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Diamonds and dresses.. those romantic royal engagements

As Harry and Meghan prepare for their wedding in the spring, Abi Jackson looks back at past regal unions

Royal announcements have always been a big deal, especially when there are big sparklers to show off. Unless you've just emerged from a cave, you'll be well aware that Prince Harry has announced his engagement to actress Meghan Markle.

While, to be fair, much of our time between now and the big day will be spent pondering the crucial details of the upcoming nuptials (what will she wear? Why won't Downing Street give us an extra Bank Holiday?), it's also the perfect time to take a look back at some of the royal wedding announcements of the past. So, to celebrate the engagement of Harry and Meghan, let's revisit some of the royal couples that beat them to it ...

Prince Albert and Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon

The year was 1923, so Kensington Palace's Twitter account definitely didn't break the news of Elizabeth and Albert's engagement.

However, this doesn't mean it was a traditional engagement. Apparently, Prince Albert (who later became George VI after the abdication of his brother, Edward VIII), had proposed to Elizabeth (later known as the Queen Mother, of course) three times before she finally agreed (she allegedly wasn't that thrilled at the prospect of royal life!). At the time, their engagement was seen as a step forward for the monarchy, as Elizabeth wasn't a royal herself (although she was the daughter of a peer, so let's not get carried away).

Princess Elizabeth and Philip

Mountbatten

Elizabeth Windsor met Prince Philip of Greece and Denmark in the 1930s. This was more of a traditional pairing than the union between Elizabeth's parents, as Philip had royal links. However, the fact he was foreign-born caused somewhat of a stir at the time, even though he was English.

The pair are actually distantly related (second cousins once removed and third cousins). They announced their engagement at Buckingham Palace in 1947, with Elizabeth flashing her square-cut diamond and platinum ring, which was made using stones from a tiara that had belonged to Philip's mother. While Harry and Meghan are 33 and 36 respectively, Elizabeth and Philip were significantly younger when they announced their engagement, at just 21 and 26. They celebrate their 70th wedding anniversary this month.

Princess Margaret and Antony

Armstrong-Jones

Antony Armstrong-Jones, who became Lord Snowdon upon his marriage, was the first commoner to marry a king's daughter in over 400 years.

Their engagement didn't have the most auspicious of starts. The announcement in 1960 came as a surprise - Margaret, the Queen's younger sister, had been involved with Peter Townsend, but that marriage wasn't allowed as he was a divorcee. There hadn't been any whisperings that she had a new relationship, so the engagement was definitely a shock. Margaret married magazine photographer Antony in May 1960, but they divorced in 1978.

Princess Anne and Mark Phillips

Anne, daughter of Elizabeth and Philip, was a keen horse rider, so it was perhaps unsurprising that she met her future husband at the Munich Olympics in 1972. Anne and Mark announced their engagement in May 1973. The couple divorced in 1992, after having two children, Peter and Zara.

Prince Charles and Diana Spencer

Ah, Charles and Diana, definitely not an engagement, nor a marriage, that any of us could forget. The Spencer family had close ties with the royals (with both Diana's grandmothers being ladies-in-waiting to the Queen Mother), so she was a prime choice for Charles.

They met when she was 16 (Charles had just broken up with Diana's older sister, Sarah), and they got engaged in February 1981, when she was 19. Their engagement got the country very excited, with their big day dubbed the 'wedding of the century'.

As for the bling, we hardly need to tell you much about it. Charles presented Diana with a sapphire engagement ring surrounded by 14 diamonds, which is now on the Duchess of Cambridge's finger.

Prince Edward and Sophie Rhys-Jones

Prince Edward, Earl of Wessex, is Elizabeth II's youngest child. His choice of Sophie Rhys-Jones was seen as evidence that the royal family was modernising, as she was a working woman with a career in public relations. They announced their engagement in 1999, and Edward gave Sophie an oval diamond flanked by two heart-shaped stones set in white gold.

Prince William and Kate Middleton

It's hard not to compare Harry and Meghan's engagement to William and Kate's, but there are notable differences.

Back in November 2010, William announced that he was to wed his university girlfriend Kate, who he'd been dating for eight years. When they sat down with the BBC's Tom Bradby, it was one of the first times the country got a real chance to get to know Kate. Compare this to actress Meghan, who's an old hand at giving interviews by now.

Kate wore her now-iconic blue Issa wrap dress for the occasion. Her outfit perfectly matched the sapphire in Diana's ring.

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle

This leads us to the engagement of Harry and Meghan, who, like William and Kate, announced their news during the November, appearing together for photographs in the Sunken Garden at Kensington Palace, with Meghan showing off her sparkler.

Harry designed the ring himself, which features diamonds from Diana's personal collection and a stone from one of their favourite places, Botswana. Meghan later revealed how she couldn't wait to say "yes" to Harry, who proposed a few weeks ago when they were cooking a roast chicken dinner at home.

As Harry and Meghan prepare for their wedding in the spring, Abi Jackson looks back at past regal unions

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