LONDON — He got down on one knee and popped the question at Nottingham Cottage on the Kensington Palace grounds, during a cozy dinner of roast chicken at his two-bedroom bachelor pad.
She didn’t let him finish his proposal before saying yes.
The royal family on Monday announced that Britain’s Prince Harry is engaged to marry American actress Meghan Markle, ending days of feverish speculation in the tabloids over when their nuptial plans would be revealed.
The 33-year-old redheaded prince is fifth in line to the throne. The 36-year-old Markle was born and raised in California.
The prince said he tried to warn Markle what she was getting into.
She said she thought she understood.
“I know I’m in love with this girl, and I hope she’s in love with me,” the prince said in a television interview after the engagement was announced. “But we still have to sit down on the sofa — I still have to have some pretty frank conversations with her to say, ‘Look, this is what you’re letting yourself in for.’ It’s a big deal. It’s not easy for anybody.
“I know that at the end of the day, she chooses me, I choose her, and, therefore, whatever we have to tackle together or individually, we will always be us together as a team.”
Markle leaned into Harry: “That’s so nicely said, isn’t it?”
The two sat for a 20-minute chat with the BBC on Monday evening. The couple were poised but natural. They held hands. They finished each other’s sentences — in a good way.
It was the first time they have spoken as a couple, the first venture into this new role of a royal pair. They addressed tabloid culture, race, the legacy of Princess Diana, the ring, meeting the queen and her corgis, and Markle being a foreigner.
Markle was assertive but gushed a little.
The prince appeared a little nervous and cracked a few jokes.
“Children?” asked the BBC journalist.
“Not currently, no” Harry said, grinning. “No, of course, you know, one step at a time. Hopefully, we will start a family in the near future.”
The couple will wed in the spring of next year, date and location not yet revealed.
The last time an American married into the royal family, Britain and the monarchy were plunged into crisis. In 1936, King Edward VIII abdicated the throne to marry Wallis Simpson, a Baltimore socialite and divorcée.
Harry confirmed he was dating the actress in November 2016, when he blasted the tabloid press for subjecting Markle to a "wave of abuse and harassment."
The palace condemned “the smear on the front page of a national newspaper, the racial undertones of comment pieces, and the outright sexism and racism of social media trolls and web article comments.”
Markle’s mother is African American, and her father is white. She is divorced, without children from her previous marriage.
Markle said the scrutiny back then of being Prince Harry’s girlfriend was hard, especially the initial reports and comments that focused on race.
“Of course it’s disheartening,” she said. “You know it’s a shame that that is the climate in this world, to focus that much on that.” She added, “I’m proud of who I am and where I come from.”
The couple were set up by a mutual friend and met for a drink on what they described as a blind date.
Both professed they were a little clueless.
Markle said: “Because I’m from the States, you don’t grow up with the same understanding of the royal family. And so, while I now understand very clearly there’s a global interest there, I didn’t know much about him.”
Markle said she asked her friend only one question: “Was he nice? Because if he wasn’t kind, it didn’t seem like it would make sense.”
The prince confessed, “I never even heard of her.”
Harry said: “I’d never watched ‘Suits.’ I never heard of Meghan before. And I was beautifully surprised when I walked into that room and saw her, and there she was sitting there, and I was like, ‘Okay, I’m going to have to up my game here.’ ”
On their third date, they flew away to Botswana to sleep in a tent under African stars.
Markle dutifully showed the cameras her diamond engagement ring. The sparkler was designed by Harry. He said he picked yellow gold because it’s Markle’s favorite. The main stone was from Botswana, and the small diamonds were from Princess Diana’s collection, “to make sure that she’s with us on this — on this crazy journey together,” Harry said.
When asked what Diana would have made of Markle, Harry said his mother and his fiancee would have been “thick as thieves.”
He said: “It’s days like — days like today when — when I really miss having her around and miss being able to share the happy news. But you know with the ring and with everything else that’s going on I'm sure she’s —”
“She’s with us,’” Markle said, finishing Harry’s sentence.
What the British will make of Markle is unknown. The tabloids here can be fickle and cruel.
On Monday, the British media quickly raised the issue of Markle’s race, marital status and nationality.
A BBC News alert read: “American, divorced, an actress and mixed race — Meghan Markle will bring something different to the Royal Family.”
The Daily Mail's headline said that "the Queen says she is 'delighted' the divorced American actress is to join the royal family."
The Guardian’s website started one of its live blogs with the tease: “Joy or disdain? Follow the reactions to the royal engagement.”
The media seemed unsure of the British public’s gut reaction to the engagement news, even as most articles asserted that the bride-to-be’s race and nationality were either a good thing or irrelevant.
What has obviously changed from previous eras was the public expression of welcome offered by the royal family, with full-throated wishes for happiness, from Queen Elizabeth II and down through the ranks.
Not too long ago, the couple revealed, they went for tea with the 91-year-old monarch, who technically could veto the marriage.
Apparently, it went just fine.
“The corgis took to you straight away,” Harry said. “I’ve spent the last 33 years being barked at. This one walks in, absolutely nothing.”
“Just laying on my feet during tea, it was very sweet,” Markle said.
“Just wagging tails,” Harry said, moving his hand back and forth. “And I was just like, ‘Argh!’ ”
Jennifer Hassan contributed to this report.