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London in June is unpredictable but expectations are always high. The weather can be sunny or pouring with rain but cafes and clubs are bustling with people ready to make the most out of the British summer.
On one such early June evening in 2016, an American actress was waiting at an exclusive members club in Soho to meet who she was hoping would be her Prince Charming.
Harry and Meghan: Relationship timeline
Fashion designer Misha Nonoo had suggested to her mutual friends, Suits star Meghan Markle and Prince Harry that they meet up for a date hoping that they would hit it off.
And it was the start of a beautiful romance for the couple.
"The second date I was starting to think: this is pretty special," Prince Harry told James Corden on The Late Late Show with James Corden in February this year.
"Dating with me, or with any member of the royal family I guess, is kind of flipped upside down," he said. "All the dates become dinners or watching the TV or chatting at home. And then eventually, once you become a couple you venture out to dinners, to the cinema, and everything else. So, everything was done back to front with us."
"There were no distractions, and that was great, that was an amazing thing. We went from 0 to 60 like in the first two months," Harry added.
It wasn't until October 2016 that the press and public got an inkling that Prince Harry was in a new relationship and of course, royal watchers were thrilled.
But as the fever around the new royal romance increased, Harry felt the need to not just confirm that they were indeed a couple but also to protect his new partner.
In a long a critical statement from the palace on Harry's behalf, they not only confirmed his relationship with Meghan but condemned some of the coverage and trolling she was receiving.
"Prince Harry is worried about Ms. Markle’s safety and is deeply disappointed that he has not been able to protect her," the statement read. "It is not right that a few months into a relationship with him that Ms. Markle should be subjected to such a storm. 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."
Just like a classic British RomCom (think Love Actually!), the first time the couple was spotted together was when they picked out a Christmas tree together in Battersea Park. The following night they were photographed going to the theatre together in London's West End.
In January 2017 they jetted off on their first holiday together to Norway to see the Northern Lights. From there it was a year of weddings, polo matches and London date nights together culminating in a three-week romantic African getaway to celebrate Meghan's 36th birthday.
Dating a prince gave Meghan greater reach than she had as an actress and in October she graced the cover of Vanity Fair.
"It has its challenges, and it comes in waves—some days it can feel more challenging than others," she said in her interview with the magazine. "And right out of the gate it was surprising the way things changed."
But she also acknowledged that it was her relationship with Harry that got her through. "I can tell you that at the end of the day I think it’s really simple, we’re two people who are really happy and in love," she said.
"We’re a couple, we’re in love. 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."
When Meghan left her role as Rachel Zane in Suits in November 2017, gossip was rife that an engagement announcement was imminent. After all, she had met Harry's father, Prince Charles, and importantly she had been introduced to the Queen.
Just two weeks later it was official – Prince Harry and Meghan Markle were engaged to be married.
In their official engagement interview with the BBC, Meghan revealed that Harry got down on one knee while the pair were roasting a chicken at their Kensington Palace cottage.
Harry added that the proposal happened “a few weeks ago” at Kensington Palace and the whole thing was “very romantic”.
Royal watchers didn't have to wait long for the wedding either. A spring ceremony at Windsor Castle was set for May 2018.
Around 600 guests watched Meghan walk down the aisle at St. George's Chapel at the castle to say 'I do' to her real-life prince.
She wore a simple yet beautiful Givenchy boat-necked gown and the elegant Queen Mary Bandeau tiara for the ceremony, instantly putting her into an elite group of royal and celebrity brides.
When the newly appointed Duke and Duchess of Sussex left the castle to go to their reception, Meghan had changed into a floor-length halter necked dress designed by Stella McCartney and Harry had changed from his Military dress uniform into black tie.
As they zoomed off to Frogmore House in an E-Type Jaguar, they looked more like the leads in a Bond movie than a stuffy royal couple!
The couple quickly settled into life at Frogmore Cottage, the house they'd been gifted by the Queen in the grounds of Windsor Castle. They renovated the house to suit their own style and in preparation to start their family.
And the surprise announcement of Meghan's pregnancy came a short time later in October 2018 during the couple's first royal tour of Australia, New Zealand, Fiji and Tonga
"Their Royal Highnesses The Duke and Duchess of Sussex are very pleased to announce that The Duchess of Sussex is expecting a baby in the Spring of 2019," a statement read on official royal social media sites.
News of the pregnancy didn't stop the couple from various engagements ahead of the Invictus Games in Sydney.
In February 2019, Meghan headed to the States for a much-needed catch-up with her friends. Tennis star Serena Williams, a close pal of the duchess, threw her an extravagant baby shower at the Mark Hotel's penthouse suite in New York.
Ahead of the birth of their first child together, it was announced that the Duke and Duchess of Sussex would be formally splitting from Kensington Palace marking an end to the fab four – Princes William and Harry, Kate and Meghan.
