Why Meghan Markle's Engagement to Prince Harry Is So Significant

The couple has been dating since summer 2016.

The announcement of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle's engagement has the world excited for another royal wedding, but these nuptials will be far different than those before it. 

Markle will usher in a new brand of royal to the monarchy as the first biracial woman and first actress to marry into the family.

Markle, 36, is also the first American divorcee since Wallis Simpson to be proposed to by a member of the royal family.

Simpson, who was engaged to Edward VIII, caused controversy for being a divorcee, which eventually forced the then-king to step aside and hand the throne to his brother, George VI. 

Edward and Wallis were then exiled and spent their remaining years in France. 

As the monarchy looks to push to modernize their ways, Markle and Harry’s courtship seems to be how they will certainly take it in new directions.

Harry, who is fifth in line to the throne, stood up for his girlfriend amid the early media scrutiny she faced as news of their courtship emerged.  

“Some of this has been very public — 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,” he said in a statement in November 2016.

"Prince Harry is worried about Ms. Markle's safety and is deeply disappointed that he has not been able to protect her," the statement continued. "This is not a game — it is her life and his.”

Harry and Markle began dating in summer 2016 after meeting in London through friends. They kept their relationship under wraps until it got out to the press later that year. 

In September 2017, Markle gave her first in-depth interview about her relationship with the prince to Vanity Fair, in which she acknowledged for the first time publicly that they were in love. 

“Personally, I love a great love story,” she said.

It was an unusual moment for the monarchy, because it is seldom seen or heard that a regal love interest would express themselves to the press so vividly. 

Markle is also an activist for women’s rights, and has campaigned at the United Nations for gender equality. She has penned an essay for Time magazine about girl’s education and health, as well as the stigma that surrounds menstruation in countries like Rwanda and India.

“During my time in the field, many girls shared that they feel embarrassed to go to school during their periods, ill-equipped with rags instead of pads, unable to participate in sports, and without bathrooms available to care for themselves, they often opt to drop out of school entirely,” she wrote. “Many girls believe their bodies are purging evil spirits, or that they are injured once a month; this is a shame-filled reality they quietly endure.” 

Like her fiancé, the Suits star is a philanthropist as a global ambassador for the charity World Vision Canada.