Prince Harry has today finally confirmed he has been dating Suits actress Meghan Markle for ‘a few months’.
In an extraordinary statement on his love life, Harry, 32, said he is ‘worried about Ms Markle’s safety’ following the ‘wave of abuse and harassment’ she has faced since rumours of their relationship first surfaced nine days ago.
He lashed out at media intrusion and the ‘sexism and racism of social media trolls’ in a statement which said ‘this is not a game – it is her life and his’ and that he is ‘deeply disappointed that he has not been able to protect her’.
The royal’s secret love affair with the 35-year-old actress was revealed less than a fortnight ago on Sunday, October 30 after they were given away by matching friendship bracelets they have both worn for months.
A lengthy and strongly-worded statement issued by Kensington Palace said there had been a ‘line crossed’ in the abuse and harassment she has faced and it was ‘not right’ that his girlfriend ‘should be subjected to such a storm’.
The letter added that she had faced ‘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’.
Miss Markle shared photograph after photograph of her wearing the African-style jewellery on her near monthly trips to London – and the actress is believed to have charmed the royal when he visited Toronto in May.
Harry met the actress – who is best known for her role as Rachel Zane in US legal drama Suits – at a function while he was promoting his Invictus Games in the Canadian city, where she is based.
They had been seeing each other secretly since then, spending time together in London and Canada, and Miss Markle has dined with Prince William and Kate, as well as Harry’s father Prince Charles.
The statement continued: ‘He is also aware that there is significant curiosity about his private life. He has never been comfortable with this, but he has tried to develop a thick skin.’
And it said: ‘Harry has been very aware of the warmth that has been extended to him by members of the public. He feels lucky to have so many people supporting him and knows what a fortunate and privileged life he leads.’
The statement also pointed out: ‘He knows commentators will say this is “the price she has to pay” and that “this is all part of the game”. He strongly disagrees. This is not a game – it is her life and his.’
The letter – issued by Jason Knauf, Harry’s communications secretary at Kensington Palace – added that there had also been attempts by members of the press to get into Miss Markle’s home.
Although linked to a number of women including singer Ellie Goulding and Camilla Thurlow, Harry has been an eligible bachelor since he split from long-term girlfriend Cressida Bonas more than two years ago.
But last Sunday he scrapped a secret trip to Canada to meet with his new lover after details of their six-month relationship emerged in the press.
Harry was booked on to a British Airways flight from Heathrow to Toronto at 11.30am and due to land in the Canadian city at 3.30pm on Sunday but was a ‘no show’, a source said.
Hours before he was due to leave the country claims they had been seeing each other for nearly six months broke in Britain.
The source said: ‘The flight was booked last week but he was a no-show. The crew for the British Airways flight knew the Prince was booked to travel with them.
‘It appears he pulled out at the last minute and decided not to travel.’
The actress, who has been married before, has also likely dated Northern Irish golfer Rory McIlroy and Canadian star chef Cory Vitiello, who she was apparently romantically linked to when she met Harry.
In March Mr Vitiello was boasting on Twitter that he was ‘so proud of my lady’ after she was named a global ambassador for the children’s charity World Vision.
The prince also follows the actress on the picture sharing website Instagram using a pseudonym.
Intriguingly, Harry, who publicly professes to hate social media, is one of her million followers and she also follows him.
The revelation was telling because the prince has a private account and only ‘follows’ a few close friends and charities, suggesting the pair know each other fairly well.
Despite managing to keep their relationship secret for months, Miss Markle gave clues that they were together.
After their Toronto meeting in May, Miss Markle was seen in the Royal Box at Wimbledon on June 28 – the same day Harry appeared on stage with Coldplay in west London.
Miss Markle posted several pictures of recent trips to London, including a view that appears to be of Kensington, where Harry lives, in July, and a picture of his grandmother’s house, Buckingham Palace.