With just nine days to go before Prince Harry and Meghan Markle tie the knot, we're taking a look back at their whirlwind, royal romance. The couple were introduced in 2016 by a mutual friend, whose identity they have protected, and a year later, their engagement was announced. Read on for the month-by-month timeline of their blossoming relationship…
July 2016 - Harry and Meghan met in London
This is when Harry and Meghan are first said to have met, after being set up by a mutual friend. Some reports claim fashion designer Misha Nonoo, the ex-wife of Harry's school friend Alexander Gilkes, played matchmaker. Misha is good friends with Meghan and the pair holidayed together in Spain earlier that year. However, other reports say Ralph Lauren PR guru, Violet von Westenholz, a childhood friend of Harry's, is to thank.
Meghan and Harry first met in summer 2016
October 2016 - Rumours that Prince Harry had a new girlfriend
In late October, news broke that Prince Harry had a new girlfriend. The Sunday Express was first to report that the sixth-in-line to the throne had found love with Suits actress Meghan. November 2016 Romance rumours intensified after Harry was spotted celebrating Halloween with his Toronto-based love at the city's Soho House. Apart from attending the spooky bash, the couple reportedly spent the majority of the time at Meghan's plush apartment, away from the media glare.
On 8 November, the couple's relationship was made official when Harry issued a lengthy appeal to the media on behalf of his girlfriend. In the rare statement made in response to the harassment, "sexism and racism" Meghan had received, Harry asked for privacy. In the heartfelt post, he acknowledged that there is "significant curiosity about his private life" but appealed to fair-minded people to respect Meghan's privacy. He said he was also "worried" and "deeply disappointed" that he had not been able to protect the Toronto-based actress.
A few weeks later, Meghan was spotted shopping at Whole Foods supermarket on Kensington High Street, confirming rumours that she was visiting Harry and staying at his nearby Kensington Palace home. Their transatlantic relationship was in full force.
The couple pictured just days after announcing their engagement
December 2016 - Prince Harry and Meghan pictured together
Meghan had wrapped up filming Suits, but couldn't meet her Prince as he was on a two-week tour of the Caribbean. Harry's tour commitments finished in early December, when he reportedly took a detour to spend precious time with Meghan in Toronto, instead of flying straight home. The Prince travelled 1,700 miles out of his way.
A couple of weeks later, they were reunited when Meghan flew to London. Keeping a low profile, Harry and Meghan went shopping for a Christmas tree at Pines and Needles in Battersea. "They came in at about 8.30pm last night," a spokesperson for the shop told HELLO! . "Prince Harry was with Meghan and hilariously the staff only recognised Meghan at first – they were so excited to have the girl from Suits there. It wasn't particularly cold but they were gloved and hatted out." A couple of days later, Harry and Meghan were pictured enjoying a night at the theatre at The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time.
January 2017 - Romantic time in Norway
Harry and Meghan kicked off the New Year with a romantic getaway to Norway. The pair holidayed in the town of Tromso, staying in a luxurious, secluded cabin. Shortly after, Harry is said to have introduced Meghan to his sister-in-law, Kate.
February 2017 - Soho, London
A week before their first Valentine's Day as a couple, Harry and Meghan were spotted holding hands as they left London's Soho House. The couple were reportedly in their own little world as they dined at the private member's club before retiring to the Prince's home at Kensington Palace.
Harry and Meghan snatched a kiss at the polo in May 2017
March 2017 - Harry and Meghan in Montego Bay, Jamaica
Keen to introduce Meghan to more of his friends, Harry brought his actress love as his plus one to a friend's wedding in Jamaica. The couple were spotted leaving the church, before heading to the reception at a nearby hotel. Meghan then returned to Toronto where filming for Suits resumed.
May 2017 - Ascot and Pippa Middleton’s wedding
The actress was back in the UK a couple of months later and caused quite a stir when she attended a high-profile polo match in Ascot to watch her boyfriend compete. Meghan could be seen applauding Harry from the royal box, and was later pictured kissing her beau after the charity game. Meghan's attendance at the high-society affair as a royal girlfriend was a sure sign that an engagement was on the cards.
