LONDON • It was love at first sight for Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, who both quickly sensed their brief encounter on a blind date could blossom into something much, much bigger.
They were set up by a mutual friend when the American actress was passing through London in July 2016, with the couple later revealing they knew little about each other.
"The fact that I fell in love with Meghan so incredibly quickly was a confirmation to me that all the stars were aligned. Everything was just perfect," said Prince Harry.
Less than two years later, they will tie the knot at Windsor Castle on May 19.
When they first met for a drink, she was 34 and a divorcee of three years. He was 31, with a few foundered relationships and a 10-year army career behind him.
He had never heard of her or watched Suits, an American television legal drama series she had starred in since 2011.
"I was beautifully surprised when I walked into that room and saw her," he recalled, and thought to himself: "I'm going to really have to up my game here."
Bonding over their passion for the good causes they represented, they immediately set up a second date - for the following day.
A few weeks later, he persuaded her to join him camping for five days in Botswana.
"We were really by ourselves, which was crucial to me to make sure that we had a chance to get to know each other," he said.
Their romance was under cover for the first five or six months. He said the family had been very supportive of the relationship, including his grandparents Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip as well as his father Prince Charles.
Prince Harry said they had frank conversations about what Markle's future could entail and found it a "huge relief" to have finally found someone comfortable with the pressure and lifelong job that he comes attached with.
Prince Harry publicly confirmed they were dating in November 2016 with a highly unusual statement blasting racist "abuse and harassment" directed towards her.
It is "not right that a few months into a relationship with him" that Markle should be subjected to such a storm, his communications secretary said.
In November last year, the pair were in Nottingham Cottage, a two-bedroom home they now share on the grounds of London's Kensington Palace, roasting a chicken,when he proposed to her.
"It was just an amazing surprise. It was so sweet and natural and very romantic. He got on one knee," Markle said.
They announced their engagement on Nov 27 last year. She made her first official public appearance with him on Dec 1 and spent Christmas with the family.
The pair will throw themselves into causes they wish to champion, with Prince Harry suggesting that their joint focus will be on the Commonwealth, particularly youth.