In celebration of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex’s fifth wedding anniversary, Express.co.uk looks back at their love story: from a discreet first date in London to finding happiness in California.
Unknown to her and the world, less than a year later, the hypothetical would become a reality.
Harry and Meghan’s love story began with a quick date in 2016 and peaked with a royal wedding on May 19, 2018.
Having initially been destined for a life of royal service, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex made the difficult decision to live their lives outside of the monarchy.
Since then, the pair have established their own careers, with notable projects including Meghan’s award-winning podcast Archetypes and Harry’s tell-all memoir Spare.
Here, Express.co.uk looks back at the highlights of Harry and Meghan’s relationship throughout the years.
Harry and Meghan celebrate their fifth wedding anniversary on May 19
July 2016: First meeting in the City
Harry first met his future wife during the summer of 2016. The pair connected online through a mutual friend, with the Duke admitting a particular photograph of Meghan caught his attention.
In the first episode of Harry & Meghan, the couple’s Netflix documentary series which aired in December, Harry revealed a Snapchat photo of their friend and Meghan using the dog filter piqued his interest.
“Meghan and I met over Instagram. I was scrolling through my feed and someone who was a friend had a video of the two of them, like a Snapchat,” he explained. “With dog ears. That was the first thing. I was like: ‘Who is that?’”
After texting back and forth, the two met for the first time at Soho House in London, when Meghan was in the city for Wimbledon. As the Duchess recalled, Harry was late, but the Prince soon made up for his tardy arrival, with sparks instantly flying between him and the Suits actress.
Authors of Finding Freedom, Omid Scobie and Carolyn Durand, quoted a friend of the couple in their book, who said the pair were “almost obsessed with each other”.
Harry and Meghan met again the following evening, a meeting which only affirmed the pair’s certainties about each other. “That was when it just hit me. ‘Okay, this girl, this woman is amazing, is everything that I’ve been looking for. And she’s so comfortable and so relaxed in my company,’” Harry said.
Harry and Meghan on their second date at Soho House
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August 2016: Third date in Africa
Just weeks after they first met, Harry invited Meghan to spend five days with him in Botswana.
“It was three, maybe four, weeks later that I managed to persuade her to come [and] join me in Botswana, and we camped out with each other, under the stars,” he recalled during their post-engagement BBC interview in 2017.
“She came and joined me for five days out there, which was absolutely fantastic. Then we were really by ourselves, which was crucial to me to make sure that we had a chance to get to know each other.”
Mr Scobie and Ms Durand wrote: “A friend said: ‘She came back smiling and just completely spellbound.’ Her phone was full of photos — the nature they had seen, candid snaps of herself, and selfies with Harry.
“According to the friend, if Meghan didn’t have to return to Canada for work and Harry to his life in London, ‘they would have happily spent the entire summer there together’. Meghan said that she and Harry talked so much, about things she rarely shared with anyone.”
The Duke and Duchess of Sussex’s third date took them to Botswana
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October 2016: Important introductions
The first few months of their relationship were a whirlwind and their romance had blossomed without the pressure of the public eye.
But after the summer had drawn to a close, The Sunday Express reported Britain’s bachelor prince was dating the American actress. A source told the paper Harry was “happier than he’s been for many years”.
Despite the world being in the loop, Harry and Meghan continued to carry out their relationship in private.
Low-key royal introductions were made, with Princess Eugenie, Jack Brooksbank, Sarah Ferguson and Queen Elizabeth II being among the first to meet Harry’s new girlfriend.
The Prince detailed Meghan’s first meeting with his grandmother in his memoir Spare. “We entered the large front sitting room and there she was. Granny. The monarch. Queen Elizabeth II. Standing in the middle of the room,” he wrote. “She turned slightly. Meg went straight to her and dropped a deep, flawless curtsey…It was all very pleasant.”
In the months that followed, the Prince embarked on secret trips to Canada, and Meghan called herself the “luckiest girl in the world”.
Eugenie and Jack were among the first royals to meet Meghan
November 2016: Unprecedented action
However, with the public’s knowledge of the relationship came intense scrutiny, largely concerning Meghan.
