Britain’s Prince Harry is to marry his US actress girlfriend Meghan Markle early next year it was announced Monday, with the Queen leading a chorus of approval and best wishes for the couple who got engaged in secret earlier this month.
Royal officials ended fevered speculation about the 33-year-old prince, once the bad boy of the House of Windsor but now seen as one of its biggest assets.
“His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales is delighted to announce the engagement of Prince Harry to Ms Meghan Markle. The wedding will take place in Spring 2018,” Clarence House, Prince Charles’s office, said a statement.
The couple’s engagement was sealed in London and the prince then informed his grandmother Queen Elizabeth II, close members of the royal family and had also sought the blessing of Markle’s parents.
“The Queen and The Duke of Edinburgh are delighted for the couple and wish them every happiness,” said a message on the monarch’s official Twitter page.
The couple will live at Nottingham Cottage in London’s Kensington Palace, where his brother William and his pregnant wife Kate live with their two children.
Harry’s 36-year-old bride-to-be is best known for her role as a lawyer in the hit television show “Suits”.
Reports that Markle, who is expected to become a duchess, was moving her two dogs — Guy and Bogart — to London further fuelled rumours of the first royal wedding since William and Kate in 2011.
The actress’s parents Thomas Markle and Doria Ragland said in a statement they were “incredibly happy” and wished the couple “a lifetime of happiness.”
“Our daughter has always been a kind and loving person,” they said. “To see her union with Harry, who shares the same qualities, is a source of great joy for us as parents.”
– ‘Huge celebration’ –
Wellwishers gathered outside Buckingham Palace, including Donna, 46, who called the news “amazing”.
“He looks very happy, it’s great for him,” she told AFP.
“It says a lot for the royal family, younger people are interested, and more people care about the royal family, they feel that both of the sons are much more down with the people.”
“It is good for the country,” added John Egan, 72.
“The royal family is too tight, too controlled, the older ones exist in the last century, they really need to modernise.”
Harry, son of Prince Charles and the late princess Diana, spent 10 years in the British army, serving two tours of duty in Afghanistan, but hit the headlines for his partying and his outspoken criticism of the media, whom he blames for the death of his mother.
However, he has turned himself into one of the royal family’s most popular figures after defining a role as a caring but robust champion of veterans.
William and Kate said they were “very excited for Harry and Meghan.”
“It has been wonderful getting to know Meghan and to see how happy she and Harry are together,” said the couple.
Harry and Meghan met last year and the relationship was confirmed by Kensington Palace, which handles communication for Prince Harry, following speculation in the press.
Exasperated by the media frenzy, the palace also released a statement attacking the “sexism” and “racism” that Markle, who is of mixed race, faced in the press.
Prime Minister Theresa May offered her “warmest congratulations” to the couple upon their engagement.
“This is a time of huge celebration for two people in love,” she wrote on her official Twitter page.”
“I wish them great happiness for the future.”
Bookmakers have already started taking wedding related bets, with Westminster Abbey a firm favourite to host the event and fashion label Alexander McQueen favourite to design the dress.
Paddy Power is offering odds to 7/1 for Markle to be already pregnant when she walks down the aisle, while Elton John, who had was close to princess Diana, is 6/1 to perform at the service.