Once upon a time, in a land far, far away (OK, London) a beautiful maiden called Meghan was preparing to marry a handsome prince called Harry.
Their wedding had the townspeople enthralled. For weeks, they speculated about the wedding dress and the wedding cake, the wedding band and the wedding flowers, until the word ‘wedding’ was trending on ye olde Twitter and it was all anyone could talk about.
As fairy tales go, the royal wedding has it all – and I love a wedding as much as the next townsperson. But at risk of being thrown in the Tower, I want to talk about what comes next – after the confetti has been cleared and the honeymoon is over: marriage. We all want ‘happily ever after’ but, with the length of an average marriage just under 12 years, how do you make it last?
Like Meghan, I too have found my prince (I was a bit sick in my mouth as I wrote that). We have been together nearly three years after a Tinder date went right. He is attractive, funny and kind – the one virtue my mother advised me to value above all else. We have discussed getting married, and I’d like to, but I want my marriage to last and the odds are against us. Recent figures from the Office for National Statistics show that divorce rates rose between opposite-sex couples in 2016, with a 5.8% increase compared with 2015. Divorce is also more prevalent among same-sex couples, with a fivefold increase over the same period. When you consider the average cost of a wedding is £27,161*, you don’t get much marital bliss for your buck.
I also know the pain divorce causes. My parents split when I was 11, a bitter and protracted break-up that broke all of our hearts. It was enough to put me off marriage for life, until I met the person I want to spend my life with. There has to be a secret to making marriage last; I am on a quest to find it.
For James Preece, award-winning dating guru, the secret is to ‘accept [your partner] completely for who they are. Neither of you is perfect so set a plan for what you want to happen over the coming years. Remember: you are a team and must work together to face what life throws at you.’
Accept each other’s flaws and plan ahead – got it. Both sound doable, maybe marriage isn’t so hard after all?
Hilda Burke, a psychotherapist and couples counsellor, argues that the secret, in fact, is to deal with the past. ‘Resentment is the one feature that all unhappy or broken marriages seem to share,’ she says. ‘A key part of my work is creating a safe space for both parties to explore what’s been stored up in the relationship over the years; to delve into what’s going rancid in the cellar of the relationship, to bring this icky stuff to the surface and gently start tipping it away. Without this acknowledgement, a marriage will invariably pay the price.’
OK, so the secret to a successful marriage is: accept the flaws, think about the future, but also deal with the past. Sounds like hard work, but I’m up for it. I mention my quest to a long-married family friend. ‘You need to have things in common,’ she notes. ‘Also, try not to put your individual needs much above the relationship. And you need to be patient, but commitment is more important.’
Accept the flaws. Think ahead and look back. Be patient, be committed, have things in common and... something about a cellar?
When I put the question to friends, opinions pour in. Give each other space, said one. A clear division of chores, said another. Tolerance, and take a lot of holidays, advised a third, at which point I wanted to book a holiday just to get away from all the conflicting ideals.
But, with my quest at its end – and my own potential wedding still a twinkle in
an engagement ring – I’ve discovered that the secret to a long and happy marriage is... there is no secret. I know: as predictable
as a Disney romance. There is no single, standard solution because there is no single, standard type of marriage. What works for one couple won’t work for the next; what’s important to Meghan and her prince may not matter to me and mine.
Wait a minute... my prince! In trying to find the secret to marriage, I hadn’t asked the one person who does matter most to me. So last night, I asked my boyfriend: what do you think makes marriage last? He thought about it and after a long pause said, ‘I don’t know,’ and gave me a kiss. I guess we’ll just have to work it out together.
NOW READ: Prince Harry And Meghan Markle's Relationship Timeline
Prince Harry and Meghan Markle relationship timeline - Grazia
July 2016: Meghan And Harry Meet
So when did the future Duke and Duchess of Sussex meet? Prince Harry and Meghan Markle were introduced by a mutual friend in July 2016, originally thought to be Markus Anderson (also the director of Soho house) but who was later confirmed to be Violet von Westenholz. Meghan said in an interview that before she met the Harry she didn't know much about him 'the only thing that I had asked [our mutual friend] was, 'Well is he nice?'. According to Harry he knew Meghan was The One from 'the very first time we met.' after only two dates Harry asked Meghan to accompany him on a trip to Botswana.
