United Kingdom

Chicago's Connection to the Royal Engagement: Prince Harry's Fiancee is a Northwestern Grad

Could a royal couple appearance be in Chicago's future? 

It might seem unexpected, but it appears the city holds special significance in the newest engagement in Britain's monarchy. 

Not only did Prince Harry recently visit the city for former President Barack Obama's summit last month, but his new fiancee has an even bigger connection to the area. 

Meghan Markle is a Northwestern University alumn, where she studied theater and international relations.

The actress, humanitarian campaigner, lifestyle blogger and soon-to-be princess graduated from the north suburban university in 2003, according to the school's website. 

She has returned in years since to talk about her role as an ambitious paralegal in the hit U.S. legal drama "Suits."

According to the university's student newspaper, Markle appeared for a visit in 2014 at the school, where she also reminisced about her time on campus.

“It’s surreal being back because I haven’t been back since I graduated and as I am walking around I remember things like the schlep of getting to South Campus from up north,” Markle told North by Northwestern during her visit. 

Her engagement to Prince Harry was announced by palace officials Monday, confirming months of rumors that the couple was close to tying the knot.

Markle surprised many when she shared her feelings for Harry in a September cover story for Vanity Fair. Asked about the media frenzy surrounding their courtship, the 36-year-old said: "At the end of the day I think it's really simple ... we're two people who are really happy and in love."

Harry — once known for his "bad boy" antics, including being photographed playing strip billiards in Las Vegas — has largely won over the British public with his winning smile, his military career and his devotion to charities aimed at helping disabled veterans and other causes.

Markle's Vanity Fair interview broke new ground. It is unusual for a royal love interest to speak so publicly — and candidly — before becoming engaged. Harry's past reported girlfriends all shied away from the media limelight, and his sister-in-law, formerly known as Kate Middleton, stayed silent until she and Prince William gave a formal televised interview at Buckingham Palace after their engagement became public.

But then, unlike some other "commoners" romantically linked to Britain's royals, Markle is no stranger to media exposure and the world of show business.

The actress's most successful role is the feisty Rachel Zane in the TV legal show "Suits," now in its seventh season. Her career has included small parts on TV series including "Fringe," ''CSI: Miami," ''Knight Rider" and "Castle," as well as movies such as "Horrible Bosses." Outside of acting, Markle founded a lifestyle blog called TheTig.com (which closed down in April without explanation), and has lent her celebrity status to humanitarian causes.

She has campaigned with the United Nations on gender equality, written in Time magazine about girls' education and the stigma surrounding menstruation, and has traveled to Rwanda as global ambassador for the charity World Vision Canada. She has described how her mother took her to the slums of Jamaica to witness poverty first-hand, saying experiences like that shaped her social consciousness and charity work.

Markle said she met Harry through friends in London in July 2016, and that they had been dating quietly for several months before the romance hit the headlines.

The media attention then became so intense that Harry took the unusual step of officially confirming the romance in order to warn the media off. In a strongly worded statement issued through the palace, the prince pleaded for reporters to stop intruding on his girlfriend's privacy. He condemned "outright sexism and racism" in some online comments, and said some articles with "racial undertones" had crossed the line.

Some tabloids had alluded to Markle's mixed-race heritage, pointing out she has an African-American mother and a white father.

Markle was born Aug. 4, 1981, to a clinical therapist mother and television lighting director father. She grew up in Los Angeles, and now lives in Toronto.

Contact Us