The engagement of Britain’s Prince Harry to actress Meghan Markle is raising eyebrows on both sides of the Atlantic for a particularly British set of reasons: She’s a biracial woman who will be the first American divorcée to marry into the royal family in nearly 81 years.
Harry, the 33-year-old second son of Prince Charles and the late Princess Diana, quietly proposed to Markle earlier this month. On Tuesday, the royal family announced that Markle will become a British citizen before she marries Harry during a May 2018 ceremony in Windsor Castle. The young couple will live in Nottingham Cottage, part of London’s Kensington Palace.
The famously secretive royal family made the engagement public on Monday. In an interview that evening with the BBC’s Mishal Husain, Markle said she and Harry met in July 2016 on a blind date set up by a mutual friend, then cemented their relationship during a camping trip to Botswana. She said Harry asked her to marry him during what she described as a “cozy night” at home.
“It was so sweet and natural and very romantic. He got down on one knee,” she told the BBC. “As a matter of fact, I could barely let you finish proposing. I said, ‘Can I say yes now?'”
The engagement sets the stage for the first royal wedding since Harry’s older brother William, the heir to the British throne, married Kate Middleton in 2011. Nearly 23 million Americans watched TV coverage of the wedding, outstripping the number who had watched Charles’s wedding to Diana in 1981 (the ring Harry gave to Markle included several diamonds that had belonged to his late mother).
The engagement also ends months of speculation about the future of Harry’s relationship with Markle, who took the unusual step of cooperating with an extensive Vanity Fair profile earlier this year.
Markle is no Kate Middleton, who kept a low public profile while dating William and has seamlessly slid into the public role expected of the woman who will be Britain’s next queen.
That’s not just because Markle hails from Los Angeles — she is also divorced, half-Jewish, and biracial. Her mother is African American; her father is white, and Jewish.
It’s also because Markle had a high-profile role on the USA Network show Suits and ran the Tig, a lifestyle blog.