October - November 2016: Kensington Palace's Statement
In October 2016 that the Express became the first newspaper to publish news that Prince Harry had a new girlfriend. However just a month later, Kensington Palace released a statement condemning the 'wave of abuse and harassment' faced by Meghan. The unprecedented statement, which referred to Meghan as Harry's girlfriend for the first time, emphasized that Prince Harry was 'worried about Ms. Markle's safety and is deeply disappointed that he has not been able to protect her.' It continued 'It is not right that a few months into a relationship with him that Ms. Markle should be subjected to such a storm.' The palace were also forced to address speculation that Prince William was unhappy with Harry for confirming the relationship too soon, stating 'The Duke of Cambridge absolutely understands the situation concerning privacy and supports the need for Prince Harry to support those closest to him.'
December - February 2017: Things Get More Serious
Early in December 2017 Meghan was confirmed as the most Googled actress of 2016. In the same month, the couple were photographed together for the first time in London, shopping for a Christmas tree at the Pines and Needles store and attending a performance of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time. By January 2017 a source told US weekly that Harry had introduced Meghan to Kate and Prince Charlotte and that the 'meeting went well'. Meanwhile a source told The Sun that Meghan had 'virtually moved in' with Prince Harry to his cottage on the Kensington Palace estate.
March - May 2017: Meghan Attends Weddings With Harry
By March things were openly getting pretty serious between the two: Meghan accompanied Harry to Jamaica for a wedding for the first time (his friend's Tom 'Skippy' Inskip to Lara Hughes-Young). On April the 7th Meghan announced that she was closing down her lifestyle blog The Tig writing 'What began as a passion project (my little engine that could) evolved into an amazing community of inspiration, support, fun and frivolity. You've made my days brighter and filled this experience with so much joy.' In May, Meghan and Harry attended their first public event together at the Polo in Coworth Park (where they also engaged in some PDA). Later in May Prince Harry was seen driving Meghan to the reception of Pippa Middleton and James Matthew's wedding.
September 2017: The First Official Public Appearance
Welcome to Meghan the style Icon: at the opening of Prince Harry's Invictus Games in September Meghan wore a maroon midi dress with a pleated chiffon skirt by one of her favourite Canadian brands, Aritzia with a burgundy biker jacket by Mackage. The next day the couple were photographed sitting together at the wheelchair tennis and 'broke with royal protocol' by holding hands and kissing at the closing ceremony. On the 5th of September In an interview with Vanity Fair, Meghan stated: 'We're a couple. 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 understand is that this is our time.'
September-November 2017: Meghan Leaves Behind Rachel Zane
Late 2017 we saw the end of everyone's favourite legal powerhouse Rachel Zane (sob). In November 2017, shortly after Meghan met the Queen, the actress was reported to be leaving her role in Suits after seven seasons.
November 2017: The Engagement
After months of speculation, Prince Charles announced the engagement of his younger son Prince Harry and Meghan Markle after 15 months of dating On November 27th 2017 . The engagement ring, said to be designed by Harry, is made of two stones that belonged to Princess Diana. The couple later appeared at a photocall, with Markle wearing a white dress coat by Canadian brand Line The Label (whose website subsequently crashed). When asked by waiting photographers if the proposal was romantic, Harry joked 'of course!' Speaking about his late mother, Princess Diana, Harry said 'I think they'd be thick as thieves. She would be over the moon, jumping up and down, so excited for me... It's days like today when I really miss having her around and miss being able to share the happy news. With the ring, I'm sure she's with us, jumping up and down somewhere else.' it was announced that the wedding would take place on May the 19th, 2018.
December 2017: The Fab Four
In December 2017 Meghan, Harry, Kate and William were photographed together attending the Christmas service at Sandringham. Pictures of the two couples earned them the title 'The Fab Four'. Meanwhile in the following months Meghan earned a reputation for breaking royal protocol on official visits by hugging fans of the couple and kissing them on the cheek.
February 2018: Kate And Meghan Appear In Public Together
In February 2018, Kate Middleton and Meghan Markle had their first royal engagement together for the Royal Foundation Forum with Prince Harry and Prince William. Harry stated of the two couples 'We have different opinions and they work really well [together]. Working as family does have its challenges; of course it does. The fact that everybody is laughing shows they know exactly what's it like… But we are stuck together for the rest of our lives.'
