IT was in the beautiful wilds of Kenya, Africa, in October 2010 that Prince William asked Catherine Middleton to be his wife. So there was plenty of speculation that Prince Harry was about to follow in his older brother’s footsteps when he and Meghan Markle arrived in Botswana on Aug. 4 to go on safari and celebrate her 36th birthday.
Unfortunately for fans of the sexy couple, the trip came and went without any announcement of a betrothal. But that’s not surprising to certain palace insiders, who insist that some members of the royal family are keeping the pressure on Harry to think long and hard before he pops the question. “The fact that Meghan is a divorced American actress has been at the forefront of the family’s concerns from day one,” says one source. “And there’s only been more fuel for the fire since then, with a number of shocking revelations involving her family members and past romances.”
One of which, as Star has exclusively learned, still haunts the slinky Suits star — unbeknownst to Harry.
“They say you never forget your first love, and that certainly holds true for Meghan,” a source tells Star. “When she left her native California in 1999 to attend Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill., she fell for a super-hunky basketball player on the school team.”
That b-baller was Steve Lepore, a sophomore star shooting guard from Ohio. “Steve was older than Meghan, which freshman girls always like; he was a handsome and chiseled 6’5” and a real man’s man — and Meghan fell hard for him. They made quite the pair, and all her sorority sisters at Kappa Kappa Gamma were impressed that she snared such a hottie.”
There was one crucial difference in their personalities, however. While Steve was on the straight-arrow side, “Meghan loved to let her hair down and hit the bars,” a local source tells Star. “The legal drinking age was 21, and she had just turned 18 when she started school. Like a lot of students, she got a fake ID to go boozing; her favorite bar was a dump called The Keg. Meghan has joked that eating at 24-hour fast-food restaurants helped her gain the ‘freshman 15’ pounds — but I’m sure all the beers she drank did their share.”
NO “LASTING” MATTER
The feelings Meghan had for Steve would be dashed the following year when he decided to transfer to Wake Forest University in North Carolina. “Ultimately, I don’t think it would have worked out in the long run between Meghan and Steve, but she was heartbroken just the same,” says the source. “He wasn’t royalty, but to have your first real, adult romance end suddenly, that’s something that stays with you.” It must have stayed with Lepore, as well: When contacted by Star, Steve, now 37 and a married basketball coach at Virginia Military Institute, would only say, “I did date [Meghan] in college, but I don’t want to comment any further.”
There were more love affairs to follow for Meghan through the years, but the two highest-profile ones also fell by the wayside under questionable circumstances — which Harry’s family has taken note of, the royal insider tells Star.
She dated movie producer Trevor Engelson for seven years before they wed in 2011, but the union lasted less than two years. “You’d think the perfect formula for a happy marriage would be to totally get to know someone before tying the knot,” says the insider. “Strangely, that doesn’t seem to have been the case for Trevor and Meghan.” And while a rep for Markle says she and her recent boyfriend, Canadian celebrity chef Cory Vitiello, were already split when she began dating Harry, 32, it’s been widely reported that Meghan cheated on Cory by hooking up with Harry while they were still a couple — and Cory was in the dark.
“Clearly, the royal family would be intensely interested in the romantic history of anyone in Meghan’s position,” the insider adds. “And it’s fair to say they certainly may not view Meghan’s as ideal.”