time and great fun together, and having met Harry a couple of times I’m sure they’re going to have a great deal of fun.”
The wedding will be the first involving a senior royal since William married Kate at Westminster Abbey on 29 April 2011.
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