Exclusive: Meghan Markle and Prince Harry were smitten from the moment they first said 'hello'

Andrew Morton

Meghan Markle wasn't always one to let her heart take the lead. With a solid head on her shoulders, the Suits star was used to making measured decisions. But when she met Prince Harry, all reason went out the window. Their courtship moved at record speed, from back-to-back blind dates to a whirlwind trip to Botswana shortly after - and the future royal bride was bursting with excitement, so much so that her feelings subtly seeped onto her Instagram feed.

Here, Meghan: An American Princess author Andrew Morton takes us inside the couple's first blind date and the events that followed in an exclusive book excerpt...

The couple's whirlwind romance took them from a blind date to Botswana. Photo: © Getty Images

The scene was set, Cupid’s arrow was aquiver, and the stars, as Harry observed during his engagement interview, were aligned. Not that Meghan had much of an opinion about the man she was about to meet. When she was asked during a TV quiz [editor’s note: it was in this Hello! Canada online interview] to choose between William and Harry, she appeared nonplussed, and the presenter had to encourage her to choose the prince who was still single. Meghan, it appeared, preferred the actor Dennis Quaid, in any case.

A MAGICAL BLIND DATE

Harry had his work cut out. That said, Meghan was meeting a very different Harry from the young man who made a profession of falling out of bars. On July 1, he had just returned from France, where he had joined the then prime minister David Cameron, Prince Charles, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, and other dignitaries at a service to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the start of the Battle of the Somme, the bloodiest day of warfare in British history. At an evening vigil, Harry had read “Before Action,” a poem penned by Lieutenant W. N. Hodgson, who died in action the following day.

The event had been a sombre and moving reminder of the enormity of that day, and Harry returned in sober spirits.

Meghan was meeting a grown-up, a man with focus and resolve, a sense of who he was and what he could achieve. She had asked her friends before their meeting if he was kind and nice, and the answer lay in his blue eyes. As they say in the movies, they had each other at “hello.” She was immediately sensitive to him, aware that this was a man who beneath the banter and the surface chatter, was looking for a safe harbour. The question she asked herself after that first intoxicating meeting was could she provide it – and all that entailed.

They were mesmerized by one another, Harry enthralled by her beauty, sophistication and perceptiveness. She understood him as a man, not a title. In that subtle one-upmanship of a first date, he realized that while his grandmother might be the Queen, Meghan had given a speech at a UN forum. As he subsequently confessed, he realized that he would have to up his game.

At the end of the evening, they said their goodnights and went their separate ways, he to Nottingham Cottage at Kensington Palace, she to a room at the Dean Street townhouse in Soho. Both were buzzing. As she relived that fateful evening in her mind, she perhaps wondered if she had been too eager to accept his invitation to meet again the following day.

Andrew Morton says Harry and Meghan had each other at "hello." Photo: © Getty Images

WHIRLWIND ROMANCE

As Harry later confirmed, the couple enjoyed back-to-back dates, making every minute matter before she had to fly back to Toronto on July 5 to continue promoting the new season of Suits. The normally self-contained actor was smitten. Unable to keep her feelings contained, her Instagram account gave away just a little; on July 3 she posted a picture of two Love Hearts candies that bore a simple message: Kiss Me. Next to the photograph Meghan posted “Love Hearts in London.”

She had even taken herself by surprise. When Harry asked if she would be interested in joining him on safari for a few days in August – mere weeks after their first meeting – she found herself saying, “Yes, please.” Schedules were consulted, days were agreed upon, plans were made. She had to pinch herself. Here she was about to travel halfway around the world to spend five days in a tented camp in the middle of nowhere with a man she had met twice. It was a side to herself that she was just discovering.

The last full day she had in London she spent at Wimbledon, where she sat in the players’ box along with Vogue editor Anna Wintour and her niece. As she was watching her friend Serena Williams thrash Russian Svetlana Kuznetsova, it began to rain. Meghan was wearing a simple but expensive black suede Ralph Lauren dress, so Anna, ever the fashionista, offered her wool cardigan so that the suede would not be stained by the water while they waited for the roof to be installed. Once play resumed, Anna recovered her cardigan and Serena eased her way through to the last eight.

Though she was nursing the biggest secret of her life, Meghan was focused on the action, standing to applaud her friend’s outstanding play. However, courtside photographers were more focused on Anna and on Kate’s sister Pippa Middleton than on Meghan. She was placed under the heading “incidental people” by one photographic agency. Not for much longer.

“Gutted to be leaving London,” Meghan told her 1.9 million Instagram followers before she boarded her flight to Toronto. It would be some months before even her close friends realized exactly why the parting was so bittersweet.

Excerpted from Meghan: A Hollywood Princess by Andrew Morton. Used by arrangement with Grand Central Publishing. Copyright © 2018. All rights reserved

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