Royal wedding: Prince Harry and Meghan Markle announce engagement

London: Prince Harry has announced his engagement to actress Meghan Markle, with a royal wedding to take place in Britain early next year.

Prince Charles' official residence Clarence House announced the engagement at 10am on Monday, after a weekend of speculation in the British press that the announcement was imminent.

The couple became engaged earlier in London this month, Clarence House said, and both families had given their blessing to the union.

Prince Harry and Markle have been in a relationship since 2016, after first meeting in July of that year. The wedding planned for sometime between March and May next year, will fall close to the birth of Prince Harry's brother Prince William's third child with his wife Kate.

Markle, a divorcee, is the American daughter of a Caucasian father and African-American mother and, soon after their relationship was announced, Prince Harry's communications secretary issued a stern statement warning the intrusion into the actress' life had "crossed the line". The statement also hit out at "racial undertones" in comment pieces.

The 36-year-old actress and 33-year-old prince will appear in their first television interview on Monday night after an official photo shoot at Kensington Palace in the afternoon.

The smiling couple showed their engagement ring during their photocall in the sunken garden at Kensington Palace - one of Princess Diana's favourite spots.

Prince Harry designed the gold ring which has a diamond from Botswana at its centre. Two outside stones are from his mother's collection.

Botswana is one of Prince Harry's favourite places and the couple have spent time their together over the last 18-months.

They will live at Nottingham Cottage at Kensington Palace.

"His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales is delighted to announce the engagement of Prince Harry to Ms. Meghan Markle. The wedding will take place in spring 2018," the statement said.

"Prince Harry has informed Her Majesty The Queen and other close members of his family. Prince Harry has also sought and received the blessing of Ms Markle's parents."

Buckingham Palace responded on Twitter.

"The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh are delighted for the couple and wish them every happiness," they tweeted.

Prince William and his wife Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, said they were "very excited" for the couple.

"It has been wonderful getting to know Meghan and to see how happy she and Harry are together," the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge said.

Meghan Markle's parents, Thomas Markle, and Doria Ragland, said they were "incredibly happy" with the news.

"Our daughter has always been a kind and loving person," the couple said.

"To see her union with Harry, who shares the same qualities, is a source of great joy for us as parents.

"We wish them a lifetime of happiness and are very excited for their future together."

Former prime minister David Cameron beat his Downing Street successor Theresa May to the computer keys, tweeting his congratulations.

"Congratulations to Prince Harry and Meghan Markle. Wonderful news and I wish them a long and happy life together."

A short time later, 10 Downing Street issued a statement offering Mrs May's "warmest congratulations".

"This is a time of huge celebration and excitement for two people in love and, on behalf of myself, the Government and the country, I wish them great happiness for the future."

The Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby said he was "absolutely delighted" to hear the news.

"I wish them many years of love, happiness and fulfilment - and ask that God blesses them throughout their married life together," he said.