Prince Harry and Meghan Markle made an unprecedented move in royal history, by announcing they will be stepping down as senior members of the royal family.
After returning from a six-week hiatus in Canada, the Duke and Duchess announced in January 2020 that they plan to become “financially independent” and “split their time between the UK and North America”.
They shared the news in a statement released by the couple on their official social channels. But, this isn’t the first time Harry and Meghan have made a bold choice during their relationship.
Let’s take a look back at their relationship so far, which led them to this point.
July 2016 — When Prince Harry Met Meghan Markle
Prince Harry and Meghan Markle were said to have met on a blind date in early July 2016, however, in a later interview, Meghan revealed that the couple “had a good five, six months almost with just privacy, which was amazing,” she said, hinting that they may have met in March or April 2016.
“We were introduced actually by a mutual friend,” Harry revealed during the couple’s first sit-down interview with the BBC after their engagement was announced.
While some have speculated designer Mischa Nonoo set the pair up, others claim it was Harry’s friend Violet von Westenholz.
October 31 2016 — The Couple Are Outed as an Item
At the end of October 2016 after they had been dating quietly for a few months, news broke that they were officially an item.
According to an interview with Sunday Express, Harry was said to be “happier than he’s been for many years” and was “besotted” with the former Suits actress.
The very same day, Meghan posted a picture on her now deleted Instagram account of two spooning bananas.
She also posted several other photographs, including a photograph of her wearing a bracelet Harry had given her (a duplicate of the one he always wore) and a sneaky photo of Harry himself, wearing a Golden Girls jumper with only his beard showing.
November 2016 — Meghan is Introduced to Members of the British Royal Family and Harry Releases a Statement Defending His “Girlfriend”
According to PEOPLE, things were moving very fast between Meghan and Harry, and it was at this point that she was introduced to Prince Charles.
On November 8, Prince Harry was forced to confirm his relationship with Meghan, pleading for the press and social media trolls to stop the “wave of abuse and harassment”
During their BBC interview, Harry admitted that they were “surprised” by the media scrutiny they received at the time.
“I think both of us were totally surprised by the reaction,” he said.
“There was a misconception that because I have worked in the entertainment industry that this would be something I would be familiar with,” Meghan added.
“But I’ve never been part of tabloid culture. I’ve never been in pop culture to that degree and lived a relatively quiet life.”
Following Prince Harry’s defence of his new girlfriend, Prince William was then forced to release a statement a few weeks later on November 17, clearing up rumours that he was unhappy with the union. This was an unprecedented move for William.
“The Duke of Cambridge absolutely understands the situation concerning privacy and supports the need for Prince Harry to support those closest to him.”
December 2016 — Christmas Tree Shopping and The Queen Approves
On December 13, Prince Harry and Meghan were spotted buying a Christmas tree together in Battersea Park. Around the same time, Markle was photographed wearing a gold necklace with the initials “M” and “H” on them.
On December 20, US Weekly ran a story by royal reporter and reputable source, Omid Scobie, that Queen Elizabeth II was “fully supportive” of their romance.
“She’s delighted to see Harry in a loving relationship,” a source said.
January — Prince Harry and Meghan visit Norway and Meghan and Kate Meet
Harry and Meghan spent Christmas apart, before reuniting for New Years Eve in London and on January 6, when Harry took Meghan away on a romantic holiday to see the Northern Lights in Norway.
Then, on January 15, according to US Weekly, Prince Harry introduced Meghan to Kate Middleton and an 18-month-old Princess Charlotte.
According to the magazine, the two women “got on fabulously”.
During their BBC interview, Meghan revealed that Kate had “been wonderful. Amazing,” while Harry added: “As has William as well, you know, fantastic support.”
February 2017 — The Couple’s Relationship Goes Long-Distance
Reports at the time said that Meghan and Harry were “virtually” living together, however, Meghan was still acting as Rachel Zane in Suits, which was filmed in Canada.
Meghan had taken a social media break, before sharing a #NoBadEnergy post on February 12.
March 2017 — Meghan and Prince Harry Attend a Wedding in Jamaica
On March 4, Meghan and Harry flew to Jamaica to attend the wedding of one of Harry’s best friends, Tom “Skippy” Inskip.