Pippa Middleton's wedding on 19 May was another important outing for the couple. Though she was not invited to the church ceremony, Meghan joined her boyfriend at the more private reception held at the Middleton family home.
"We're very happy and in love," Meghan said just two months before her engagement
August 2017 - Romantic holiday in Africa
Harry and Meghan looked the picture of happiness as they arrived in Africa to celebrate Meghan's 36th birthday. The royal and the Suits actress were photographed walking together from a plane, with Harry lovingly placing his arm around his girlfriend. Harry took his girlfriend to the Meno a Kwena camp in Botswana – a place that he has visited on several occasions since his first stay 20 years ago. A source at the time said: "Harry has been planning this holiday for a long time. He's made the trip incredibly romantic. They'll go on boats across the lake, walk in the bush at dawn and camp under the stars."
September 2017 - Meghan Markle in Vanity fair interview
Meghan spoke openly about her relationship with Harry for the first time in an interview with Vanity Fair. The Suits actress, who had been dating the Prince for over a year at this point, told the magazine that the couple are "very happy and in love". "I can tell you that at the end of the day I think it's really simple," she said.
"We're two people who are really happy and in love. We were very quietly dating for about six months before it became news, and I was working during that whole time, and the only thing that changed was people's perception. Nothing about me changed. I'm still the same person that I am, and I've never defined myself by my relationship. 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."
The couple made their official debut at the Invictus Games
Later that month, Harry and Meghan made their official debut as a couple at the royal's Invictus Games, which were held in Toronto. Meghan attended the opening ceremony but was seated a section away from her royal boyfriend. At the closing ceremony at the end of the week, Harry briefly left his VIP box to hang out with Meghan, her mum, and her friends Jessica Mulroney and Markus Anderson in the luxury Air Canada box. The couple also attended the wheelchair tennis together.
During his stay in Toronto, Harry surprised his girlfriend on the set of Suits. "He was super low-key, met some crew and was so happy to watch his lady," a source told HELLO!. "He's incredibly supportive of her work." The insider added: "Meghan showed him around set. Everyone was so excited."
They announced their engagement in November 2017
November 2017 - The royal engagement is announced
Following their official debut, engagement rumours had reached fever pitch by November. Meghan quit Suits and moved to London, fuelling reports of a wedding announcement. The big news came on Monday 27 November, when Kensington Palace announced the couple were engaged to be married. Harry and Meghan took part in their first photocall in the palace gardens, followed by their first joint televised interview with the BBC.
In the revealing interview, Harry said he proposed at home over a roast chicken dinner. Meghan revealed she had been introduced to "wonderful" Kate, while Harry had met the actress' "amazing" mum. Of his late mother Princess Diana, he said Meghan and Diana would have been "thick as thieves".
A few days later, Harry and Meghan carried out their first official engagement together – a visit to Nottingham. The Prince was keen to show his fiancée as much of the UK as possible before the wedding, and day trips to Edinburgh, Belfast, Cardiff and Birmingham followed that winter.
Meghan was invited to Christmas with the royals a month later
December 2017 - The Queen's Christmas celebrations in Sandringham
While most royal partners are not invited to join the Queen's Christmas celebrations in Sandringham, Meghan was an exception. She joined the royal family at church on Christmas Day, making her first official outing with Prince William and Kate.
February 2018 - Royal Foundation Forum in central London
Prince William, Kate, Prince Harry and Meghan carried out their first official engagement together in February. The Fantastic Four attended the Royal Foundation Forum in central London. It was also revealed that Meghan would be joining the foundation as its fourth patron after the wedding. The actress, who is an activist and philanthropist at heart, had also been making private visits to hospitals and organisations to better understand the charity sector before the nuptials.
She will be the fourth patron of Heads Together
March 2018 - Meghan attends the annual Commonwealth Day service
As she prepared to become a full-time royal, Meghan carried out her first official engagement with the Queen in March. The former actress attended the annual Commonwealth Day service at Westminster Abbey.
May 2018 - Prince Harry and Meghan Markle will marry on May 19, 2018
The final details of the royal wedding are being released by the day, and thousands of well-wishers are expected to descend on Windsor for the celebrations. Harry and Meghan's fairy tale romance will culminate in what is sure to be the most spectacular wedding of the year on Saturday 19 May.