Prince Harry & Meghan Markle: A Look Back at Their Love Story

Prince Harry & Meghan Markle: A Look Back at Their Love Story
Image: Chris Jackson/Chris Jackson/Getty Images

meghan markle and prince harry
Chris Jackson/Chris Jackson/Getty Images

It's no surprise that a recent picture of Meghan Markle and Prince Harry smiling at each other under an umbrella while rain falls all around them -- taken as they arrived at the first of their final set of official royal engagements before starting a new life -- has become instantly iconic. It’s the perfect metaphor for their love story, whose timeline started in 2016.

The couple has weathered some serious storms since they started dating that summer. They successfully navigated the challenges of a transatlantic romance, committing early on to make time for each other despite already full schedules. They fought against barefaced attacks from Meghan's estranged family members and the press. They married in front of a billion people, became parents, and made what must have been one of the toughest decisions of their life together.

And if the vibe of the picture is to be believed, Harry and Meghan are still going strong, and are well equipped to handle whatever comes their way next.

But just how did they build their relationship? How did it come about in the first place?

We've got the answers for you right here. But first, understand this was a relationship that no one saw coming, and that few would have predicted. After all, they were from utterly different worlds. Harry was born into immense wealth, privilege, and fame. Meghan came from humbler beginnings, with parents that were in Hollywood, yes, but not swimming in money, and she worked her butt off to establish an acting career. 

And of course, she was biracial, divorced, and American -- which in different times, would have been a no-go from the start for the royal family. After all, Queen Elizabeth had forbidden her own sister from marrying a divorced man, and the reason she became queen at all was because her uncle abdicated the throne to marry a divorced American woman. 

But times change, and Meghan was accepted and welcomed into the royal family, Harry was clearly happy for the first time in a long time, and had found someone who was willing to make the sacrifices and take on the challenges that come with living in a fishbowl. 

No matter what happens next, it's one of the most remarkable love stories to come along in decades. But that is a question, isn't it? Will Meghan and Harry be able to make their new life -- which they are building block by block, step by step, in an unprecedented way -- work? We hope so. After all, they left the royal family with the intent on putting family first. That doesn't just mean taking care of Baby Archie. That means taking care of each other and their marriage, so that their love story can continue. 

Let's look back at how it started in the first place, with a timeline of Meghan and Harry's relationship.

  • July 2016: Meeting on a Blind Date

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    prince harry and meghan markle
    Ben Birchall/AFP via Getty Images

    Meghan and Harry met in July 2016, when they were set up on a blind date while Meghan was in London promoting a new season of Suits. Reports differ as to who played the cupid role, but most say that it was Harry's longtime friend, Violet Von Westerholtz, a Ralph Lauren public relations rep whom Meghan also knew. Meghan and Harry, reportedly met up for drinks at one of Soho House's exclusive London clubs, hit it off immediately, and even made plans to hang out again the following day. Harry later said that he knew Meghan was the one that very night.

  • August 2016: Going on an African Safari

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    Four weeks after meeting, Harry said in the pair's engagement video, the two camped out under the stars on a five-day trip to Botswana, a crucial step in getting to know each other in private, he said. A year later, they returned to the African country to work with Elephants Without Borders, an organization that tracks and protects the animals from poachers, and shared the pictures on the Sussex Royal Instagram account in 2019.    

  • 2016: Long-Distance Dating Begins

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    prince harry and meghan markle walking through hallway
    Andrew Milligan/AFP/Getty Images

    Meghan and Harry dated for nearly five months without the public getting wind of it. After their early London dates, the two "got out their diaries" to see how to make long-distance dating work, Harry said in the engagement interview. At the time, Meghan lived in Toronto, where Suits was filmed, of course. "We never went more than two weeks without seeing each other," Meghan added. 

    Sizzle!

  • October 2016: Rumors of the Romance Are Published

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    Danny Lawson/PA Images/Getty Images

    In late October, rumors began to swirl in British media that Harry and Meghan were dating. Newspapers quoted sources who said that Harry was "besotted" and the happiest he'd been in years. This was one rumor about the couple that was right. In her book, Harry: Life, Loss, and  Love, author and Vanity Fair royal correspondent Kate Nicholl wrote that Harry was in Toronto with Meghan when the news broke, and before the paparazzi couple descend on Meghan's home, the couple high-tailed it to her BFF Jessica Mulroney's home for the rest of his visit. 