Later, Meghan would admit that this was a period of time when she was really struggling with her mental health.
"I was ashamed to say it at the time and ashamed to have to admit it to Harry. But I knew that if I didn't say it — then I would do it," the Duchess of Sussex told Oprah Winfrey in a bombshell interview earlier this year. "I just didn't want to be alive anymore."
Luckily Harry was there for her and supported her through this difficult time and their son Archie Harrison Mountbatten-Windsor was born not long after on May 6th, 2019.
Revelling in their time as a new family, the couple enjoyed private time together but also fitted in a royal tour with Archie to their beloved Africa in September 2019.
Sussexes step back
However, in January 2020, the couple shocked the world by announcing that they would be withdrawing from their official royal roles.
"We intend to step back as ‘senior’ members of the Royal Family and work to become financially independent, while continuing to fully support Her Majesty The Queen," they said in a statement on Instagram.
"We now plan to balance our time between the United Kingdom and North America, continuing to honour our duty to The Queen, the Commonwealth, and our patronages."
The repercussions of their choice were not only felt within the royal family but amongst royal followers as well. But their 'Mexit' as it was termed (after Brexit to represent Britain exiting Europe) didn't go as smoothly as they hoped.
While they quickly departed the UK initially for Canada and then Santa Barbara in California, senior royals were still trying to work out how they could contribute while being both in and out of the royal family.
And the duke and duchess' plans to become financially independent didn't always match with royal duties either. Added to that was the global pandemic that stopped everything in its tracks.
In September 2020, Harry and Meghan announced that they would be launching a media career, founding a production company and signing a multi-million dollar deal with streaming giant Netflix.
"Our focus will be on creating content that informs but also gives hope," the couple said in a statement. "As new parents, making inspirational family programming is also important to us."
This helped them gain their financial independence, paying off the taxpayer-funded renovations to Frogmore cottage that they'd now given up and being able to pay their own way.
Loss then joy
But sad news soon followed, the couple revealed that they were mourning the loss of their second child. In a personal essay in The New York Times in November 2020, Meghan wrote about the miscarriage she'd had in July that year.
"I felt a sharp cramp. I dropped to the floor with [Archie] in my arms, humming a lullaby to keep us both calm, the cheerful tune a stark contrast to my sense that something was not right. I knew, as I clutched my firstborn child, that I was losing my second," Meghan wrote.
But life must go on, as many women who have suffered devastating miscarriages know, and Meghan and Harry continued to build their media relationships with podcasting deals with Spotify — then in February 2021 were able to announce joyous news.
"We can confirm that Archie is going to be a big brother. The Duke and Duchess of Sussex are overjoyed to be expecting their second child," a spokesperson for the couple told Insider.
Also in February, Buckingham Palace announced that the couple would no longer be a part of the working Royals and while they retained their title as the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, they would be losing all their charity patronages and Harry would have to give up his military appointments.
"The Duke and Duchess of Sussex have confirmed to Her Majesty The Queen that they will not be returning as working members of The Royal Family," Buckingham Palace said in a statement. "While all are saddened by their decision, The Duke and Duchess remain much-loved members of the family."
Baby #2 and big plans
The start of their media engagements — an interview with talk show queen Oprah Winfrey in March this year — caused or controversy for the couple and took the glean off their gender reveal as they were seen to criticise the royal family and the Queen herself.
Less than a month later, Harry headed back to the UK to attend his grandfather's funeral solo, as pregnant Meghan was unable to fly. Harry was close to Prince Philip but tensions must have been high after that tell-all interview.
Harry and Meghan's daughter was born on June 4th, 2021 in California. They honoured the Queen by naming her Lilibet — Queen Elizabeth's childhood nickname — and gave her the middle name Diana after Harry's beloved mother.
With their family now complete (they told Oprah "they are done" with having children after Lilibet), the couple were again focussed on work and building their brand.
Meghan celebrated her 40th birthday in August with a video on their Archwell site launching her 40x40 campaign to aid women re-entering the workforce.
"I have asked 40 friends, activists, athletes, artists, and world leaders to help kickoff a global effort by contributing 40 MINUTES OF MENTORSHIP to support women re-entering the workforce," Meghan revealed on the site.
Harry and Meghan also posed for their first joint magazine cover for Time's '100 powerful changemakers' list in September and have announced this month that they will be partnering with Ethic investment company.
"We want to rethink the nature of investing to help solve the global issues we all face," the couple said in a statement on their website.
Prince Harry also launched a global campaign in partnership with environmental non-profit Re:wild.
And in late September, they embarked on a short tour of New York City, their first since quitting their roles with the royal family.
So despite their want of privacy, Harry and Meghan continue to use their celebrity status for good and that will keep them in the public eye for the foreseeable future.
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