By Michael Holden and Guy Faulconbridge
LONDON (Reuters) – Just four weeks after a blind date with U.S. actress Meghan Markle that left him “beautifully surprised”, Britain’s Prince Harry took his wife-to-be on a trip to Botswana to camp under the stars in his tent.
Harry, 33, Queen Elizabeth’s grandson and fifth-in-line to the British throne, and Markle, 36, best known for her role in the U.S. TV legal drama “Suits”, got engaged this month at their cottage in London over a roast chicken dinner.
In their first broadcast interview since announcing the news earlier on Monday, Harry and Markle held hands as they discussed the moment of their proposal and their courtship.
“It was just an amazing surprise. It was so sweet and natural, and very romantic. He got on one knee,” Markle said. “I could barely let you finish proposing. I said, “can I say yes now?””
Harry said that he had not watched the show which made Markle’s name, and Markle too was relatively unfamiliar with Britain’s royal family before meeting Harry.
“I had never watched ‘Suits’, I had never heard of Meghan before and I was beautifully surprised when I walked into that room and saw her. I was like, ‘OK well I’m going to have to really up my game here’,” Harry said.
“It was I think about 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.”
Harry and Markle, who is a divorcee, met in July 2016 after they were introduced through a friend who set them up on a blind date. But it was not until September that they made their first public appearance together at the Invictus Games in Toronto, a sports event for wounded veterans.
They are due to marry in the spring of next year.
“The fact that I fell in love with Meghan so incredibly quickly was confirmation to me that all the stars were aligned, everything was just perfect,” Harry said. “This beautiful woman just tripped and fell into my life, I fell into her life.”
The prince, the younger son of heir-to-the-throne Prince Charles and his first wife Diana, publicly confirmed their relationship months later in a rebuke to the media over its alleged intrusion into Markle’s private life.
As she got to know Harry, Markle learnt about the huge amount of public scrutiny that the royals face, and she said she was not prepared for the level of attention their relationship would have.
“I did not have any understanding of just what it would be like,” she said, saying there was a misconception that because she was an actress she would be used to being in the media spotlight.
In his office’s warning to the media, Harry referred to the sexism and racism directed at Markle, whose father is white and her mother African-American. Harry said he had to warn his future wife about the media attention they would face.
“Any the end of day I’m really just proud of who I am and where I come from and we have never put any focus on that,” she said. “We were just hit so hard at the beginning with a lot of mistruths.”
Markle said she had met Queen Elizabeth, who she said was an incredible woman. Harry quipped that the queen’s corgis had taken to her straight away despite barking at him for years.
Markle showed off her three-stone engagement ring set in yellow gold, which features a diamond from Botswana and two other gems from the collection of his mother, Diana, who died in a car crash in 1997.
“It’s beautiful, and he designed it. It’s incredible … obviously not being able to meet his mum, it’s so important to me to know that she’s a part of this with us,” Markle said, turning to Harry as she spoke about the ring.
“It’s incredibly special to be able to have this, which sort of links where you come from, and Botswana, which is important to us, it’s perfect.”
(Writing by Guy Faulconbridge and Alistair Smout)