LOS ANGELES (CBSLA/AP) — “Suits” actress Meghan Markle is engaged to Britain’s Prince Harry, royal officials announced Monday.
The official announcement says the couple became engaged in London earlier this month and that the wedding will take place next year in the spring, with further details to be “announced in due course.”
Markle, 36, was born in Los Angeles. She might not be the first actress, divorcee, or American to win the heart of a British prince, but she might very well be the first biracial woman – her mother, Doria Ragland, is black and her father, Thomas Markle, is white – to marry into the royal family. Kensington also released a statement from Markle’s parents in response to the announcement.
Markle was raised in the Los Angeles area. Her mother is a yoga instructor and psychotherapist, and her father is a Hollywood lighting director, who occasionally brought his daughter to the set of “Married With Children” when he worked on the show.
In some ways, Markle — a mixed-race American raised in California, an outspoken full-time actress, and a divorcee — makes a surprising addition to Britain’s monarchy.
But the institution has moved on with the times, and the romance between Markle and Harry — who has repeatedly stressed his wish to lead as “normal” a life as he could — has a decidedly unstuffy, modern feel to it.
Prince Harry is fifth in line to the British throne. Monday’s announcement confirms months of speculation that the pair were planning to marry.
Harry, a bad-boy-made-good by his tireless devotion to wounded veterans and his embrace of a variety of charitable causes, has said for several years that he wants to start a family, and the rumors of his engagement to Markle have been flying for some time.
Markle, a humanitarian campaigner and lifestyle blogger who succeeded in show business before falling for Harry, will become a senior member of the royal family as the wife of one of the monarchy’s most popular figures.
The couple made a brief appearance before photographers on the grounds of Kensington Palace hours after their engagement was announced.
Harry, wearing a blue suit and tie, said he was “thrilled” and that details about his proposal would come out later. He was then asked if the proposal was romantic, and he replied: “Of course!”
Markle, who said she was “so happy,” was wearing an engagement ring for the first time in public. She held Harry’s hand and rubbed his arm.
They left with their arms around each other. The couple plan to give their first interview later in the day.
Harry’s brother, Prince William, and his pregnant wife Kate welcomed Markle to the royal family.
“We are very excited for Harry and Meghan,” they said in a statement. “It has been wonderful getting to know Meghan and to see how happy she and Harry are together.”
Harry’s father, Prince Charles, told reporters he was “thrilled” with the engagement.
“They’ll be very happy indeed,” he said.
How will the Los Angeles native adjust to the intense spotlight of being a royal? What will her title be when they marry? Teri Okita reports.
The couple plan to live in Nottingham Cottage at Kensington Palace. Markle, who lived in Toronto while filming TV series “Suits” since 2011, is also reported to have started the sometimes time-consuming process of moving her dogs from Canada to Britain. She reportedly recently left the television show, a development that helped fueled engagement speculation.
The announcement means another grand royal wedding may be in the offing — the first since William and Kate married in 2011 — though it is possible the couple may choose to have a private ceremony, perhaps in a remote location far from the paparazzi who bedeviled Harry’s mother, Princess Diana.
Harry, once known for his dicey antics, including being photographed playing strip billiards in Las Vegas, has largely charmed the British public with his winning smile, his military career and his devotion to charities aimed at helping disabled veterans and other causes.
The 33-year-old prince recently won praise with his work campaigning for more openness about mental health issues. Speaking candidly about his personal struggle to cope with the loss of his mother when he was only 12, he encouraged others to talk about their own problems rather than keeping them bottled up inside.
The couple showed off Markle’s engagement ring, which was designed by Harry and made by Cleave and Company, court jewelers and medallists to the Queen. The ring has a gold band and features a large diamond from Botswana and two smaller outer diamonds from the personal collection of Harry’s late mother, Diana, Princess of Wales.
Kensington Palace says Botswana holds special significance for the couple, who have spent time there together over the past year and a half.
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Markle, best known for her role as an ambitious paralegal in the hit U.S. legal drama “Suits,” surprised many when she shared her feelings for Harry in a September cover story for Vanity Fair.
Asked about the media frenzy surrounding their courtship, the 36-year-old said: “At the end of the day I think it’s really simple … we’re two people who are really happy and in love.”
Markle’s Vanity Fair interview broke new ground. It is unusual for a royal love interest to speak so publicly, and candidly, before becoming engaged.
Harry’s past reported girlfriends all shied away from the media limelight, and his sister-in-law, formerly known as Kate Middleton, stayed silent until she and Prince William gave a formal televised interview at Buckingham Palace after their engagement became public.
It won’t be the first time that a British royal has married an American, or a divorcee. In 1936, Edward VIII famously abdicated after he was forced to choose between the monarchy and his relationship with twice-divorced American socialite Wallis Simpson.
(© Copyright 2017 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)