When Harry Met Meghan: We Finally Know the Story of How the Royal Couple First Met

Romance, intrigue, and… scandal? Those are just a few of the words best associated with how Prince Harry and Meghan Markle first met. Details about their first rendezvous were kept a secret for a long time. But now, we have many more details surrounding their first date. (And if you didn’t know there was supposed scandal behind it, you’re in for a treat.) Read on to find out how Markle won over Prince Philip (page 9), the bad habits Harry had to ditch (page 12), and the secret scandal behind their first date (page 13).

When and where?

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle at Invictus Games.

They ended up getting smitten that summer. | Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images for the Invictus Games Foundation

The royal and the actress revealed in their first interview post-engagement that they met “in the summer” of 2016. Their first date took place in Toronto, where Meghan formerly lived. (It was also where the TV show Suits, which she used to be in, is filmed.) Prince Harry was in town promoting his well-known event, the Invictus Games.

Next: About the pre-date routine…

Were there any pre-date conversations?

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle at Invictus Games.

They didn’t know too much about each other. | Chris Jackson/Getty Images for the Invictus Games Foundation

In the modern era, dating typically consists of an exchange of text messages or a little social media stalking before a first date. But these two were set up on a blind date, and allege that they knew very little about each other ahead of meeting. In their interview, Meghan explained that she didn’t know much about the royal family in general. Harry later revealed that he hasn’t ever watched Suits. 

Next: Who they should be thanking for setting the date up.

Who’s the matchmaker?

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle watch a performance by a Welsh choir.

Who is this mystery matchmaker? | Ben Birchall/WPA Pool / Getty Images

We know Harry and Meghan were set up by a mutual friend, but there are conflicting reports as to who the real cupid is. The Daily Mail said back in November of 2016 that club director Markus Anderson, a close friend of Meghan’s, had set the two up. However, Town & Country points out that both designer Mischa Nonoo and Harry’s friend Violet von Westenholz have been named as culprits responsible for sparking the royal romance. Von Westenholz has, ultimately, been given credit for linking the two up.

Next: The logistics of the rendezvous.

What did the date entail?

Meaghan Markle smiles as she stands near a crowd.

They met for a quick drink … but wanted to see each other the next day. | Oli Scarff/AFP/Getty Images

The first date entailed Harry and Meghan meeting for a drink. They also reportedly instantly felt the romantic spark. “We met for a drink,” Meghan said in the couple’s big BBC interview. “Then I think very quickly into that we said, ‘Well what are we doing tomorrow? We should meet again.'”

Next: After that first drink…

What was the follow-up date?

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle walking past a crowd of onlookers.

They had very romantic dates early on. | Chris Jackson/Getty Images

The duo reportedly got out their day-planners to find the next time they could travel to see each other. Two dates in London reportedly followed. But the big date came after, when Harry persuaded Meghan to join him in Botswana, where they “camped out under the stars.”

Next: They flew under the radar… for a little while.

How long before the date became public?

Prince Harry in a light grey suit.

The press went nuts over their relationship. | Chris Jackson/Getty Images

Of course, these two lovebirds couldn’t keep their relationship a secret forever. After a couple months of flying under the radar, news outlets and gossip magazines began reporting that Harry and Meghan were an item. Curiosity over how the first met and what their first date was like instantly became a source of intrigue.

Next: Harry tries to keep it quiet

Why the secrecy?

Fiancée of Britain's Prince Harry's, US actress Meghan Markle

Meghan Markle | Dominic Lipinski/AFP/Getty Images

Once people started noticing how much happier Harry had been lately, and spotting him with Markle, it became more difficult to hide their relationship. However, a source close to Harry said that, “Harry has been desperate to keep the relationship quiet because he doesn’t want to scare Meghan off. He knows things will change when their romance is public knowledge but he also knows he can’t keep it a secret for long.”

Next: He wasn’t far off the mark

Dating leads to…harassment?

Prince Harry whispers to Meghan Markle

Prince Harry whispering to Markle | Ben Birchall-WPA Pool/Getty Images

Once the news became public, it wasn’t long before Markle became the target of some extreme harassment. A lot of it was racially based, coming from internet trolls. However, Markle and her family also had to deal with photographers and news teams interrupting their daily lives. Harry was very frustrated, and released a statement.

Prince Harry is worried about Ms. Markle’s safety and is deeply disappointed that he has not been able to protect her. It is not right that a few months into a relationship with him that Ms. Markle should be subjected to such a storm. He knows commentators will say this is ‘the price she has to pay’ and that this is all part of the game.’ He strongly disagrees. This is not a game – it is her life and his.

Next: This can be one of the most stressful parts of a new relationship

Winning over the family

Picture released 18 November 2007 shows Britain's Queen Elizabeth II and her husband, the Duke of Edinburgh walk at Broadlands, Hampshire, earlier in the year. Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip are to mark their diamond wedding anniversary in reserved style 19 November 2007 before jetting off to Malta to revive golden memories of their newlywed youth. Queen Elizabeth, 81, is known to cherish the time they spent on the Mediterranean island as a young couple, out of Britain and out of the spotlight in the years before she inherited the throne aged 25 in 1952.

Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip | Fiona Hanson/AFP/Getty Images

Markle made a favorable impression on Prince Philip once her relationship with Harry went public, and it was time to meet his family. But how did she manage to impress Philip? The old-fashioned way: research. Markle spent time looking up Philip’s ancestry and family history, and once they met, impressed him by asking him all about his lineage.

Next: The most important opinion

The Queen was a fan from the start

Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip leaving chapel

Queen Elizabeth II and The Duke of Ediburgh | Gareth Fuller/PA Wire

Who’s opinion could carry more weight than the Queen’s? Luckily for Meghan, Queen Elizabeth was happy for Harry, and pleased to see him happy. “She’s delighted to see Harry in a loving relationship,” said a source.

Next: Signs of a serious shift

Markle begins quitting her jobs

Meghan Markle as Rachel Zane on Suits

Meghan Markle as Rachel Zane on Suits | USA Network

In April of 2017, Markle quit her role as a brand ambassador for Reitmans. Shortly after that, in May of 2017, Markle quit Suits. A source said she was “ready to move on from Suits” and “acting altogether.” For many, this seemed like a sign that things were getting more serious. Markle, however, claims that she had already been thinking of transitioning out of acting and working on philanthropy.

Next: Some big changes for Harry

Markle gets Harry back in shape

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle leave Social Bite cafe in Rose Street

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle | Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images

Not too long after their engagement was announced, Markle started whipping Harry back into shape. She was able to help him quit smoking, one of his major vices. Reports also say that she convinced him to reduce his alcohol intake, and to eat healthier and work out more, in an attempt to get his “soldier body” back.

Next: The alleged dirty laundry behind the first date.

The secret scandal?

Cory Vitiello smiling while looking sideways.

Was Meghan in a serious relationship when she met Harry? | Mike Coppola/Getty Images

There are rumors that Meghan wasn’t exactly on the market when the infamous blind date took place. Prior to her relationship with Harry, Meghan dated Canadian chef Cory Vitiello from 2014 to 2016. Multiple sources have alleged that the actress was dating Vitiello when she was set up to meet Prince Harry. Vitiello has not acknowledged whether he was still dating her when she met the prince or whether the date is what caused them to break up.

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Additional reporting by John Wolfe