Harry was forced to issue a statement about concerns regarding her safety. While confirming their relationship for the first time, the Prince also slammed the press coverage surrounding his girlfriend. He noted much of the rhetoric had been sexist and racist, and asked the press to back off.
“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.”
A month later, in December, the two were photographed in public together for the first time. Their debut was followed by another sweet outing in London around the festive season.
They continued to date quietly, with known highlights including a holiday to the small Norwegian town of Tromvik, a lowkey attendance at Pippa Middleton’s wedding, and a return trip to Africa to celebrate Meghan’s 36th birthday. It wasn’t until the following year that the couple would make their relationship public.
Meghan faced intense media interest
September 2017: ‘We’re in love’
Meghan acknowledged her romance for the first time in an interview with Vanity Fair, revealing she and Harry were “in love”.
“We’re a couple,” she told the October issue of the magazine. “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.”
Their official debut came soon after. Meghan and Harry attended a tennis event during the Invictus Games in Toronto, which the Prince hosted, where they were joined by Meghan’s mother Doria Ragland.
Harry and Meghan at the Invictus Games in 2017
November 2017: Engagement announcement
Kensington Palace announced the pair had officially gotten engaged — after just over a year of dating — on November 27.
Harry had proposed at their home two weeks earlier, Nottingham Cottage, not long after Meghan had made the move to the UK.
“We were both wrapped in big coats, and hers had a hood lined with fake fur that framed her face like a cameo. I set electric candles around the blanket. I wanted it to look like Botswana, the bush, where I’d first thought of proposing,” he wrote in Spare.
“Now I knelt on the blanket, Guy at my side. Both of us looked up searchingly at Meg. My eyes already full of tears, I brought the ring out of my pocket and said my piece. I was shivering, and my heart was audibly thumping, and my voice was unsteady, but she got the idea.”
Following the announcement, the couple sat down for their first-ever joint interview.
In December, they carried out their first royal engagement as a couple in Nottingham, and a few weeks later, Meghan broke royal precedent by celebrating Christmas with the Royal Family at Sandringham, an invitation usually reserved until after the marriage.
The couple announced their engagement in November 2017
May 2018: Royal wedding
Seven months after Harry popped the question, he and Meghan tied the knot at St. George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle on May 19, 2018, the pair becoming the Duke and Duchess of Sussex.
Their star-studded ceremony became the most-watched royal wedding in the world. And thousands of well-wishers lined the streets to get a glimpse of the couple, who had been deemed a “breath of fresh air” for the monarchy.
During her March 2021 interview with Oprah Winfrey, Meghan recalled the magical day: “I’ve thought about this a lot because it was like having an out-of-body experience I was very present for. That’s the only way I can describe it because the night before I slept through the night entirely, which in and of itself is a bit of a miracle.
“And then woke up and started listening to that song ‘Going to the Chapel’. And just tried to make it fun and light and remind ourselves that this was our day — but I think we were both really aware, even in advance of that just, this wasn’t our day. This was the day that was planned for the world.”
Their reception was held at Frogmore House where Idris Elba provided the musical entertainment, George Clooney served drinks to guests and Serena Williams enjoyed some beer pong.
Harry and Meghan got married in May 2018
October 2018: Baby on the way
The couple announced that they were expecting their first child five months after their wedding.
It came as they carried out their first royal tour of Australia, Fiji, Tonga and New Zealand. They welcomed their firstborn, Prince Archie Harrison, in May 2019.
At the time, the Duke gushed to the media about his son and how proud he was of his wife. “It’s been the most amazing experience I could ever have possibly imagined,” he said. “How any woman does what they do is beyond comprehension.
“But we’re both absolutely thrilled and so grateful to all the love and support from everybody out there. It’s been amazing.”
Prince Archie was born on May 6, 2019
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October 2019: Cracks began to show
Unknown at the time, relations between the Sussexes and other members of the Royal Family were deteriorating and the Duchess was struggling.
Cracks within the Royal Family had begun to show in November 2018, when Harry, Meghan, William and Kate announced their decision to split their households.
While the Prince and Princess of Wales continued their work from Kensington Palace, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex moved their offices to Buckingham Palace.
Then, in April 2019, the couple moved to Frogmore Cottage in Windsor. A source told PEOPLE ahead of the move: “They’ll enjoy it much more in Windsor. They feel claustrophobic in their place in Kensington Palace.”
