LONDON - Britain's Prince Harry is engaged to marry the American actress Meghan Markle in the spring 2018, the royal palace announced on Monday morning, ending days of feverish speculation over when their engagement would be revealed.
The 33-year-old ginger-beard prince is the fifth in line to the throne. The 36-year-old Markle is a well-regarded actress who was born and raised in California.
The couple will live at Nottingham Cottage at Kensington Palace in London. The announcement said the couple had become engaged earlier this month in London.
In the statement, Prince Harry said he was delighted and had received the blessing of Markle's parents.
The last time an American married into the royal family, Britain and the monarchy was plunged into crisis. In 1936, King Edward VIII abdicated the throne to marry the American socialite and divorcée Wallis Simpson.
Prince Harry confirmed he was dating the actress in November 2016 when he blasted the press for subjecting Markle to a "wave of abuse and harassment."
The palace condemned "the smear on the front page of a national newspaper, the racial undertones of comment pieces, and the outright sexism and racism of social media trolls and web article comments."
Markle's mother is African American, and her father is white.
The duo made their first public appearance together in September at the Invictus Games, a sporting event for disabled veterans founded by the prince. Dressed casually in jeans, the couple held hands and canoodled - and the photographers ate it up. They were also snapped standing alongside Markle's mother Doria Ragland.
In her career, Markle best known for playing Rachel Zane in the popular New York City legal drama "Suits," which is filmed in Toronto, where Markle has been living.
Within seconds of the royal engagement being announced, Twitter erupted in celebration. "Harry and Meghan" and #Royalengagement quickly began trending in the UK and worldwide as people offered their congratulations.
"They look so in love and make such a lovely couple. This is great for Britain as a whole. Next year is going to be all about #harryandmeghan," tweeted one user.
In its official twitter account, Kensington Palace said, "Ms. Markle's parents, Mr. Thomas Markle and Doria Ragland, have wished the couple 'a lifetime of happiness.'"
Britian's prime minister, Theresa May, added her voice, "I would like to offer my very warmest congratulations to HRH Prince Harry and Meghan Markle upon their engagement. This is a time of huge celebration for two people in love. On behalf of myself, the government and the country, I wish them great happiness for the future."