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Prince Harry and Meghan Markle's relationship timeline: from their first date to baby Archie

The couple were introduced by a mutual friend in 2016

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The Duke and Duchess of Sussex officially stepped back from royal life in March 2020, less than two years after tying the knot. Prince Harry and Meghan moved to Los Angeles after spending time in Canada and have been settling into their new life Stateside with their one-year-old son Archie.  

READ: Prince Harry's secret Instagram account revealed!

 

WATCH: Recap of Prince Harry and Meghan's love story

More details about how the couple's whirlwind romance have emerged in a new book Finding Freedom: Harry and Meghan and the Making of a Modern Royal Family, revealing how the pair were smitten from their first date at Soho House's Dean Street Townhouse.

HELLO! takes a look back at Harry and Meghan's royal romance from the start - which only began in 2016 when the couple were introduced by a mutual friend. 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

Harry and Meghan first met at Soho House's Dean Street Townhouse London in summer 2016 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.

MORE: Intimate details about Meghan Markle's royal wedding day eve revealed

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Meghan and Harry first met in summer 2016

 

According to the authors of Finding Freedom, Omid Scobie and Carolyn Durand, conversation between the pair flowed easily as they enjoyed drinks together – a beer for Harry and a martini for Meghan. Tellingly, they were so engrossed in each other, they ignored the nibbles that had been left out for them.

That first meeting lasted three hours, and the next day the couple reunited at the same Soho establishment for dinner. This time, further efforts were made to keep their date private. They entered via the staff entrance and were served by just one waiter the entire night. "Harry knew they would be together at that point," a friend shared. "She was ticking every box fast."

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Finding Freedom: Harry and Meghan and the Making of a Modern Royal Family, £13.60, Amazon

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It seems Meghan was equally smitten. That same night, she shared a post on her public Instagram account: a photo of a Love Hearts sweet with the inscription 'Kiss me' and the caption "Lovehearts in #London".

August 2016 - Harry and Meghan enjoy a romantic getaway for their third date

For their third date, Harry whisked Meghan away on a surprise trip to Botswana. The couple flew to Johannesburg together and later got on a two-hour private flight to Maun International Airport. They stayed together in a luxury tent in Okavango Delta during their romantic getaway.

According to Finding Freedom: "A friend said: 'She came back smiling and just completely spellbound.'

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The couple spoke about their time in Botswana during their engagement interview 

"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'."

The Prince said during the couple's engagement interview: "We camped out with each other under the stars…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."

The couple later returned to Botswana for Meghan's birthday the following year. The book also reveals that Harry was the first to say 'I love you' three months into their relationship and Meghan immediately replied 'I love you, too.'

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.

MORE: Best photos from Prince Harry and Meghan Markle's royal wedding

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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.

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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.

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."

MORE: Meghan Markle's exact wedding nail polish revealed – and it's only £13

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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."

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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.

MORE: Meghan Markle and Prince Harry's gifts to George, Charlotte and Kate Middleton revealed

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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.

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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 marry on 19 May 2018

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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.

October 2018 - The couple reveal they are expecting a child

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In a very exciting announcement, Harry and Meghan revealed they were soon to become a mum and dad. Speculation had been mounting that Prince Harry's wife was indeed expecting, but the confirmation didn't come until Monday 15th. The baby news was confirmed ust as the couple were about to kick off their Australasia autumn tour. With the secret out, Meghan was able to dress as she pleased throughout the tour, and the first hint of a baby bump was seen during her visit to Fiji. 

May 2019 - Baby Archie Harrison born

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And baby makes three! The happy pair presented their newborn son to the world in a much-anticipated photocall and interview. The royal parents introduced their baby boy to press inside St George's Hall, Windsor Castle. The little bundle of joy looked adorable wrapped up in a blanket as the new parents cooed over their son.

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