May 2018: The Lead Up To The Wedding
In the lead-up to the wedding it was confirmed 2,640 people would be invited to the grounds of Windsor Palace to watch the royal wedding. Photos of Meghan and Harry's wedding invitations were released, bearing Harry's legal name 'Henry'. Meghan and Harry made a number of public appearances together including to the Invictus game tryouts in April and attend the Queen's birthday at the Royal Albert Hall. Meghan's final episode of Suits is also aired, marking the official end of her acting career.
May 2018: Meghan's Family Drama Begins
On May the 14th, three days before the wedding Meghan's father, Thomas Markle sr. who was confirmed to walk Meghan down the aisle pulled out, following an embarrassing incident in which he staged paid paparazzi photos. Thomas Markle later suffered a heart attack, and his son Thomas Markle Jr. penned an unflattering open letter to Harry criticizing Meghan and encouraging him to pull out of the wedding. The day before the wedding, Kensington Palace announced Prince Charles would walk Meghan down the aisle, stating 'The Prince of Wales is pleased to be able to welcome Ms. Markle to The Royal Family in this way.'
May 2018: The Royal Wedding
Meghan and Harry wed on the 19th of May for a combined audience of 11.5 million people who tuned in to watch the ceremony. Meghan's gown was made by Clare Waight Keller, artistic director of the fashion house Givenchy which she later changed for a silk crepe dress by Stella McCartney. Her mother Doria Ragland attended the ceremony along with a host of celebrities including Meghan's former Suits cast and her close friends, George and Amal Clooney.
May - October 2018: Married Life
Throughout May of 2018 Harry and Meghan made their first official appearances as the Duke and Duchess of Sussex. For her inaugural attendance to the Trooping of the Colour Meghan wore an off-the-shoulder dress, reportedly breaking royal protocal. In the following months the newlyweds made a number of public appearances including to Ireland to meet the country's officials. They also took a rumoured trip to visit George and Amal Clooney in Lake Como.
October 2018: The Royal Baby Announcement
Speculation began during Princess Eugenie's wedding that Meghan was pregnant owing to her loose coat. The rumours were confirmed when Kensington Palace announced on the 15th of October 2018 that the Duke and Duchess of Sussex were expecting a child. The announcement also coincided with the first day of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex's official tour.
October 2018: Meghan And Harry's First Royal Tour
In October Meghan and Harry departed for their 16-day Autumn royal tour visiting Australia, Tonga, Fiji and New Zealand (obviously featuring some serious style moments from the newly-appointed Duchess of Sussex/Style). By November, sources were telling news outlets that the couple were preparing to move to Frogmore cottage in Windsor in 2019. The couple spent the anniversary of their engagement, November the 27th apart, due to Harry being in Zambia.
November 2018 - Present: Feud Rumours
As Meghan and Harry embarked on life as newlyweds there was less plainsailing, as controversy continued to follow closely on their heels. Meghan's family have continued to be the subject of unflattering media headlines and Thomas Markle gave interviews to the media about his distanced relationship with his daughter. Meanwhile Samantha Markle (Meghan's half sister, who also claims to be penning a book about the Duchess) was put on a fixated persons list after showing up at Kensington palace in January. Rumours of a froideur between Meghan and Kate were sparked shortly after Meghan and Harry's nuptials by reports that Meghan reduced Kate 'to tears' during challenging dress fittings with Princess Charlotte. In February, Thomas Markle leaks a handwritten letter from Meghan to the media in response to friends of the Duchess defending her in an interview and following numerous staff changes, rumours arise that Meghan and Harry's staff refer to Meghan by the nickname 'The difficult Duchess'.
March 2019: The Royal Households Split
In March 2019 it was confirmed that the Sussex and Cambridge's 'royal households' will split, meaning the couples will no longer share staff. Royal spokespersons confirm that Kate and William's staff team will stay in Kensington Palace while Meghan and Harry's staff will be based in Buckingham Palace, reflecting the location of their new residence of Frogmore cottage in Windsor. Representatives are quick to confirm this is a planned move, and not due to rumors of growing tensions between the couples.