Royal code red—I repeat—royal code red: Tabloids, celeb sites and royal watchers are frantically reporting that Prince Harry is maybe God-let-it-be-true-for-the-traffic possibly dating Meghan Markle of the USA Network’s Suits.
This explosive news came first via Britain’s Express and the Daily Star, both of which reported over the weekend that the pair were dating, and was enthusiastically picked up by essentially every single gossip outlet in existence. We’re now roughly 72 hours into this story and People says they’ve confirmed with a “source,” US Weekly has details on how it started from a “close friend” of Harry’s, and various outlets are deep into the vetting process, publishing stories on Markle from every possible angle. For instance: “Prince Harry’s new girlfriend, Meghan Markle, was quizzed on her British knowledge on UKTV earlier this year, months before news broke of her relationship with the royal prince.”
However, they’re not exactly Facebook official: we haven’t seen any pics of the pair together, and of course Kensington Palace would only tell US Weekly that, “We don’t comment on stories related to private matters.” This therefore qualifies as a rumor—and at a time when everyone is, of course, absolutely desperate for some sort of interesting royal action. So there’s some question as to whether you can yet confidently take this one to the bank. We’re not even at the point where we can start speculating if Markle will stick. But what the hell? Let’s gather the receipts and do a little forensic accounting.
Clue: Matching bracelets, People reports: “They’ve been spotted wearing the same blue beaded bracelet in recent months. Prince Harry reportedly picked up the bracelet during one of his trips to Africa. And the gift has rarely left the actress’s wrist! Markle has posted several photos showing off her sweet trinket.”
Assessment: Gonna have to do better than that. Not persuasive.
Assessment: Peonies are expensive. She’s been spending time in London. It could be a royal or it could be an investment banker. Not persuasive. If anything, the fact that she is posting all these brings us a little closer to publicity-stunt conspiracy-theory territory. (However, chief Who? correspondent Bobby Finger assures me that Markle has no known history of thirsty stunts.)
Clue: “Harry loves that she is so into philanthropy,” a “source” told US Weekly. “One of the first things they spoke about was her shelter dogs. He loves that she’s so caring.”
Assessment: Wikipedia confirms that Markle is involved in a number of charitable endeavors. Harry does seem to spend a substantial amount of time genuinely engaged in philanthropy, when frankly, he probably could be fucking around with a “career” in competitive yachting or auto-racing or polo. This seems likely to sway him. Plus, fancy English people love dogs. Let’s put this in the persuasive column.
Clue: They follow each other on Instagram! US Weekly says she’s been following his private account since the end of June, and in fact, the Daily Star went so far as to announce: “Prince Harry confirms relationship with Meghan Markle by following her on Instagram.”
Assessment: It’s confirmation that they have at least some passing acquaintance, but not confirmation that they have gone out or slept together, much less that they’re in a full-on romantic relationship. Not persuasive.
Clue: The enthusiastic press pile-on.
Assessment: This is what gives me the biggest pause. It’s a little too on-the-nose perfectly appealing to American audiences: rakishly bearded spare to the English throne romances actress who’s just the right balance of known to unknown to seem aspirational but relatable. I mean, come on. She’s so precisely someone the press and public would love Harry to marry that it’s suspicious. Sometimes you see what you want to see.
And of course the press—your humble blogger included!—is desperate for some sort of action out of the royals. Princess Charlotte attempting to destroy a balloon arch is cute and all, but we can only make so much hay out of Pippa Middleton’s wedding. It’s just too good to be true.
But then, the Palace doesn’t confirm or deny much of anything, so that’s not a reliable indicator. And it’s so random that it could very well be true. This one’s a wash.
Clue: Meghan Markle herself.
Assessment: My gut instinct was deep skepticism and a conviction that no way is Prince Harry dating a cast member from Suits. Nothing against Suits or its no doubt very charming cast, but it’s on USA, and I’m pretty sure that even the young royals do a lot of sitting around talking about horses and polo, not watching basic cable. Plus she’s an American divorcee, and I’m pretty sure that if you say the name “Wallis Simpson” three times into a mirror at Buckingham Palace, the ghost of the Queen Mum appears and beats you to death with an bespoke umbrella.
However, Markle seems genuinely charming and polished, a potential asset to the modern royal family, and a working actress is less likely than most to be frightened off by the media frenzy sure to come with dating—much less marrying—a Windsor. Nor does she appear to be somebody who bends over backwards to get her name into the tabloids. Having scrolled back several weeks in her Instagram, I noticed no teatox endorsements; just this comparatively upmarket #spon shot with cosmetics name Bobbi Brown in the back of an Uber. She went to Northwestern.
She wouldn’t be out of place giving talks about mental health and veterans’ care at posh spots around the United Kingdom.
This one could go either way, but after giving it some thought, I’m leaning toward persuasive.