Looking like any other couple, wrapped up in winter coats, the two laughed and gesticulated as they made their way—at a fair clip it must be said—through some of the most crowded shopping streets in central London, with nothing more than woolly hats for disguises.
Both were grinning, and in their wake can be seen groups of pedestrians casting them a glance and carrying on their way.
We know from Harry’s letter that this relationship is serious, but it’s striking just how differently he is conducting it to any romance that has gone before.
It’s hard to believe that just over two years ago Harry was in an intensely paranoid relationship with British aristocrat Cressida Bonas.
Harry’s relationship with Cressida was marked by what at first was nothing more than a charming desire on his part to protect her from the attentions of the press. The strategy worked for as long as the secret was kept, but once their relationship became public knowledge, the romance fell apart under the strain with shocking alacrity.
It was just days after Cressida made her first public appearance by Harry’s side, that the two broke up.
It turns out that a secret relationship lived exclusively behind the closed doors of a tiny circle of friends’ houses wasn’t the best preparation for the reality of dating the world’s most eligible bachelor.
What a difference a bit of star power makes.
Unlike Cressida Bonas, Chelsy Davy or any other of Harry’s girlfriends, Meghan Markle has actively sought fame, not simply for its own sake, of course, but as a necessary coefficient in her choice of career.
You can’t be a big actor without being famous these days.
Admittedly, dating Harry is her biggest part yet, by a long way.
And being Harry’s girl has multiplied Meghan’s name recognition by an exponential factor; it’s not her part in Suits, which attracts a mere two million viewers per episode or so, that has made her the most Googled actress of 2016.
And while there is some nervousness among many observers that Harry should be dating, as one puts it, “a publicity seeking sort with millions of followers on Instagram,” Harry has often talked about finding the right person for the “role.”
Inadvertently, subconsciously perhaps, Harry’s choice of words reveals that being his wife is indeed a part to be played, and who better to play it than someone who he loves who also embraces fame, rather than a privacy-obsessive who fears and loathes public attention?
As Harry’s biographer Penny Junor tells the Daily Beast: “Meghan is used to being in the limelight which neither Chelsy or Cressida were. Also they were younger and were intimidated by the media intrusion; they didn’t want a future in a goldfish bowl. For a US celebrity that media attention is the oxygen they need and rely upon and crave. I just hope that Meghan is being genuine here and not using Harry to further her career.”
Junor adds that another important factor in the confidence with which the couple are going out in public is that, “Harry is more confident these days. He’s out there supporting good causes, making things happen and people like him and are on his side.”
It is quite plain that the apparent ease and lack of stress the couple showed as they strolled through London’s ‘Theatreland’ district (on the Monday, they popped out to purchase a Christmas tree from a local vendor) stems at least in part from Meghan’s familiarity and relaxed attitude to the world of flashbulbs and publicity.
It is believed that Meghan, 35, flew to the UK from her Toronto home early on Monday and has been staying with Harry, 32, at his two-bedroom Nottingham Cottage in the grounds of Kensington Palace.
Meghan is believed to have visited the UK four times in the past three months, and last weekend Harry raised eyebrows when, contrary to strict royal protocol which prohibits mixing business trips with pleasure, he diverted 1,700 miles on his way back from his royal tour of the Caribbean to see her.
There have been rumors that Harry and Meghan are planning a foreign vacation after Christmas, but it is unlikely they will spend Christmas together on the Queen’s country estate, Sandringham, when Harry will join other senior royals for traditional celebrations.
Kate Middleton didn’t go to Sandringham for Christmas until 2011, after she married William, despite having dated him for several years.
Royal writer Robert Lacey told The Daily Beast via email that Harry's new openness should be seen on the context of evolving royal mores: "If you look back at history, the story of royal love matches is a matter of slow battles to catch up with the manners of a changing world — from Edward VIII having to abdicate in 1936 in order to marry Wallis Simpson, a divorcee, to the marriage of Prince Charles and Camilla in 2005, less than seventy years later, a scandal-rid divorcee marrying a scandal-rid divorcee, without Charles having to give up his right to the throne. Harry’s attitude seems to reflect his bolder character, the lessons he has drawn from his previous courtships, and the indifference he shares with his brother towards conventional media relations - and the professional media as a whole."