The countdown is officially on to Meghan Markle and Prince Harry formally stepping down from their positions as senior working members of the royal family. March 31 will mark the couple's last official day of representing Queen and country, at which point they will become financially independent, no longer relying on public funds.
It came as a pretty big shock to everyone (not least the Queen herself) when the Duke and Duchess of Sussex announced on Instagram in early January that they were planning to withdraw from their frontline roles within the royal institution. And while we've slowly got used to the idea that we won't be seeing the Sussexes' faces out and about quite so much (sob), it seems there are some people who appear to be experiencing a spot of denial.
On social media, a theory has emerged about Meghan and Harry quitting their royal duties, drawing particular attention to the date marking the start of their new lives: 1 April.
"Harry & Meghan’s first day being done with Royal duties is April Fool’s Day. I’ll leave that right there for ya," wrote one person on Twitter.
Quote tweeting an announcement that Harry and Meghan's departure will take place on 31 March, another person posted:
"*the very next day*
Harry and Meghan: 'April fool’s!'"
I mean... imagine. Just imagine if this whole thing had been the most elaborate royal prank ever to have been pulled. If, in reality, Meghan and Harry weren't relocating to Canada, standing down from their official duties, and embarking upon commercial enterprises. What a ride we'd all have been taken on...
Of course, this is all very unlikely. I don't have official stats or anything, but I'd say the levels of unlikeliness here might just be on a par with winning the lottery, or getting struck by lightning... twice.
Because what's been made crystal clear over the past two months is just how much the Duke and Duchess need to step back from the royal family for their own sakes. After enduring intense intrusion and public scrutiny for years, the interviews Meghan and Harry conducted in their Africa documentary showed how they were at breaking point.
Meghan Markle told interviewer Tom Bradby: "I never thought that this would be easy, but I thought that it would be fair. And that's the part that's really hard to reconcile.
"When people are saying things that are just untrue, and they're being told they're untrue but they're allowed to still say them, I don't know anybody in the world that would feel like that's okay."
In a speech made back in January, Prince Harry opened up about his "great sadness" over stepping away from royal duties. He told the audience at a private dinner for his charity Sentebale:
"The decision that I have made for my wife and I to step back is not one I made lightly. It was so many months of talks after so many years of challenges and I know I haven’t always got it right, but as far as this goes there really was no other option."
So, while we can still optimistically hope this whole thing is just a massive April Fool, deep down we all really know it's not. And if Meghan and Harry are excited about their new life and all the opportunities it will bring, then so should the rest of us.
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