LONDON-Britain’s Prince Harry will marry his US actress girlfriend Meghan Markle early next year after the couple became engaged earlier this month, royal officials announced Monday.

“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,” Clarence House, Prince Charles’s office, said a statement. The couple became engaged in London earlier this month, the office said, adding that the 33-year-old prince had informed his grandmother Queen Elizabeth II, close members of the royal family and had sought the blessing of Markle’s parents.

“The Queen and The Duke of Edinburgh are delighted for the couple and wish them every happiness,” said a message on the monarch’s official Twitter page. The couple will live at Nottingham Cottage in London’s Kensington Palace, where his brother William and his pregnant wife Kate live with their two children.

Speculation has been rife that Harry was about to propose to his 36-year-old girlfriend, best known for her role as a lawyer in the hit television show “Suits”. Reports that Markle was moving her two beloved dogs - Guy and Bogart - to London further fueled rumours of the first royal wedding since William and Kate in 2011.

Markle’s parents Thomas Markle and Doria Ragland said in a statement they were “incredibly happy” and wished the couple “a lifetime of happiness.” “Our daughter has always been a kind and loving person,” they said. “To see her union with Harry, who shares the same qualities, is a source of great joy for us as parents.”

Wellwishers gathered outside Buckingham Palace, including Donna, 46, who called the news “amazing”.

“I think it’s great, because he looks very happy, it’s great for him,” she told AFP.

“It says a lot for the royal family, younger people are interested, and more people care about the royal family, they feel that both of the sons are much more down with the people.”

Harry, son of Prince Charles and the late princess Diana, spent 10 years in the British army, serving two tours of duty in Afghanistan, but hit the headlines for his partying and his outspoken criticism of the media, whom he blames for the death of his mother.

However, he has since turned himself into one of the royal family’s greatest assets after defining a role for himself as a caring but robust champion of veterans.

William and Kate said they were “very excited for Harry and Meghan.”

“It has been wonderful getting to know Meghan and to see how happy she and Harry are together,” said the couple.

Harry and Meghan are believed to have met in May 2016, and the relationship was formalised by Kensington Palace, which handles communication for Prince Harry , following speculation in the press.

Exasperated by the media frenzy, the palace released a statement attacking the “sexism” and “racism” that Meghan Markle , who is of mixed race, faced in the social media and the press.

Prime Minister Theresa May offered her “warmest congratulations” to the couple upon their engagement.

“This is a time of huge celebration for two people in love,” she wrote on her official Twitter page.”

“On behalf of myself, the government and the country, I wish them great happiness for the future.”