How Meghan Markle transformed Prince Harry

THE world has been captivated by the romance between Prince Harry and Meghan Markle since the couple went public in late 2016.

Everyone was expecting that this was “the one”. Harry had dated a number of young women, but for Meghan he was changing. And his closest friends and family noticed. The following is an extract from the book Harry: Life, Loss and Love.

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Meghan’s green lifestyle was also beginning to rub off on Harry, much to the amusement of his friends. Her routine involves starting most days with a yoga workout and drinking green juices, and since he had started seeing Meghan, Harry was taking better care of himself. He smoked less, drank less, and had lost weight, which might have been down to Meghan cleaning out his cupboards, throwing away any junk food, and stocking up instead on healthy juices. Harry wanted to be in the best possible shape for Meghan and had started going to the gym regularly and following a healthy eating regimen. He was friends with a leading London nutritionist, Gabriela Peacock, who is close to his cousins Princesses Beatrice and Eugenie and counts singer James Blunt and soprano Katherine Jenkins among her clients.

According to one of his friends, Harry tried out Gabriela’s range of supplements as part of his new health kick. “Harry went through a bit of a health overhaul after meeting Meghan. He really started watching what he ate and became more health conscious and started taking supplements,” according to a friend. Harry looked fitter than he had in years even if he was still sporting the beard he had grown while in the military and which the Queen disliked according to one of her aides. The early part of the new year was a quiet period in terms of royal duties, and Harry filled his days going to the gym and spending precious time with Meghan.

He was focused on the Heads Together campaign, which had been announced as the official charity for the London Marathon. It was William, Kate, and Harry’s biggest joint initiative: Kate focused on mental health in schools, William concentrated his efforts on male suicide, and Harry turned his attention to the servicemen and women who were suffering post-traumatic stress. Since getting involved with the campaign, Harry had been far more open about his own life, telling footballer Rio Ferdinand, who had recently lost his wife Rebecca to cancer, that he regretted not speaking about his mother’s death sooner. “I really regret not ever talking about it … for the first twenty-eight years of my life,” Harry said. It was a rare unguarded moment and showed a sensitive and vulnerable side not really seen until now.

Meanwhile, Meghan travelled to Delhi and Mumbai with World Vision Canada to back a campaign promoting better health and hygiene for young women. In a passionate piece in Time magazine, she wrote about how Indian girls and women were being stigmatised and missing out on an education because of menstruation. “‘Young girls’ potential is being squandered because we are too shy to talk about the most natural thing in the world,” she wrote. “To that I say: we need to push the conversation, mobilise policy making surrounding menstrual health initiatives, support organisations who foster girls’ education from the ground up, and within our own homes, we need to rise above our puritanical bashfulness when it comes to talking about menstruation.” Like Harry, she wasn’t going to shy away from gritty issues and stigmas that divided society. It was one of the things that bonded them.

ROYAL WEDDING: Everything you need to know

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Against a stunning Jamaican sunset, Harry wrapped Meghan in his arms and kissed her. It had been two weeks since they had last been together, and both had been looking forward to his best friend Tom Inskip’s wedding. Harry had arrived on the island via a scheduled flight, while Meghan flew in on a private jet loaned by a friend. The wedding was a three-day celebration, and Harry had splashed out on a luxury oceanfront villa at the Round Hill Resort in Montego Bay, not far from where Meghan had married Trevor six years before. Thrilled to be together again, the couple spent much of their time tucked away in their villa, which had its own infinity pool and butler on call. At the wedding service Meghan had a reserved seat next to Harry in one of the front rows, and according to one guest she mingled confidently while Harry was busy ushering people to their seats. In her flowing designer sundress and shades, she fitted in with the well-heeled crowd and already knew most of Harry’s inner circle.

Helpfully, she also got along well with Tom’s bride Lara who, like many of Harry’s friends, felt that Meghan was a positive influence on him. Certainly, they couldn’t have seemed happier as they emerged from the church after the service hand-in-hand. At the reception that night, Harry barely left Meghan’s side. When the DJ started playing, they took to the dance floor and partied into the early hours, but Harry was on his best behaviour, not drinking too much and even limiting his beloved Marlboro Lights. Skippy was as surprised as everyone else at the new Harry. Having partied around the world, from Croatia to Vegas, he and Harry were partners in crime, but Harry gave the tequila shots a miss, saying he wanted to remember the night and enjoy it. That wasn’t to say he didn’t have fun, and at one point he was dancing so enthusiastically to a Michael Jackson song with Meghan that he accidentally crashed into a waiter and sent a tray of drinks flying.

At the end of the night there was a slow dance, and after Harry escorted Meghan onto the dance floor for a final twirl, the couple politely excused themselves just after 1am. While the island had mixed memories for Meghan, she and Harry had a wonderful time swimming in the sea and drinking sundowners on the beach. Harry seemed blissfully happy and strolled around the resort barefoot, with Meghan at his side. His mood soured when they were photographed together on their balcony by a paparazzo, and Harry was upset that their romantic getaway was being infringed upon, but Meghan comforted him and reasoned, what did it matter? The world knew they were an item, and nothing should spoil their happiness. Before they left the island Harry booked a table at the Caves, one of the island’s most prestigious restaurants, where they enjoyed supper in a candlelit cave where no one could spy on them.

As they bid each other farewell at the end of the holiday, both knew that things between them were serious. While it was still relatively early days, the relationship was progressing quickly, and Harry and Meghan were already making plans for the future. Meghan was preparing to film her seventh season of Suits, and she had already decided that it would probably be her last. She wanted to focus more on her charity work and if things with Harry were to go to the next level, she knew that one of the sacrifices she would likely have to make would be her career. It was something Chelsy and Cressida had not been prepared to do, but Meghan felt differently. She was older, possibly wiser, and had, as far as she was concerned, reached the pinnacle of her acting career.

Now there were other avenues to explore. Harry, meanwhile, was convinced he had met “the one.” At thirty-two, he was the same age as his father when he married Lady Diana Spencer. His brother, meanwhile, was already married and a father at the same point in his life. According to former royal chef Darren McGrady, who cooked for William and Harry when they were young boys living at Kensington Palace, “I remember Diana once told Harry and William, ‘Do what your heart tells you.’ She wanted them to follow their hearts, and I think that’s exactly what Harry’s doing.”

While Meghan hadn’t yet met the Queen, Harry’s grandmother was aware of the romance. Now fifth in line to the throne, Harry was required to ask his grandmother’s permission to wed. Decades earlier, Princess Margaret had asked the Queen for her blessing to marry divorcé Peter Townsend, but she was forbidden from doing so by her sister because of the fear it would create a backlash against the Royal Family for approving divorce. The storyline had been reprised in the popular show The Crown, but as royal historian Hugo Vickers pointed out, times had changed. “On paper Meghan’s everything you don’t want her to be — an older woman, a divorcee — but actually her more positive qualities could suit her well for the role of a royal consort. She has a certain worldly experience and can stand very well on her own two feet. I think most people think she would make a very good partner for Prince Harry, and I am sure the Queen would give her permission for Harry to wed Meghan.” It was a sentiment many shared.

Harry: Life, Loss and Love by Katie Nicholl ($27.99), published by Hachette Australia

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