Meghan later opened up about grappling with her mental health during this period while talking with Oprah Winfrey, noting particularly her struggles while pregnant with Archie.
In January 2019, she had expressed concern to her husband over her mental health and not “[wanting] to be alive anymore”.
It was around this time that the couple featured in the ITV documentary, Harry & Meghan: An African Journey, during which Meghan gave a rare insight into just how much she was struggling with public life.
“Not many people have asked if I’m OK, but it’s a very real thing to be going through behind the scenes,” she told journalist Tom Bradby.
The Duke and Duchess of Sussex during their Africa tour in 2019
January 2020: Royal exit
Having spent Christmas in Canada, the Sussexes returned to the UK in the new year and announced their intention to step back as working royals.
Days later, a meeting — which became known as the Sandringham Summit — was held. Queen Elizabeth summoned then-Prince Charles, Harry, and William to join her at her Norfolk estate to discuss the Sussexes’ exit.
After the discussion, the Queen released a statement, saying: “Today my family had very constructive discussions on the future of my grandson and his family. My family and I are entirely supportive of Harry and Meghan’s desire to create a new life as a young family. Although we would have preferred them to remain full-time working Members of the Royal Family, we respect and understand their wish to live a more independent life as a family while remaining a valued part of my family.”
Over the course of two months, Harry and Meghan carried out their final engagements. In March, they attended the Endeavor Fund Awards in London and a Commonwealth Day service at Westminster Abbey. Their final day as senior royals was March 31, 2020.
By February 2021, Buckingham Palace confirmed Harry and Meghan would no longer work on behalf of the Royal Family.
Harry and Meghan carried out their final engagements in March 2020
April 2020: New lives stateside
Harry and Meghan moved to North America and embarked on their careers outside of the Royal Family, launching their non-profit Archewell in April 2020.
The couple purchased their first home in Montecito in July. Before that, they had been staying in one of Tyler Perry’s mansions, which Meghan would later reveal resulted from a phone conversation with the movie mogul, whom she had never met in person.
In September, they signed multi-million-pound deals with Spotify and Netflix, with aims to “focus will be on creating content that informs but also gives hope”.
Harry and Meghan stepped down from their royal roles in 2020
March 2021: Explosive tell-all
In what has become one of TV’s most explosive interviews of all time, the Duke and Duchess sat down with Oprah Winfrey.
The couple dropped numerous bombshells, including revelations about Meghan’s struggles with her mental health, a perceived lack of support from the Firm and racism within the Royal Family.
Meghan said there were “concerns and conversations about how dark [Archie’s] skin might be when he was born and what that would look like,” a claim later supported by Harry.
After the interview aired, the Queen released a statement insisting the Sussexes remained loved members of the family, but asserting recollections of certain events “may vary”.
Meghan and Harry sat down with Oprah in March 2021
June 2021: Princess Lilibet Diana
Harry and Meghan welcomed their second child, and only daughter, on June 4, 2021.
Princess Lilibet Diana, Lili for short, was born “in the trusted care of the doctors and staff at Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital in Santa Barbara, Calif. She weighed 7 lbs 11 oz. Both mother and child are healthy and well, and settling in at home,” a statement read.
“Lili is named after her great-grandmother, Her Majesty The Queen, whose family nickname is Lilibet. Her middle name, Diana, was chosen to honour her beloved late grandmother, The Princess of Wales.”
Lilibet Diana was born on June 4, 2021
April 2022: Return to Europe
Maintaining relatively low-profile lives in the US, the couple were rarely spotted until they made their first return to Europe in over two years.
Harry and Meghan travelled to the UK secretly before heading to The Netherlands for the Invictus Games in April 2022.
Then, in June, they travelled to the UK with their two children for the first time, joining the Royal Family to celebrate the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee.
While they were spotted at the Trooping the Colour parade, they did not join the working royals on the Buckingham Palace balcony. They were, however, among the congregation at the Service of Thanksgiving at St Paul’s Cathedral.
On June 4, they celebrated Lilibet’s first birthday privately with a garden picnic at their former Frogmore Cottage home. It was during this trip that they also reportedly introduced Lili to her namesake, the Queen. And the one-year-old met her grandfather, Charles, for the first time.
