When the Duke and Duchess of Sussex announced they were planning to step back from their roles as senior members of the royal family, much of the world was left in shock, including the Queen who was reportedly not consulted on the contents of the statement.
“After many months of reflection and internal discussions, we have chosen to make a transition this year in starting to carve out a progressive new role within this institution," the couple wrote on Instagram.
“We intend to step back as ‘senior’ members of the Royal Family and work to become financially independent, while continuing to fully support Her Majesty The Queen.”
While the decision to relinquish their duties was surprising to many, fans of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle long suspected it was coming as the royal couple’s frustration with their roles had seemingly been growing for some months.
The duke and duchess made many unconventional decisions and their tumultuous relationship with the press - Meghan Markle is currently in a legal battle with Associated Newspapers - only served to lay the groundwork for a move that would see them further modernise the British monarchy.
Here are all the moments that showed Harry and Meghan longed for a different path and led to their surprising departure.
November 2016: Kensington Palace issues rare statement regarding the harassment of Meghan
Kensington Palace has issued a statement this morning about the harassment currently being experienced by Meghan Markle and her family. pic.twitter.com/EuFZ4fmUIj
— The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge (@KensingtonRoyal) November 8, 2016
Just six months after meeting, Kensington Palace issued an unprecedented statement in which it confirmed that Harry was in a relationship with Meghan and condemned the harassment she and her family was receiving.
The palace stated that Harry had “rarely taken formal action” regarding the publication of fictional stories but that he felt a “line had been crossed”. “His girlfriend, Meghan Markle, has been subject to a wave of abuse and harassment,” the statement read, citing ‘’racist undertones” and “outright sexism”.
The note continued: “He knows commentators will say this is ‘the price she has to pay’ and that ‘this is all part of the game’. He strongly disagrees. This is not a game - it is her life and his.
“He has asked for this statement to be issued in the hopes that those in the press who have been driving this story can pause and reflect before any further damage is done.”
November 2018: Couple move out of Kensington palace to Frogmore Cottage
— Rhiannon Mills (@SkyRhiannon) November 24, 2018
In November, it was announced that Harry and Meghan would be moving out of Nottingham Cottage in the grounds of Kensington Palace, where the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge live, and into their new home at Frogmore Cottage at Windsor in order to get settled ahead of the birth of their first child.
At the time, people wondered what the move meant - speculating whether it was a bid by Harry and Meghan to distance themselves from the rest of the royal family. Sources close to the family later indicated it was because the property at Kensington Palace was not ready.
May 2019: Archie Harrison Mountbatten-Windsor is born
On 6 May 2019, the royal couple’s first child, Archie Harrison Mountbatten-Windsor was born.
The birth was a break from tradition as Meghan chose to give birth at the Portland Hospital in London unlike previous royals, including Kate, who have done so the Lindo Wing at St Mary’s Hospital in London.
Harry and Meghan also chose not to pose for an “on the steps” moment after leaving hospital like other royal mothers and instead first presented baby Archie to the world at a press briefing at St George’s Hall at Windsor Castle a few days later.
The couple later revealed they would also not be giving their son the courtesy title Earl Dumbarton, which Archie was allowed to use. They also declined to style him Lord Archie Mountbatten-Windsor, opting for “Master” instead.
June 2019: Harry and Meghan split from the Royal Foundation
The duke and duchess announced they would be splitting from the Royal Foundation, a charity which they were joint patrons of alongside William and Kate.
The implication was that Harry and Meghan intended to start a new, separate non-profit, Archewell, named after their son.
“Before SussexRoyal, came the idea of ‘Arche’ – the Greek word meaning ‘source of action’,” the couple said in a statement.
“We connected to this concept for the charitable organisation we hoped to build one day, and it became the inspiration for our son’s name. To do something of meaning, to do something that matters.”
The announcement came just a few months after Harry and Meghan announced that their household was separating from that of William and Kate.
While it had been thought that the Sussexes would initially keep their offices at Kensington Palace, Buckingham Palace revealed that it was always the long-term plan for the brothers to have their own households and that it had nothing to do with any rumours of rifts between the two couples.
July 2019: Archie is christened but his godparents remain private
Meghan and Harry chose to christen Archie at an intimate ceremony attended by close family. Royal baptisms are traditionally private but the couple went one step further by going against convention and deciding not to announce Archie’s godparents.
“The godparents, in keeping with their wishes, will remain private,” a statement from Buckingham Palace read.
Speculation remained rife as to who had been named the godparents of their son, with contenders including media mogul Oprah Winfrey, fashion stylist Jessica Mulroney and Hollywood actor George Clooney.
In January 2020, an article published by The Sunday Times, speculated that two of the eight-month-old’s godparents include Tiggy Pettifer, the former nanny of the Dukes of Sussex and Cambridge, and Mark Dyer, former royal equerry (a senior attendant) to the Prince of Wales. However, this has not been confirmed.
October 2019: ITV documentary Harry & Meghan: An African Journey is released
The British broadcaster ITV aired a documentary titled Harry & Meghan: An African Journey, which was filmed during the couple's tour of the country.
The duke and duchess spoke candidly to journalist Tom Bradby about their public duties and how they cope with their private life coming under media scrutiny.
In one segment, Meghan discussed the heavy emotional toll that the intense media attention took on her. “The biggest thing that I know is that I never thought that this would be easy, but I thought it would be fair,” Meghan said.
Harry also opened up about his aversion to paparazzi and confessed that he and his brother are on “different paths”, fuelling speculation that the two have grown apart.
“I will not be bullied into playing a game that killed my mum,” Harry said. “For me and my wife of course there’s a lot of stuff that hurts…especially when the majority of it is untrue.”
October 2019: Harry issues statement condemning the British tabloid press
Following the ITV documentary, Harry issued an official statement targeting the British tabloid press for their “ruthless” treatment of Meghan.
“There is a human cost to this relentless propaganda, specifically when it is knowingly false and malicious, and though we have continued to put on a brave face – as so many of you can relate to – I cannot begin to describe how painful it has been,“ the statement read.
In the same statement, it was confirmed that Meghan had filed a claim against Associated Newspapers “over the intrusive and unlawful publication of a private letter written by the Duchess of Sussex, which is part of a campaign by this media group to publish false and deliberately derogatory stories about her, as well as her husband.”