Actress Meghan Markle says that she and Prince Harry are "really happy and in love" and that his support has helped her weather the media storm about their relationship.
Markle, 36, talked about her year-long relationship with the 33-year-old prince, in the latest issue of Vanity Fair magazine. Best known for her role in the popular TV series Suits, she also spoke about her biracial background and growing up with a social conscience.
Markle told Vanity Fair she met Harry in July 2016 in London "through friends."
Talking openly to media about a romantic relationship with a member of the Royal Family breaks with tradition, Carolyn Harris, a royal historian and author based in Toronto, told CBC News in an email.
But Harris also noted that Harry publicly acknowledged that Markle was his girlfriend before the Vanity Fair story was published.
Last November, Kensington Palace issued a statement on Harry's behalf slamming reporters and photographers for their intrusion into Markle's privacy and for the "racist undertones" of some comment pieces.
"His girlfriend, Meghan Markle, has been subject to a wave of abuse and harassment," the statement said. "Prince Harry is worried about Ms. Markle's safety and is deeply disappointed that he has not been able to protect her."
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A public statement of any kind about romantic relationships is a departure from royal tradition, said Harris, who wrote Raising Royalty: 1000 Years of Royal Parenting.
"In the past, the palace has not confirmed who members of the royal family are dating, only engagements," she said.
Over the last few decades, royal couples started giving interviews once they became engaged, including Prince Charles and Lady Diana, Prince Andrew and Sarah Ferguson, and most recently, Prince William and Kate Middleton. The public seized on those interviews as "rare examples of royalty talking about their feelings about their spouses," Harris said.
That Prince Harry and Meghan Markle are publicly talking about their relationship before announcing an engagement is consistent with "a general trend toward discussing their feelings openly," she said, pointing out that both Harry and his older brother, William, have opened up about the devastating impact their mother's death had on them.
Harry, who was 12 when Princess Diana died, has talked about suffering severe emotional problems in the aftermath.
Prince Harry and Meghan Markle also reflect "new trends in royal relationships," Harris said.
"Just as William and Kate dated for years before becoming engaged, Harry and Meghan are taking the time to get to know each other and develop a strong relationship before taking any next steps," she said. "In contrast, Charles and Diana spent little time together before announcing their engagement."
The Vanity Fair story has prompted speculation in the British betting industry, The Associated Press reported, with Betfair offering 6-to-4 odds that the couple is engaged by the end of 2017 and 3-to-1 odds that they marry in 2018.
Harry is now sixth in line to the British throne, following Monday's announcement that William and Kate are expecting their third child.
William and Harry's father, Prince Charles, would take the throne if Queen Elizabeth died. Next would be William, followed by his children George, Charlotte and their expected younger sibling.