Making her first public appearance with Prince Harry at the Invictus Games opening on Saturday, Meghan Markle had an unexpected accessory – a royal protection officer.
Sources say the Suits star had one of Harry’s Scotland Yard officers (usually reserved for members of the royal family) standing in a stairwell close to her seat.
Markle, who took a budget-conscious style cue from the Duchess of Cambridge and wore a $A295 dress from Canadian label Aritzia, had a team of four bodyguards.
“The fact the 36-year-old now receives royal protection only further ignites rumours that she and Prince Harry are now engaged,” said UK newspaper The Telegraph.
Markle herself contributed to the buzz an official announcement is imminent when she told Vanity Fair this month that she and Prince Harry have “a great love story.”
Despite Markle’s new royal treatment, she sat 18 seats apart from Harry at the ceremony for the Invictus Games, the event the royal former British army captain established for wounded service personnel.
Harry, 33 – next to US first lady Melania Trump, who he met earlier in the day – “made do with sneaking glances at Ms Markle from afar,” said The Telegraph.
Markle sat next to Markus Anderson, a longtime friend who is said to have introduced the actress and the prince last year.
A Toronto resident for the last seven seasons of Suits, Markle smiled when Harry spoke, and reportedly “seemed to smother a giggle” when he fluffed a line in French.
Right after the prince took centre stage, Markle – said to be hosting Harry at her modest home for the eight days of the Invictus Games – was whisked away by the Scotland Yard officer.
While the actress’s support of her boyfriend’s passion project was in the limelight, days before the launch he made a private visit to her workplace.
Canadian Hello! magazine claimed Harry dropped by the set of Suits and was shown around by Markle, who plays glamorous lawyer Rachel Zane.
“He was super low-key, met some crew and was so happy to watch his lady,” a source said.
“He’s incredibly supportive of her work.”
Markle scored time off in August so Harry could escort her to Africa for a three-week holiday to celebrate her birthday.
Earlier this month, just after Harry marked the 20th anniversary of the death of his mother Princess Diana, the pair sneaked a getaway to Queen Elizabeth’s Scottish estate Balmoral.
Despite reports the Hollywood star was introduced to the monarch during the trip, neither Harry’s office at Kensington Palace or Buckingham Palace has commented.
As the fifth in line to the throne, Harry needs his grandmother’s permission to marry.
“I don’t know if [Markle] has or hasn’t seen the Queen,” royals author Ingrid Seward told People magazine.
“But about the only time she would get to see the Queen is for him to take her over there.”
Royal convention is one thing, but for Markle her romance is “really simple,” she told Vanity Fair.
“We’re two people who are really happy and in love.”