When Prince Harry issued his statement this week confirming his relationship with US actress Meghan Markle while condemning the invasion of her privacy, it was impossible not to feel a contradictory admixture of compassion, curiosity and concern.

Compassion, because one of our best loved royals was clearly in extremis, but insatiable curiosity too; of course we wanted to know more about the humanitarian beauty who has stolen the heart of Britain's most eligible bachelor.

Prince Harry issued his statement this week confirming his relationship Meghan Markle. Photos / Getty
Prince Harry issued his statement this week confirming his relationship Meghan Markle. Photos / Getty

However, there is also concern that she, like Chelsy Davy and Cressida Bonas before her, could find the intense levels of scrutiny too much to endure.

Markle, 35, was this week spotted dressed down and buying groceries at Whole Foods on Kensington High Street, a stone's throw from Harry's lodgings at the nearby palace. The fact she was wearing his baseball cap was greeted with the sort of giddy delight usually reserved for the appearance of a glittering rock on the left hand.

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According to the statement, Markle had been subject to "a wave of abuse and harassment", and received racist and sexist comments from social media trolls and in online article comments.

Yet Markle is made from stern stuff, and many will be hoping their romance is given time and space to blossom. For this self-made, self-assured woman seems the perfect embodiment of a 21st century princess.

Will Meghan Markle find the pressure of dating a royal too much to endure? Photo / Getty Images.
Will Meghan Markle find the pressure of dating a royal too much to endure? Photo / Getty Images.

Outspoken on gender matters and admirably articulate on race issues, she was the product of a mixed marriage, although her parents divorced when she was six. Her clinical therapist mother, Doria, is African American and her father, Thomas, a television lighting director, is white.

Her great great grandfather was born into slavery and freed at the end of the Civil War, something that must surely lend added impetus to her views on discrimination and inequality.

A global ambassador for World Vision Canada who has traveled to Rwanda as part of a clean water campaign, she has also worked with United Nations Women in the field of gender equality.

"I've never wanted to be a lady who lunches," she has said. "I've always wanted to be a woman who works. And this type of work is what feeds my soul, and fuels my purpose."

Her lifestyle blog, The Tig, covers the standard themes of food, travel, fashion and beauty, but to her credit, doesn't shy away from hard-hitting subjects; visitors might come for the cookie recipes but they will also find insightful think-pieces about politics, social change and world poverty.

"I've never wanted to be a lady who lunches," Markle has said. Photo / Getty Images.

Simultaneously, she offers old-fashioned charm, with a talent for calligraphy thanks to her convent school upbringing, describing herself as "a lover of handwritten notes".

Her first campaign against injustice came when she was 11, and so infuriated by a sexist washing up advert with the strapline "Women all over America are fighting greasy pots and pans" that she fired off angry letters to everyone she could think of, including the then First Lady, Hillary Clinton.

Within months the wording was changed to "People all over America". It was a sweet victory.

Although academic, the acting bug took hold when her father took her along to the set of the sitcom Married...With Children and so, after graduating from Northwestern University School of Communication with a combined major in theatre and international relations, Markle went into acting.

She appeared in various shows including CSI and later in films including Horrible Bosses and Get Him to the Greek, making ends meet in the early days by using her calligraphy skills on high-end wedding invitations.

Having married her boyfriend of seven years, they divorced two years later and she often Instagrams pictures of herself in bed with Guy and Bogart, her rescue dogs.

Accomplished and socially engaged, by any standards Markle is a rare catch. No wonder Harry made the bold move of simultaneously announcing his relationship and ordering the press to back off as though his very future depended on it. It does.

The 32-year-old Prince, an exuberant, passionate character who served twice in Afghanistan as a helicopter pilot, was once described as having the courage of a lion but the mores of a frat boy.

But the lad who lost his mother at the age of 12 has grown up a lot since 2012, when he was photographed naked at a pool party in Las Vegas.

Now his elder brother has children, and he is slipped to fifth in line for the throne, Harry has become ever more involved with charities and causes close to his heart.

He met Markle this year at the Invictus Games - his Olympic-like sporting event for disabled servicemen and women that was this year held in Canada (she decamped several years ago to Toronto, where the US drama Suits, in which she stars, is filmed).

Harry has made no secret of his desire to settle down, marry and start a family and we have all hoped that he would find The One. But we also knew that his choice of bride would be very different from that of his brother, William.

Kate Middleton, now the Duchess of Cambridge, has fitted into her role of future queen with the requisite dignified aplomb. A classic English rose, she has delivered an heir and a spare, looks divine in demure designer gowns and very wisely keeps her own counsel. Meghan Markle, with her upfront attitudes and vocal opinions, is a very different proposition.

Harry's early love, Chelsey Davy and Cressida Bonas. Photos / Getty.
Harry's early love, Chelsey Davy and Cressida Bonas. Photos / Getty.

Harry's early love, Chelsey Davy, a law graduate turned jewellery designer, has spoken of the pressures she endured during their seven-year relationship that ended in 2010.

"It was so full-on: crazy and scary and uncomfortable," she said. Cressida Bonas called it quits after two years in 2014, reportedly spooked by the attention.

Will it be third time lucky for Harry? Markle has apparently already met with members of the royal family and by all accounts proved to be an instant success.

Truthfully, the House of Windsor would be greatly enriched by the union - and should be quietly buoyant that Harry has tracked down his very own, very singular Miss Markle.