Prince Harry’s new girlfriend Meghan Markle was still dating a Canadian chef when she reportedly met the Prince for the first time, it has emerged.
American actress Miss Markle, 35, had been in a relationship with Cory Vitiello for two years when they broke up in May, the month the Prince is understood to have asked for her phone number after meeting her at a function.
Asked whether the Prince was a factor in Miss Markle’s break-up with her boyfriend, a source close to Mr Vitiello said: I can’t comment on that.
Prince Harry, 32, is said to be smitten with divorcee Miss Markle, who plays the role of Rachel Zane in the US legal drama Suits .
He was in Canada in May to promote the Invictus Games for wounded service personnel, which will be held in Toronto in 2017.
He then travelled to Florida to watch this year’s Invictus Games, held in Orlando.
Miss Markle was still, at that stage, the partner of Mr Vitiello, a celebrity chef and restaurateur whose latest venture is a chain of rotisseries in Canada called Flock.
Mr Vitiello yesterday declined to discuss the reasons for the end of his relationship with Miss Markle.
Within weeks of them splitting up, the actress is understood to have been in contact with Prince Harry.
At around the same time, the Prince started following Miss Markle on the social media site Instagram, using a pseudonym. He is now one of her one million followers, and she also follows him after he gave her details of his secret social media accounts.
They began dating in the summer and sources have said they were “definitely an item” by August.
The Prince was reportedly booked on a flight from Heathrow to Toronto, where Miss Markle lives, on Sunday morning but cancelled the trip after news of the relationship broke in a Sunday newspaper.
The Prince’s relationship with Miss Markle is said to be serious, but there are several obstacles in the way, not least the fact that she lives in Canada, where her career has taken off since she landed the role in Suits in 2011.
The fact that she is American and a divorcee will also have raised eyebrows in Buckingham Palace, and, while it is still “early days”, according to sources, if it got to the stage where the Prince wanted to marry Miss Markle, he would need the Queen’s permission.
Her Majesty will inevitably be reminded of the last American divorcee to marry a member of the Royal family – Wallis Simpson, whose marriage to Edward VIII required him to abdicate in 1936. However, the Queen would be unlikely to stand in the way of her grandson’s happiness if he proposed to Miss Markle, his first serious girlfriend since the end of his two-year relationship with Cressida Bonas in 2014.
Miss Markle was married for two years to Trevor Engelson, 40, a California-based film producer, who declined to discuss his ex-wife yesterday. He and Miss Markle were together for seven years before they married in 2011, but divorced in 2013.
Kensington Palace has refused to comment on the Prince’s new relationship, but his girlfriend was in London as recently as last week, when they are understood to have spent time together.
Miss Markle, who is currently in Toronto filming the next series of Suits, visited London in June, July and August, and stayed in Oxfordshire in September.
Coincidentally, both the Prince and Miss Markle spent part of the summer in Africa. The Prince was in Malawi taking part in a conservation project, while Miss Markle visited Rwanda on behalf of a children’s charity of which she is a patron.