“His Royal Highness and Ms. Markle became engaged in London earlier this month,” Clarence House said in a statement. “Prince Harry has informed Her Majesty The Queen and other close members of his family. Prince Harry has also sought and received the blessing of Ms. Markle’s parents.
“The couple will live in Nottingham Cottage at Kensington Palace.”
According to Clarence House, the wedding will take place in Spring 2018. It will be the biggest royal wedding since his brother Prince William walked down the aisle with Kate Middleton in 2011. It is the first time a direct heir to the throne has been set to wed an American since King Edward VIII abdicated to marry Wallis Simpson in 1937. (Harry is fifth in line, behind his father, Prince Charles, William and Kate’s children, Prince George and Princess Charlotte.)
In a statement, Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip said they were “delighted for the couple and wish them every happiness.”
Markle’s parents — Thomas Markle and Doria Ragland — said they were “incredibly happy” about the engagement.
“Our daughter has always been a kind and loving person,” they said in a statement. “To see her union with Harry, who shares the same qualities, is a source of great joy for us as parents.
“We wish them a lifetime of happiness and are very excited for their future together.”
For more on the couple, watch Prince Harry & Meghan Markle: The Royal Engagement available now, PeopleTV. Go to PeopleTV.com, or download the PeopleTV app on your favorite mobile or connected TV device.
Prince William and Kate Middleton also sent their well-wishes in a statement: “We are very excited for Harry and Meghan. It has been wonderful getting to know Meghan and to see how happy she and Harry are together.”
Most insiders believe that if the Queen hands him a royal dukedom, like Prince William received, Prince Harry will be made the Duke of Sussex on his wedding day. That would make Meghan the Duchess of Sussex, mirroring Kate’s title of the Duchess of Cambridge. Prince William was made the Duke of Cambridge on his wedding day.
During their high-speed, long-distance courtship, Harry and Los Angeles native Markle have spent time together at each other’s respective homes in London and Toronto, where Markle filmed Suits. The seventh season of the USA legal drama will reportedly be Markle’s last.
During the last year, Markle has been spotted walking around Prince Harry’s neighborhood in Kensington, carrying Whole Foods shopping bags (the health food store is a short stroll from Harry’s cottage), picking up flowers and visiting a spa in Soho on the eve of Pippa Middleton’s wedding. But it was an invite to Buckingham Palace for tea with the Queen in October that was most indicative of how serious things are between the two.
Just a week or so before the holiday, Harry squeezed in a few days with Markle by making a secret detour to Canada directly from the Caribbean, where he had been touring on behalf of his grandmother, Queen Elizabeth.
Then in January, the couple sealed their love on a romantic New Year’s vacation to see the spectacular northern lights in Norway. And they soaked up the sun in Jamaica during the wedding of one of Harry’s closest friends in March. Harry made a secret visit to Toronto for the couple’s first Easter together.
In early May, they were snapped sharing a sweet kiss and embrace after Harry’s charity polo match, marking their first public event together. Markle also accompanied Harry to Pippa Middleton’s wedding reception on May 20.
And for Markle’s birthday on August 4, the couple jetted off to Africa for a safari vacation. A few weeks later, the couple set off for a short getaway at Queen Elizabeth II’s Scottish highlands estate.
They made their first official appearance together during the Invictus Games in September. The couple walked hand-in-hand into the arena as they took in one of the events and chatted with fans in the stands. Harry even gave Markle a kiss on the cheek as they attended the closing ceremony for the games alongside Markle’s mother Doria Ragland.
Markle opened up about Harry in the October issue of Vanity Fair, telling the magazine that despite the intense public scrutiny surrounding their relationship, “it’s really simple. We’re two people who are really happy and in love.”
When news broke of their relationship in October, friends told PEOPLE that it had become so serious so quickly that marriage was certainly in the cards.
“Despite the distance, the media attention and everything else, there’s a real ease to their relationship,” a source told PEOPLE. “It just works. They are deeply happy.”
It then became clear just how deeply Harry felt about Markle in November of last year, when he spoke out to defend her from what he condemned as “the outright sexism and racism of social media trolls and web article comments” that created a “wave of abuse and harassment.” The unprecedented statement on November 8, 2016, was the first official confirmation that they were dating.
At the time, a Markle pal told PEOPLE the star was “head over heels” for Harry, saying, “It has been an absolute fairy tale for Meghan.”
Now comes the planning, with insiders pondering whether Harry will follow his brother William and get married at Westminster Abbey or another grand venue in central London.
He could also choose Scotland, like the princes’ cousin Zara Tindall, who wed rugby star Mike Tindall at St. Giles’s Cathedral in Edinburgh just a few months after William and Kate in 2011.