Prince Harry and his American girlfriend Meghan Markle took their romance to a new level on Monday when they were seen together holding hands and looking cozy on the sidelines for a wheelchair tennis match during Harry’s Invictus Games for wounded warriors in Toronto.
It was the first time the prince, 33, and the actress, 36, were snapped together by photographers, following a year-long relationship in which they have mostly eluded all but the most relentless paparazzi.
And it happened in Markle’s home base of Toronto, where she lives while filming Suits, the legal drama on the USA Network in which she co-stars.
Their appearance Monday came two days after both attended the Games’ opening ceremony, when Harry sat in the stands with first lady Melania Trump and other officials, while Markle sat with a longtime friend in another section and four rows in front.
Markle left the stands after Harry’s welcoming speech ended. She wore a deep purple leather biker jacket over a deep purple dress featuring accordion pleats.
Harry, who is presiding over the third annual Invictus Games, a Paralympics-style athletic competition he founded for wounded warriors, began dating Markle in 2016, and for months no one knew.
Now they could end up becoming the next royal engagement to be announced, increasing the frenzy of British media interest in their relationship. Royal correspondents quickly posted video clips of them together once they were spotted arriving at the tennis match Monday.
Markle told Vanity Fair in this month’s edition that they are “in love,” but they want to be left alone for now.
“We’re a couple,” she said. “We’re in love. I’m sure there will be a time when we will have to come forward and present ourselves and have stories to tell, but I hope what people will understand is that this is our time.”
Their relationship went public in November (six months after they met) because Harry confirmed she was his girlfriend in an extraordinary official statement scolding the media for stalking and harassing her with racist and sexist coverage (she’s biracial).
Since then, Kensington Palace has said nothing official about them, and won’t unless the two become engaged. There have been no authorized photos of them together, though paparazzi have managed to grab surreptitious shots of them around town in London, on holidays and at a Caribbean wedding of one of Harry’s friends.
Markle, who was raised in Los Angeles and was married and divorced once before, has shut down her lifestyle blog and reduced her social media activities, possibly to better fit in with the royal policy of staying off Twitter, Instagram and the like.
Although Markle has been seen and photographed in London grocery shopping alone near Kensington Palace where Harry lives, she has not been seen with him at public events — until now.
The Invictus Games is the appropriate venue for their official emergence: Founded by Harry in 2014, it is close to his heart as a former British Army officer. This year, more than 550 injured service members and veterans from 17 countries are competing in 12 sports such as wheelchair tennis and basketball.