Prince Harry to marry US actress Meghan Markle in 2018
Chris Jackson - Getty Images North America - AFP
Britain's Prince Harry will marry his US actress girlfriend Meghan Markle early next year after the couple became engaged earlier this month, Clarence House announced Monday.
"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," said the official statement.
The couple became engaged in London earlier this month, his office said, adding that the 33-year-old prince had informed his grandmother Queen Elizabeth II, close members of the royal family and had 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 wife Kate live with their two children.
Speculation has been rife that Harry was about to propose to his 36-year-old girlfriend, best known for her role as a lawyer in the hit television show "Suits".
Markle'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."
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 are believed to have met in May 2016 in Toronto, Canada, where the actress lived.
The relationship was formalized by Kensington Palace, which handles communication for Prince Harry, following speculation in the press.
Exasperated by the media frenzy, the palace released a statement attacking the "sexism" and "racism" that Meghan Markle, who is of mixed race, faced in the social media and the press.
- Prince Harry: The troubled playboy grows up -
Prince Harry has been transformed in recent years from an angry young man into one of the British royal family's greatest assets.
The youngest son of Prince Charles and the late princess Diana, the 33-year-old has always struggled with his role and for much of his youth seemed to want nothing more than to escape.
He 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.
The prince has rebuilt his reputation in recent years, however, through his charity work with veterans and in taking on more and more duties from his grandmother Queen Elizabeth II.
He appears to have inherited his mother's ability to connect with people, as well as her sense of mischief, and with his brother Prince William and sister-in-law Kate have helped put a fresh face on the monarchy.
Harry has said that Diana is always in his mind, and has championed many of her charitable causes, including taking an HIV test live on Facebook last year to raise awareness.
But he revealed that for a long time he struggled to cope with her death in a Paris car crash in 1997, and sought professional help a few years ago.
In a remarkably candid interview earlier this year, the prince admitted he came "very close to a complete breakdown on numerous occasions".
He turned a corner and in July 2016 met Markle, a US television actress, through mutual friends. In September this year she declared to Vanity Fair: "We're in love."
- Shutting down -
Harry was born in 1984, the "spare" to his brother William, who will one day inherit the throne.
Both educated at the elite Eton school, their childhood was dominated by the messy breakdown of their parents' marriage and Diana's tragically early death.
The image of the young princes walking behind the coffin at her funeral -- Harry only 12, his brother 15, both in suits -- was one of the most enduring images of that day.
"I can safely say that losing my mum at the age of 12, and therefore shutting down all of my emotions for the last 20 years, has had a quite serious effect on not only my personal life but also my work as well," Harry said.
At one point, he seemed the archetypal "playboy prince", regularly photographed looking worse for wear and often accompanied by an attractive girl.
He caused outrage in 2005 when photographs of him in a swastika fancy dress outfit appeared in the press.
- 'Share the pressure' -
In a series of interviews from the frontline, the prince failed to hide his contempt for the media who he has long blamed for his mother's death.
The first confirmation of his relationship with Markle came in an angry statement he issued last year decrying "abuse and harassment" against her.
But Harry has learned to use his public profile to promote causes close to his heart, notably a recent campaign about mental health with William and Kate.
He has also set up a sports championship for wounded military personnel, the Invictus Games, which has secured the support of high-profile figures including former US president Barack Obama.
Harry still gets himself in scrapes, including telling Newsweek magazine that he did not think anyone in the royal family wanted to be monarch.
He also admitted "there was a time I felt I wanted out" -- but has previously said "it would be great to have someone else next to me to share the pressure".
That was the year he entered the army, a conventional path for royal and one that he later admitted "was the best escape I've ever had" from the constant public attention.
In 2008, he had to be pulled out of Afghanistan after a news blackout about his deployment was breached, leading to fears he would be targeted by the Taliban.
But he returned in 2012, piloting Apache helicopters during a 20-week tour of duty -- only to make headlines again when he said his job was to take insurgents "out of the game".
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