COLUMN: There is a lot of affection for Prince Harry and Meghan

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It has been one of the worst-kept secrets – after months of speculation Prince Harry has announced his engagement to Meghan Markle.

The signs – for those who care to follow them – have been there for months.

Earlier in the year, Kensington Palace released a statement on behalf of the Prince to put a stop to the harassment that Meghan received from photographers; she was also seen at his side during the Invictus games this summer before, most significantly, Meghan was invited to Balmoral.

For anyone who knows about the Royal Family, this was seen as the famous ‘Balmoral test’ where future royal spouses are invited to meet the monarch and the extended family in a private setting.

We now know that the couple became engaged a few weeks ago before the news was made public.

Prince Harry has spoken openly and candidly about his mother’s death and the impact that it has had on him in the years since so it is fitting that he has used diamonds from his mother’s collection for his fiancée’s engagement ring – the Duchess of Cambridge wears the sapphire and diamond ring which belonged to Diana, Princess of Wales.

It’s true to say that Meghan is not in the traditional mould of a royal spouse. Much has been written about the fact that she is an American and divorced.

Much has changed since the abdication in 1936. Almost 40 years ago, in 1978, the Queen’s cousin, Prince Michael of Kent, married Baroness Marie-Christine von Reibnitz, now known as Princess Michael of Kent. Princess Michael was Austrian, brought up in Australia, previously married and a Roman Catholic meaning many of these barriers have already been broken.

The fact that she is also mixed-race has attracted attention. For me, this is only an issue by virtue of the fact that it is not an issue. The couple seem relaxed and happy in each other’s company; Prince Harry says the stars were aligned when they met and, so, one hopes, the omens are set for a happy future together.

It has been announced that the couple will live in Nottingham Cottage in the Kensington Palace complex but we do not yet know the details of the couple’s future roles. Prince Harry left the armed forces last year after ten years active service and has increased the number of official engagement he carries out and has increasingly represented the Queen.

With Prince Philip’s retirement from public life and other members of the Royal Family taking on some of the Queen’s workload such as foreign tours, it seems likely that this will continue over the coming years.

We do not yet know whether Meghan will join the Prince in becoming a full-time working member of the Royal Family. I would say it would be unlikely she will continue working as an actress although she may use these skills in other ways such as through voice-overs and videos for charities.

I’m sure, though, that we will see her by his side at some of the major royal events and I would imagine she will also become involved in some of the causes he champions through the Royal Foundation, the charity Prince Harry has set up with his brother and sister-in- law, since they have a shared interests in the humanitarian field.

We can look forward to their wedding in the spring. Although it’s not going to be a public holiday, there is a lot of affection for the couple. I know when I have attended events such as Trooping the Colour, there has been a lot of affection for Prince Harry

with loud cheers from the crowd when he appears.

I’m sure that this affection will now be shared with his future bride and we can wish them every happiness for their new life together.