  • November 2016: Harry Pens Open Letter to the Press About Meghan

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    Cliff Owen/Pool/Getty Images

    A week after news of the relationship broke, Harry released a strongly worded statement to the British press, expressing his anger at the "sexist and racist" articles on Meghan, who is referred to as his "girlfriend" for the first time. He was likely referencing pieces in the Daily Mail and others that said the Los Angeles-born Meghan was "(almost) straight out of Compton, had a "visibly black" mom with a "gang-scarred" home, and suggested Meghan was a social climber who'd done well for herself -- considering that she was descended from slaves and a maid who had served the royals. 

    One part of the letter, which was written in third person, pretty much predicts the couple's exit from royal life: "He knows commentators will say this is 'the price she has to pay' and that 'this is all part of the game'. He strongly disagrees. This is not a game -- it is her life and his."

  • Subtle Confirmation

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    The press and fans everywhere pretty quickly began to look for confirmation of the relationship -- especially since the couple had avoided being photographed together, and made no comments. Subtle evidence was everywhere, but definitely on Meghan's Instagram which Harry followed via a secret account. For example, she'd once posted a picture of herself at the Soho House in Oxfordshire, England, wearing a beaded bracelet that matched one of Harry's. Other Instagram posts were suspected of being secret messages to her boyfriend across the Atlantic -- like the picture of two bananas spooning, which was captioned: "Sleep tight xx."

  • Meeting the Fam

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    Mark Cuthbert/UK Press/Getty Images

    Harry reportedly introduced Meghan to Prince Charles and Prince William in November 2016 while she was visiting from Toronto, and they all got on well. Charles was so impressed with Meghan and the way she handled her family's antics. (Fun fact: He nicknamed her Tungsten, after the indestructible metal.) Prince Charles, of course, walked her down the aisle at the royal wedding when her father was a no-show. Meghan reportedly met Kate Middleton and Princess Charlotte in early 2017, and the Queen, sometime after that. 

  • December 2016: Meghan & Harry Spend the Holidays Together

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    prince harry and meghan markle under tree
    Samir Hussein/WireImage/Getty Images

    The first pictures of Meghan and Harry together were published in December as they walked through a London neighborhood on their way to a theater to watch a play. Then they gave fans serious #couplesgoals as they were spotted in other places around town, picking out a Christmas tree for Harry's Kensington Palace cottage. Though they spent Christmas apart, they got together again in London for New Year's Eve. 

  • January 2017: A Romantic Trip

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    meghan markle and prince harry in snow
    Max Mumby/Indigo/Getty Images

    Harry pulled out all the stops to impress Meghan when he took her on a trip to Norway in January to see the Northern Lights. He arranged for them to stay at a luxury villa on the coast, surrounded by mountains where they enjoyed lots of privacy, and probably, ahem, lots of indoor time as well. Harry sure knows how to woo. 

  • March 2017: Attending a Friend's Wedding

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    Chris Jackson/Pool/Getty Images

    If meeting the family and going on romantic getaways weren't enough of an indication that Harry and Meghan were getting serious, in March 2017, Meghan was Harry's plus one to the wedding of one of his best friends, Tom Inskip. They spent a few days in Jamaica around the wedding date. At the event, paparazzi photographed the couple (Meghan, wearing a flower-print maxi dress, Harry, wearing a sharp blue suit) chatting up other guests. At this point, fans pretty much figured that the couple's own wedding was in the cards.  

  • April 2017: Meghan Shuts Down The Tig

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    In a major sign that an engagement was imminent, Meghan shut down her lifestyle blog, The Tig, in April 2017. The website was Meghan's passion project, where she shared her thoughts on travel and self-care, and interviewed important female figures. She clearly understood that being with a royal requires major sacrifices, and this was just one of many.  

