LONDON • American actress Meghan Markle has spoken publicly about her relationship with Britain's Prince Harry for the first time, revealing that they dated for six months before it became public and that they are "really happy and in love".
She told Vanity Fair magazine that they met in London in July last year through friends and that the attention on her since their relationship became public "has its challenges".
In November, Prince Harry made a rare public statement criticising the "wave of abuse and harassment" Markle had been subjected to by the press. He criticised "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, a divorcee who describes herself as mixed race, stars in legal drama Suits.
She said of the attention: "It has its challenges and it comes in waves - some days it can feel more challenging than others.
"And right out of the gate, it was surprising the way things changed. But I still have this support system all around me and, of course, my boyfriend's support."
Markle, 36, told the magazine her relationship with Prince Harry, 32, has not changed her.
"I can tell you that at the end of the day, I think it's really simple.
"We're two people who are really happy and in love. We were very quietly dating for about six months before it became news, and I was working during that whole time, and the only thing that changed was people's perception.
"Nothing about me changed. I'm still the same person that I am and I've never defined myself by my relationship."
They have continued to protect the privacy of their relationship and are seldom photographed together. Last month, they visited Botswana to celebrate her birthday.
"We're a couple," she said. "We're in love. I'm sure there will be a time when we will have to come forward and present ourselves and have stories to tell, but I hope what people will understand is that this is our time.
"This is for us. It's part of what makes it so special, that it's just ours. But we're happy. Personally, I love a great love story."
The interview fuelled speculation among bookmakers that the couple could get engaged soon. It comes a day after Prince Harry's elder brother, Prince William, revealed that he and his wife Kate are expecting their third child.