April 04, 2018 01:00 PM

Prince Harry’s road to lasting love hasn’t been easy.

“Being a royal has been a romantic curse for him,” says Princess Diana’s former biographer Andrew Morton, the author of Meghan: A Hollywood PrincessPrevious girlfriends Chelsy Davy and Cressida Bonas struggled under the glare of the royal spotlight. But Meghan shines under it.

“She is definitely the one wearing the trousers in their relationship,” a royal insider tells PEOPLE in this week’s issue. “She is a strong, opinionated woman who has her own ideas about things, and that’s one of the things he loves about her.”

A star following seven seasons on the USA hit Suits, “Meghan was established before she met Harry,” says the insider. “That’s a first for the royal family. I don’t think Harry was ever going to marry a nice upper-class girl from the [English] counties—it’s just not him.”

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Of course, Harry has always held his own and even as a kid could command a room as the impish counterpart to his more dutiful big brother, Prince William. “You’d be a guest at Kensington Palace, and you’d see a plastic rifle come round the corner and a boy dressed in an army uniform,” Morton says. “He used to help the chauffeurs clean the cars and turn hoses on people. He was cheeky.”

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Meghan’s self-assurance has made Harry even more confident as they work their way in tandem through the crowds of people who have gathered to see them at every engagement. And Harry’s never been more relaxed or at ease than with his bride-to-be by his side – his hand in hers.

  • With reporting by Simon Perry, Phil Boucher and Monique Jessen

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