How Meghan Markle and Prince Harry dodged the media for the first few months of their relationship
Prince Harry was seemingly determined to make his relationship with Meghan Markle go the distance - and if it didn't, it wouldn't be because the eyes of the world were on them.
The 32-year-old royal and former tv star's love story has a happy ending, with an impending wedding in May, but when he was the world's most eligible bachelor two years ago, his every relationship was dissected within an inch of its life; which is all the more surprising when it was revealed he was dating the American actress in 2016. Even more impressive was the fact that they kept it a secret for six months.
In their now famous engagement interview, Harry said only a handful of people knew about their burgeoning relationship, including Markle's good friends Ben and Jessica Mulroney, who played a key role in keeping them out of the spotlight when their relationship was eventually publicised.
Harry was acutely aware of the impact that life in the royal fishbowl had on his partners, both ex-girlfriends Chelsy Davy, whom he dated from 2004 to 2011 and Cressida Bonas, from 2012 to 2014, eventually ended their relationships because they couldn't handle the scrutiny and he wasn't going to let that happen again.
In October 2016, the news became public with the story first broken by the British tabloids and later confirmed with an explosive press release defending his girlfriend, damning some news outlets for the "outright sexism and racism" in their coverage and negative comments on social media.
Royal expert Katie Nicholl's upcoming book Harry: Life, Loss and Love, has been serialised exclusively in Vanity Fair, and she gives unprecedented insight into the early days of Meghan and Harry's relationship.
"When the story broke, Harry happened to be with Meghan in Toronto. He was apparently taken by surprise when his aides called to tell him the story was going to be front-page news and knew that very soon he and Meghan would be under siege," Nicholl writes, as reported in Vanity Fair.
"A story was leaked that Harry had cancelled a flight to Toronto to try and make it look like he was in the U.K., but photographers and reporters descended on Meghan’s home regardless."
The Mulroneys were among Toronto's elite - Jessica is an influential stylist, who happens to be Meghan's best friend (and reportedly the woman who introduced her to her husband-to-be) and Ben is a popular tv host.
The pair holed up in their plush home and it's reported that Harry's popularity with their young children was among one of the deciding factors that made Markle see a definitive future with him.
"When Harry came to visit the family he brought a bag filled with gifts. He won the kids over in an instant. He was brilliant with them and I think what swung it for Meghan was how good Harry was with them," a source said.
"I actually think that might have been the moment Meghan really fell for Harry. He got to know the Mulroneys quite well, and they liked Harry from the beginning."
They are said to have exchanged stories about Harry's late mother Princess Diana as Ben met her as a child when his father was serving as prime minister of Canada from 1984 to 1993.
In September, they went public with their romance, choosing Harry's Invictus Games in Toronto as a fitting venue to make their debut as a couple and by the end of last year, he had popped the question and the couple are currently touring various destinations in the UK to build up rapport with the British public before their May 19 wedding.