  • September 2017: Meghan & Harry Go Public

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    meghan markle and prince harry at invictus games
    Danny Lawson/PA Images/Getty Images

    It was the day that royal watchers had been waiting for for a year: Meghan and Harry out and about openly. It came in September 2017, when the lovebirds attended the Invictus Games in Toronto in an official outing. The pictures of the couple laughing together while wearing sunglasses and watching the competitions made headlines around the world. And so did Meghan's outfit: an awesomely un-royal pair of ripped jeans and a shirt by her designer friend Misha Nonoo, called the Husband shirt. It was a breath of fresh air.

    That same month, Meghan covered Vanity Fair and spoke openly about her relationship and the challenges of dating a member of the royal family. Then she boiled it down to one essential statement: "We are two people who are really happy and in love." 

    Enough said.  

  • November 2017: Meghan Wraps 'Suits' & Moves To London

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    Ian Watson/USA Network/NBCU Photo bank/Getty Images

    It was the biggest sacrifice that Meghan made to be with Harry: giving up the acting career that she fought hard to have. She may not have been an A-list star, but she'd managed to build a career for herself that had also helped her achieve another goal: working for important social  causes worldwide. As soon as she wrapped Suits in November 2017 -- with her character getting married and leaving town, no less -- news broke in that Meghan had moved out of her Toronto home and into Nottingham cottage, Harry's tiny place in Kensington Palace. She had begun her new life.

  • Meghan & Harry Get Engaged

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    prince harry and meghan markle engagement photo
    Chris Jackson/Getty Images

    On November 27, 2017, Buckingham Palace announced the couple's engagement, and later that day, Harry and Meghan walked toward the cameras gathered at Kensington Palace for a photocall. Then they sat down for an interview with BBC. Among the many adorable revelations: Harry proposed as he and Meghan were making a roast chicken dinner. (He used diamonds from Diana's collection for Meghan's gorgeous ring.) And then there was this, from Harry, about having a talk with Meghan on the difficulties of royal life: 

    "I know that I'm in love with this girl and I hope that she’s in love with me. But we still had to sit down on the sofa and have some pretty frank conversations with her to say, ‘What you’re letting yourself in for, it’s a big deal. It’s not easy for anybody.’ I know that at the end of the day, she chooses me, and I choose her. And therefore, whatever we have to tackle together, or individually, it’ll always be us together as a team."

  • December 2017: They Start Working Together

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    Karwai Tang/WireImage/Getty Images

    Harry and Meghan hit the ground running, as far as their royal duties were concerned. A week after their engagement announcement, they headed to Nottingham to celebrate World AIDS Day in December 2017. They were mobbed by a huge crowd gathered in front of the venue they were visiting, and took the time to meet them. It was clear, even then, that they were super stars, and a great team. 

  • May 2018: Meghan & Markle Harry Get Married 

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    prince harry and meghan markle at their wedding
    Jonathan Brady/AFP/Getty Images

    By royal standards, it was an unusual wedding. An African American pastor spoke, and called out slavery and colonialism in front of the Queen, the music as exquisite and varied -- from classical cello pieces played by a teenage prodigy to a black church choir -- and Meghan was walked down the aisle by her future father-in-law. But at the end of the day, Harry and Meghan's wedding was a wedding like any other -- bonding two people who were in love and clearly over the moon.

  • October 2018: Pregnancy Announcement

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    meghan markle arriving at eugenie's wedding
    Gareth Fuller/AFP/Getty Images

    When Meghan stepped out of her car to attend Princess Eugenie's wedding in October 2018, we immediately knew something was different about her. She had a certain glow, and a certain bulge peeking out from her loose clothes. Yup, she was pregnant. Sure, Eugenie's gown and tiara were stunning. But this was the (suspected) news of the day, though an announcement wouldn't be made till a few days after.

  • May 2019: Archie Harrison Is born

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    Dominic Lipinski/WPA Pool/Getty Images

    And then there were three. 

    Archie Harrison was born on May 6, 2019. And contrary to royal tradition, Meghan and Harry kept the details of the location of his birth -- as well as of the act itself -- to themselves. Meghan also made the choice not to trot herself out to be photographed, but wait a couple of days to introduce him to the world. They made the choice to enjoy their baby in privacy as the new family they were. When they did bring him out to be photographed, and we saw his little face poking out of his blankie, OMG, our ovaries protested that our eggs were not being used to create life. 

    That is all.