The couple attended the Invictus Games in the Netherlands
Harry and Meghan returned for the Jubilee in June 2022
September 2022: Sad reunion
The Duke and Duchess reunited with the royals once again following the death of Queen Elizabeth II.
Harry and Meghan joined the Royal Family in mourning, accompanying the Prince and Princess of Wales on a walkabout, taking part in emotional vigils and attending the state funeral for the late monarch.
The couple had returned to the UK for a week of charity events and originally had no plans to reunite with the UK-based royals.
They jetted back to the US the day after the funeral, having not seen their children for over two weeks.
The Sussexes joined the royals in mourning the loss of Queen Elizabeth II
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October 2022: Rare insight
In an interview with Variety magazine, Meghan shared new details surrounding her quiet home life in Santa Barbara with Harry and their children.
The Duchess described their packed routine, which involved working collaboratively on their numerous projects and raising Archie and Lilibet, as a “true blessing”.
“We share an office. We work from home, as most people started to do during lockdown,” she said.
“It allows us to have significant time with our kids at this really special moment in their lives. We’ll never get this time back.”
Describing a normal day in their Montecito mansion, she said: “I make breakfast, and we get the kids set for the day. We do a lot of joint calls and Zooms, but also try to divide what we can focus our energies on so we can accomplish even more.”
Meghan with their two children: Archie and Lilibet
December 2022: Harry & Meghan
Months later, the royal pair dropped their highly-anticipated Netflix documentary series, which delved into their personal lives to an unprecedented extent.
The six-part series offered intimate glimpses into their relationship in its beginning stages, their experiences and struggles in the Royal Family and their current lifestyle.
Concluding the docuseries, Harry spoke about his exit from the Firm and move to California, and suggested both he and Meghan had found happiness in their new lives. He said: “There are times when I’ve been angry, but I can’t be that angry because I genuinely feel that I, and we, are exactly where we’re supposed to be.”
A month after the series aired, Harry’s memoir Spare was published. In the book, he divulged more intimate details about his relationship with Meghan, recalling their first meeting, introductions to his father and brother, and the births of their children.
According to later reports, the Duke and Duchess were asked to vacate their former royal residence shortly after Spare’s publication.
“We can confirm The Duke and Duchess of Sussex have been requested to vacate their residence at Frogmore Cottage,” a spokesperson for the couple’s Archewell Foundation said.
Harry & Meghan aired on Netflix in December 2022
March 2023: Not-so-royal christening
Lilibet was christened by the Archbishop of Los Angeles, the Rev John Taylor, during an intimate ceremony at Harry and Meghan’s home in Montecito on March 3.
There were roughly 30 guests present, including Meghan’s mother, Lilibet’s godfather, Tyler Perry, and an unnamed godmother.
The announcement of Lilibet’s christening also confirmed the Sussexes had chosen to use their children’s royal titles, with both being referred to as prince and princess for the first time.
That same month, Harry sat down for a live stream conversation with Dr Gabor Maté, author of The Myth of Normal: Trauma, Illness, and Healing in a Toxic Culture.
The prince opened up about the way Meghan changed his life and helped “save” him from himself during a time he felt “stuck” within the royal institution.
“My wife saved me. I was stuck in this world, and she was from a different world and helped draw me out of that,” he said. “But none of the elements of my life now would have been possible without me seeing it for myself.”
He continued: “My partner is an exceptional human being, and I’m eternally grateful for the wisdom and the space that she has been able to give me.”
Harry spoke to Dr Gabor Maté in March 2023
May 2023: Return to the spotlight
After several months of maintaining a low profile, Harry and Meghan returned to the spotlight.
Among their public appearances, the couple attended a glitzy award ceremony, where Meghan was recognised for her “global advocacy to empower and advocate on behalf of women and girls”.
They also marked Mental Health Awareness Month by visiting a youth group near their home in California to hear about the pressures young people face.
Before this, Harry returned to the UK for the Coronation of King Charles III and Queen Camilla. Meghan, who chose to stay at home, was spotted out on a hike during the celebratory weekend.
Source: EXPRESS CO UK