The real stories behind these famous royal romances will have you believing in fairytales again

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Meghan Markle and Prince Harry
Meghan Markle and Prince Harry
Photo: Samir Hussein/Getty Images
  • We're looking at five of the most regal royal love stories.
  • While some stood the test of time, others will leave you heartbroken.
  • From the British monarchy to the love that filled the hallowed halls of the Imperial House of Japan, these stories will make you believe in love, fairytales and happily ever after.

They'll tell you the stories aren't true. Prince Charming? He doesn't exist.

But you and I know in our heart of hearts he's actually just relocated to Los Angeles, and we failed to recognise him all this time because the storybooks never described him as having red hair.

Prince Harry
The prince on a white horse. Coincidence? I think not.

Listen, I'm convinced Harry and Meghan are living a modern-day fairytale (all the royal family drama aside), and if the above picture of the prince on a horse isn't enough to convince you, wait until you hear the real story behind their royal romance.

I did a dive so deep, I hurt my own feelings writing this piece, but it'll all be worth it if it makes you believe in love, fairytales and happily ever after again.

[Pause here to grab your chocolate and tissues – you're about to catch feelings.]

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle

It's not every day your friends set you up on a blind date with a prince, but that's how Harry met Meghan.

Royal fans speculate Ralph Lauren public relations director Violet von Westenholz or designer Misha Nonoo arranged the meeting between the royal and the American actress at the Dean Street Townhouse in London, reports Vogue. Harry said of the moment in the couple's interview following their engagement announcement: "I was beautifully surprised when I walked into that room and saw her. I was like: 'Okay, well, I'm really gonna have to up my game'!"

The couple dated in secret for months, travelling back and forth to see each other between London and Toronto, where Meghan was filming Suits. And they jetted off to Botswana together too where they spent many nights under the stars, before tying the knot at St George's Chapel in 2018 and welcoming their son, Archie, a year later. Harry pretty much always knew Meghan was the one though. When asked when he realised he would one day marry the American star, he said: "The first time we met."

But the prince's swoon-worthy responses aside, it's the serendipity of it all that really gets me.

See, in January 2016 Meghan wrote on her lifestyle site, The Tig: "This year, I resolve not to have a resolution." Her decision came after years of not sticking to them, just like almost everyone else (I mean, how are those gyming resolutions going for you?).

"For this new year, the only thing I aim to do is to approach life playfully," she wrote. "To laugh and enjoy, to keep my standards high but my level of self-acceptance higher.

"My New Year's resolution is to leave room for magic," she wrote.

That same year, she met Prince Harry.

Prince Harry, Meghan Markle
Prince Harry and Meghan Markle announce their engagement to the world in the Sunken Garden at Kensington Palace, London.

Princess Margaret and Peter Townsend

Though Harry and Meghan had the courage to leave it all behind, Princess Margaret couldn't.

The younger sister of the queen fell in love with a man named Peter Townsend, before she went on to marry Antony Armstrong-Jones. Just a teenager at the time, it is said Margaret met Peter when he worked for her father, King George VI. Some years later, after her father's passing, a 22-year-old Margaret embarked on a love "affair", as it was often referred to, with Peter. They couldn't be together – publicly, that is – because royals were not allowed to marry divorcees at that time, which Peter was, as it wasn't permissible by the Church of England, and Parliament wasn't on board with the marriage either.

The two kept their romance a secret from the public, but it was a simple moment that saw the princess flick a speck of fluff off Peter's uniform outside Westminster Abbey that is thought to have tipped the papers off, reports Town & Country. And that was the beginning of the end for the star-crossed lovers.

The queen gave her sister a way out, telling Margaret she could marry the royal air force officer. All it would cost is her giving up her royal title and privileges. But on 31 October 1955, Princess Margaret released a statement: "I would like it to be known that I have decided not to marry Group Captain Peter Townsend..."

She went on to marry Lord Snowden in 1960 and have two children, but the couple divorced after 18 tumultuous years together.

Peter went on to marry again too.

According to Hello! magazine, in his memoir, before he died in Paris at 80 years old, he wrote of his relationship with the princess: "She could have married me only if she had been prepared to give up everything – her position, her prestige, her privy purse.

"I simply hadn't the weight, I knew it, to counterbalance all she would have lost."

Princess Margaret
17 October, 1955: Princess Margaret was famously photographed returning to Clarence House, London, after a weekend in the country where Group Captain Peter Townsend was also a guest. The decision not to marry Townsend was announced on 31 October, 1955.

Prince Carl Philip and Princess Sofia

Prince Carl Philip, the crown prince and fourth in line to the Swedish throne, met Princess Sofia in 2010. The two walked into the same restaurant with their friends who happened to know each other. "We started with a shy greeting, and everything followed," the prince said.

Sofia Hellqvist wasn't immediately accepted as the prince's girlfriend though, having a past that didn't sit too well with royalty. Sofia was well known in Sweden, however, for appearing topless on men's magazines and on TV as a reality star. The show Paradise Hotel saw young, scantily-clad singles compete to see who can stay in a luxury hotel the longest.

