Prince Harry and Meghan Markle break 'royal rule' at Invictus Games Toronto

By Gemma Strong

After more than a year of dating, Prince Harry and Meghan Markle finally made their first public appearance as a couple on Monday (Sept. 25), as they stepped out together for the Invictus Games. The prince and his girlfriend walked hand-in-hand to watch the wheelchair tennis at Nathan Phillips Square – and their public display of affection has caused something of a stir amongst royal watchers. Unlike Harry's brother Prince William and his wife Kate, who rarely show PDA at public events, the couple showed their intimacy by holding hands, and were pictured whispering and laughing together as they watched the sporting event together from the stands.

TAP TO VIEW GALLERYPrince Harry and Meghan MarklePrince Harry and Meghan Markle arrived hand-in-hand at the Invictus Games

Many believe that the outing is a sign that an engagement announcement is imminent. At the very least, it shows how seriously Harry takes the relationship. The British royal family very rarely show public affection at official events – particularly between an unmarried couple. In the past decade, William and Kate have been photographed holding hands less than a dozen times.

STORY: Why Prince William and Duchess Kate rarely hold hands

Prince William and Kate MiddletonPrince William and Kate were famously photographed hugging at London 2012

It's thought they refrain from public affection because they are working representatives of the British monarchy. But different occasions call for different behaviour; William and Kate made headlines in 2012 when they were photographed hugging in the stands as they celebrated Team GB's success at the London Olympics, and royal watchers have noted the comparison between those Games and the Invictus event in Canada.

Of course, 33-year-old Harry has a greater distance from the throne than his older brother - he will be sixth in line when William and Kate welcome their third child next year – and, as such, perhaps feels less constrained by royal protocol. Certainly, the couple's low-key outing on Monday appeared relaxed and informal, with 36-year-old Meghan – dressed down in a white shirt and jeans – and her boyfriend looking carefree as they chatted with ease to fellow spectators.

Prince Harry and Meghan MarkleHarry and Meghan were openly affectionate at the Toronto Games

It was no coincidence that the couple made their debut at the Games. Harry will have put a great deal of thought into the perfect setting to go public with his romance, and the Invictus Games - which Harry launched in 2014 - was the ideal choice. Not only was Meghan able to show her support for a cause very close to her royal boyfriend's heart, but the event took place in Toronto, where Meghan lives and films her TV show Suits.

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