Meghan Markle and Prince Harry’s whirlwind romance started in London, blossomed in Africa, and eventually led them to their current lives in the US. To mark the Duke of Sussex’s 38th birthday, the Duchess brought back memories of their whirlwind trip to Botswana.
Prince Harry is marking his birthday in the UK for the first time since he and his wife Meghan Markle stepped down from the Royal Family. The Duke of Sussex is expected to spend his 38th birthday privately, likely at the couple’s former residence, Frogmore Cottage. Given the recent death of his grandmother Queen Elizabeth II, the occasion will perhaps be a more solemn affair than in previous years, with the Duke and Duchess of Sussex known to make each other’s birthdays memorable and “give each other incredibly romantic gifts”. Harry and Meghan started dating in the summer of 2016 and after just two dates, the Prince whisked the Hollywood actress away on a romantic trip to Africa — a place that holds a special place in his heart.
Harry told the story of the couple’s ‘third date’ in their engagement interview a year later. He said: “And then it was I think about three, maybe four weeks later that I managed to persuade her to come and join me in Botswana… And we camped out with each other under the stars. She came and joined me for five days out there, which was absolutely fantastic.” In 2019, the Duchess nodded to the early days of their romance, making her husband’s birthday particularly special by bringing back memories of their whirlwind trip to Africa. A source told PEOPLE that the Sussexes “always give each other incredibly romantic gifts”.
They said: “Last year, for Harry’s birthday, Meghan recreated their Botswana camping adventures in their backyard. “It’s a place that means so much to them — and to Harry in particular — so Meghan wanted to bring that happy place to him on his day so she set up a tent, got sleeping bags, cooked dinner and recreated Botswana where they fell in love.” Having been set up on a blind date by their mutual friend, Harry and Meghan hit it off immediately and bonded over their shared interest in charity work and humanitarianism. Their initial trip to Botswana only furthered the Prince’s interest in the American celebrity, as explained in ‘Finding Freedom’: “Harry was delightfully surprised by Meghan’s down-to-earth attitude.”
Co-authors Omid Scobie and Carolyn Durand continued: “While camping she cleaned her face with baby wipes and happily wandered into the woodlands if she needed a bathroom break.” The couple returned to Botswana in 2017 to assist Dr Mike Chase of Elephants Without Borders, allowing the royals to get up close to the animals while aiding the organisation’s conservation efforts. By the autumn of 2016, Harry and Meghan’s relationship became public and the actress was confirmed as an official royal girlfriend when she was invited to Christmas at Sandringham that year. In November 2017, they announced their engagement and six months later, they were married.
But it was the speed of their romance that led to other royals voicing their concerns over the relationship, namely Prince William — Harry’s older brother — and gradually caused the divide that separated the Sussexes from the House of Windsor for so long. In the 2019 TLC documentary, ‘Kate v. Meghan: Princesses at War?’, royal author Katie Nicholl explained: “William was quite concerned that the relationship had moved so quickly. And being close to Harry, probably the only person close enough to say to Harry, ‘This seems to be moving quickly, are you sure?’” She continued: “I think what was meant as well-intended brotherly advice just riled Harry. Harry is hugely protective of Meghan. He saw that as criticism. He interpreted that as his brother not really being behind this marriage, this union, and I don’t think things have been quite right ever since.”
However, the Princes have seemingly put their own relationship woes behind them to join together in grief following the death of their grandmother. The Duke and Duchess of Sussex have joined other royals in mourning the monarch. They made their first public appearance on Saturday outside Windsor Castle, accompanying Prince William and Kate, Princess of Wales on a walkabout to greet well-wishers and read tributes. It marked the so-called Fab Four’s first joint outing since Meghan and Harry stepped down from the Royal Family. According to reports, William extended the invitation to his brother and sister-in-law.
Days later, the two Princes walked side-by-side behind the Queen’s coffin as it left Buckingham Palace for the final time and made its way to Westminster Hall. Both William and Harry have paid tribute to their grandmother, notably nodding to the relationships the late monarch shared with their wives and children. In his statement, the newly appointed Prince of Wales said: “I have had the benefit of The Queen’s wisdom and reassurance into my fifth decade. My wife has had twenty years of her guidance and support. My three children have got to spend holidays with her and create memories that will last their whole lives.”
Meanwhile, in a statement published on the Archewell website, Harry said: “Granny, while this final parting brings us great sadness, I am forever grateful for all of our first meetings—from my earliest childhood memories with you, to meeting you for the first time as my Commander-in-Chief, to the first moment you met my darling wife and hugged your beloved great-grandchildren. I cherish these times shared with you, and the many other special moments in between.” Both the Waleses and the Sussexes will be in attendance at the Queen’s state funeral on Monday. They will also likely be at the private commital service at St. George’s Chapel, Windsor.