People reported in 2015, upon the announcement of their engagement, that things didn't come easy for the couple. "From the beginning, there was a struggle for Sofia to be accepted," Margareta Gotthardsson, royal reporter at Svensk Damtidning, told the publication.

The two, however, went on to marry on 13 June 2015 and have since welcomed children, Prince Alexander and Prince Gabriel. The couple has focused their resources on many philanthropic and charitable efforts, which has seen Princess Sofia work closely with organisations in South Africa.

Sofia has described Carl as her "best friend" and Carl has said for the two it was "love at first sight".

"Above all, she's beautiful and has beautiful eyes," he told Swedish channel TV 4 in an interview with Sofia ahead of their wedding, reports Hello! magazine. "But she's also a fantastic person. She's down to earth and has a wonderful personality. There are so many good things to say about her. I don't think I knew the magic of love before I met Sofia."

Prince Carl Philip, Princess Sofia
Prince Carl Philip throws a fist in the air as he marries Princess Sofia.

Princess Martha Louise and Shaman Durek

After 15 years of marriage and welcoming three children together, Princess Martha Louise of Norway split from author Ari Behn because her heart belonged to another.

The princess, who believes she's a spiritual being who can talk to angels (more on that here), shared last year that she was dating Shaman Durek – "a spiritual guide and gifted healer", "a 'bridge' between the spiritual and physical planes", "who bring[s] success, happiness and healing into people's lives", according to his website. The famed shaman also works closely as a contributor for Gwyneth Paltrow's Goop, even calling the A-lister his "soul sis", according to Vogue.

Though the princess – and her relationship – hasn't always been well received, she's stuck by the shaman, even relinquishing her title to be with him. The couple are still together, with the princess recently speaking candidly about their love amid the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement.

She shared an image of the two on Instagram and spoke about how they've received deaths threats for being together, explaining people assume things about Durek because of the colour of his skin.

"The reality of it all is that I love how he holds space for me as a woman, listens to my wisdom and shows up for me and my girls," she said. "I love how he shares his wisdom with the world, how he inspires, creates change and grows also within our relationship.

View this post on Instagram

Being @shamandurek ‘s girlfriend has given me a crash course in how white supremacy is at play and the way I have consciously and subconsciously thought of and acted towards black people. How I have taken my rights for granted - never looked properly at what racism really is, because it has been comfortable for me that the system is in place. I am not proud of it, but I realize I need to grow into understanding this deeply rooted system to be able to be part of the dismantling of it. I, as a white person, need to grow, educate myself and become better and move from being against racism to being anti-racist. Racism is not just the obvious (which I thought it was), of the openly discrimination, mistreating and killing of black people which is easy and obvious to take a stand against. It is in the details (which I had no idea still existed). It is in the way people shy away from Durek. How friends assume he lies about everything. That he is evil for being kind. The words muttered under their breath, making it perfectly clear to him that he does not have a natural place at the table. People at high places saying “How dare you think I would touch your hand?” when he reached out his hand to say goodnight (pre Covid-19). People thinking they aren’t racist, but don’t know anyone with a different skin color than their own, apart from the people working for them. How it is assumed that Durek is not a good person who actually loves me, but has manipulated me into loving him and keeps manipulating me in our relationship. How he will exploit me financially. The press presents him as a liar, being violent and a threat to my family and myself, sharing scrupulously his X’s story without checking facts, because it supports the belief system already in place about him. THAT IS RACISM! We have both received death threats for being together and have weekly been told that we shame our people and families for choosing each other. The reality of it all is that I love how he holds space for me as a woman, listens to my wisdom and shows up for me and my girls. I love how he shares his wisdom with the world CONTINUES IN COMMENTS ??

A post shared by Princess Märtha Louise (@princessmarthalouise) on

Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko

Japan's Akihito broke many royal rules during his life – the first when he married Michiko Shoda.

At the time, Akihito was the crown prince and Michiko, a literature graduate. Marrying a commoner wasn't allowed or expected, but many embraced Michiko – television sales even spiked because everyone wanted to watch the royal wedding, reports CNN. When they tied the knot in 1959, a royal tradition over 2000 years old was broken.

But they didn't stop there. They completely modernised the royal family during their reign – Akihito ascended to the throne in 1989 and the couple assumed the titles of emperor and empress. Unlike generations before them, they didn't leave their children to the care of others, they wanted to raise them – they wanted to be "normal".

The emperor described Michiko as raising their three children "with deep affection".

"The empress has always been at my side, understood my thoughts, and supported me in my position and official duties as I performed my duties as the emperor," he said at a celebration to mark his 85th birthday in December 2018, according to Kyodo News.

"I am truly grateful to the empress, who herself was once one of the people, but who chose to walk this path with me, and over 60 long years continued to serve with great devotion both the imperial family and the people of Japan."

Did I mention how Akihito and Michiko met?

Their six-decade-long royal romance started in 1957 on a tennis court in Karuizawa in Nagano Prefecture when the two challenged each other to a doubles match that later appropriately became known as the "love match".

Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko
Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko met on the tennis court. Japan came to know the doubles game they played against each other as the "love match".
Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko
Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko admire coloured leaves as they take a stroll in the East Gardens of the Imperial Palace in Tokyo in 2007.

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