What Prince Harry and Meghan Markle's polo-field affection might mean for their future

For a British royal couple, there is only one landmark that really matters, one that says, "We are happening, and we mean business." Sure, the first time they are seen out holding hands means something, we guess, and, yeah, an actual engagement is kind of important in terms of demonstrating commitment, too, yeah, that's true. But a first polo-match outing together—that means . . . everything.

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle offered quite a surprise over the weekend, as, with no warning whatsoever (there should really be mass text-message blasts to prepare us for this sort of thing), the twosome made an appearance on both days of the Audi Polo Challenge in Ascot, England. Markle looked very Classic Markle (blazer hanging off her shoulders, dark shades), as she watched Harry play from the stands.

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File photos of Meghan Markle and Prince Harry, as Harry's girlfriend has been subject to a "wave of abuse and harassment" by the media, Kensington Palace has said in a statement.
NEW YORK, NY - JULY 14: Actress Meghan Markle enters the 'Today Show' taping at NBC Rockefeller Center Studios on July 14, 2016 in New York City. (Photo by Ray Tamarra/GC Images)

Prince Harry arrive at the London Eye on World Mental Health Day on October 10, 2016 in London, England.

(Danny Martindale/GC Images)

TORONTO, ON - JUNE 09: Actress Meghan Markle attends Luminato Big Bang Bash 2016 held at the Hearn Generating Station on June 9, 2016 in Toronto, Canada. (Photo by George Pimentel/WireImage)
NOTTINGHAM, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 26: Prince Harry plays rugby with children as part of the Coach Core sporting apprenticeships at National Ice Centre on November 6, 2016 in Nottingham, England. (Photo by Samir Hussein/WireImage)

Meghan Markle attends the Elton John AIDS Foundation's 13th Annual An Enduring Vision Benefit in New York October 28, 2014.

(REUTERS/Andrew Kelly)

LONDON, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 07: Prince Harry takes part in sports activities during a visit to celebrate the expansion of Coach Core at Lord's Cricket Ground on October 7, 2016 in London, England. (Photo by Mark Cuthbert/UK Press via Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 27: Actress Meghan Markle attends Glamour and L'Oreal Paris Celebrate 2016 College Women Of The Year at NoMad Hotel Rooftop on April 27, 2016 in New York City. (Photo by Nicholas Hunt/Getty Images for Glamour)
Britain's Prince Harry arrives at Lord's cricket ground in London on October 7, 2016, to participate in a Coach Core sports coaching apprenticeship programme event. Prince Harry, Patron, attended an event at Lord's Cricket Club to mark the expansion of the Coach Core sports coaching apprenticeship programme. The Prince met with apprentices, coaches and some of the partners and supporters who are taking the successful programme to 100 partners across the UK by Spring 2017. / AFP / JUSTIN TALLIS (Photo credit should read JUSTIN TALLIS/AFP/Getty Images)
TORONTO, ON - MAY 31: Actress Meghan Markle attends the Instagram Dinner held at the MARS Discovery District on May 31, 2016 in Toronto, Canada. (Photo by George Pimentel/WireImage)

Britain's Prince Harry attends the Metropolitan Police Service Annual Ceremony of Remembrance for colleagues who lost their lives in the line of duty, at the Metropolitan Police Training College in London, Britain October 20, 2016.

(REUTERS/Frank Augstein/Pool)

NEW YORK, NY - JULY 14: Actress Meghan Markle leaves the 'Today Show' taping at NBC Rockefeller Center Studios on July 14, 2016 in New York City. (Photo by Ray Tamarra/GC Images)

Actress Meghan Markle arrives on the red carpet for the MuchMusic Video Awards (MMVAs) in Toronto, June 16, 2013.

(REUTERS/Mark Blinch)

Prince Harry takes part in a training session during a celebration for the expansion of Coach Core at Lord's Cricket Ground on October 7, 2016 in London, England.

(Ben A. Pruchnie/Getty Images)

TORONTO, ON - APRIL 28: Actress Meghan Markle attends the Roland Mouret private dinner at Corkin Gallery on April 28, 2016 in Toronto, Canada. (Photo by GP Images/WireImage)

Actress Meghan Markle attends the USA Network and The Moth's Characters Unite Event at the Pacific Design Center in West Hollywood, California February 15, 2012.

(REUTERS/Phil McCarten)

Britain's Prince Harry arrives for the Sentebale Royal Salute Polo Cup in Wellington, Florida, U.S., May 4, 2016.

(REUTERS/Carlo Allegri)

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In and of itself, this is the sort of appearance that would have British tabloid writers reaching for their, uh, iced tea and cold compresses, but there were a few aspects that made this weekend's outing even more notable and potentially meaningful.
  1. A furtive kiss. Thanks to some canny long-lens photography work, we know that Markle and Harry shared a kiss at the end of the match on Sunday, as they stood awkwardly sandwiched between two cars. Harry has been in the "game" long enough to know that this is the sort of interaction that is going to be captured by photographers. Why would they want to be photographed in a romantic, causal embrace? It's possible there is no reason at all—maybe it's just a "we're in love and we don't care who knows it!" gesture—but it could be that this is an intentional, further step in priming the public for an imminent engagement, or, at the very least, a continued seriousness.

  2. Markle's seatmate. Markle watched Saturday's match next to Mark Dyer, a red-haired former army officer who is often called Harry's "second father," as he has been a mentor to Harry since his mother's death, and was involved in helping things "run smoothly" during Harry's previous high-profile relationships with Chelsy Davy and Cressida Bonas. Again, this further seems to emphasize: Markle is in.
  3. The timing. This appearance comes two weeks before Pippa Middleton's wedding, which, as we know, Markle will be attending alongside her boyfriend prince. Markle's attendance is going to cause all sorts of commotion—can you imagine how the Internet will react if we get a photo of Markle helping Prince George cut a piece of cake, or whispering in Kate Middleton's ear—and, again, the polo-match outings seem to be a signpost of sorts, familiarizing us further with the notion of Markle entering "the firm" before they attend some of these major formal occasions together.

Is an engagement even closer than we think? Might they—as some royal prognosticators have guessed—already secretly be engaged?! Will Markle reveal the engagement by wearing her ring to Pippa's wedding for the first time, causing general pandemonium and the wedding to actually be postponed out of sheer confusion? We shall see.

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