April 2017 — Meghan Closes Down “The Tig”
In April, Harry flew to Toronto, Canada to spend the Easter weekend together. At the time, Harry was photographed entering Meghan’s building.
That same month, Meghan closed down her lifestyle website “The Tig”, which she had founded in 2014.
In a statement on Instagram, she said: What began as a passion project (my little engine that could) evolved into an amazing community of inspiration, support, fun and frivolity. You’ve made my days brighter and filled this experience with so much joy. Keep finding those Tig moments of discovery, keep laughing and taking risks, and keep being the change you wish to see in the world.”
At the time, fans speculated that it was because an engagement was imminent, however, a source told PEOPLE it was because of her “busy schedule”.
May 2017 — Prince Harry and Meghan Seen At Their First Public Event Together and Attend Pippa Middleton’s Wedding
On May 8, during the annual Audi Polo Challenge in Ascot, England, the couple made their first public appearance together.
While Harry played, Meghan watched on — and then they engaged in some serious public displays of affection.
Love is in the Air: Prince Harry and Meghan Markle ❤️💏💑
Maybe the Next Royal Wedding pic.twitter.com/YbOc3Eeyh6
— Royal Ladies (@vaninaswchindt) May 8, 2017
Meghan then attended Pippa Middleton’s nuptials as Harry’s plus one, and while she didn’t attend the ceremony, she was reportedly a guest at the reception.
August 2017 — Meghan and Prince Harry visit Africa
In celebration of her 36th birthday, Prince Harry took Meghan to Africa for three weeks.
October 2017 — Meghan Opens Up About Her Love Life and Accompanies Harry to an Official Royal Appearance
In the October issue of Vanity Fair, Meghan, who was the cover star, openly spoke about her relationship with Prince Harry.
“We’re a couple. We’re in love. I’m sure there will be a time when we will have to come forward and present ourselves and have stories to tell, but I hope what people will understand is that this is our time. This is for us. It’s part of what makes it so special, that’s just ours. But we’re happy. Personally, I love a great love story.”
— VANITY FAIR (@VanityFair) September 5, 2017
On October 1, Meghan (along with her mum Doria Ragland) accompanied Prince Harry to the opening of the Invictus Games.
November 2017 — They’re Engaged!
After months of speculation, Prince Harry and Meghan Markle announced their engagement.
To mark the occasion, the couple posed for photos and sat down for an interview with the BBC and according to the couple, Harry proposed over a “roast chicken dinner”.
On November 28 2017, St George’s Chapel, Windsor Castle was announced as their wedding venue and it was announced that Meghan intended to become a British Citizen and would be baptised ahead of the ceremony.
December 2017 — A Month of Royal Firsts for Meghan
On December 1, Harry and Meghan carried out their first official joint engagement in Nottingham and then on December 15 2017, their wedding date was announced to the public via a statement.
On December 20, Meghan joined Harry at the Queen’s traditional pre-Christmas lunch at Buckingham Palace, before spending Christmas Day with them at Sandringham.
On December 21, the couple’s engagement photographs by celebrity photographer Alexi Lubomirski are released — and they were unlike anything we had seen from the royals before.
On December 27, Prince Harry guest-edited BBC Radio 4s Today Programme and said that Meghan had a fantastic Christmas with his family before adding: “It’s the family I suppose that she’s never had.” A statement which would come back to haunt him in the from of Meghan’s half-sibling, Samantha Markle.
The couple then spent New Years Eve on the French Riviera.
January 2018 — Meghan Shuts Down Her Social Media Accounts
On January 9, Meghan shut down all of her now dormant social media accounts. Then, Harry and Meghan visit Cardiff Castle.
February 2018 — Royal Engagements, White Powder is Sent to St James’ Palace and the “Fab Four” Make Their First Appearance
Police were called to St James’ Palace on February 12 when a letter containing white powder was sent to Meghan, sparking an anthrax scare.
According to reports, the package contained a racist note and was treated as a racist hate crime.
The following day, Meghan and Harry visited Edinburgh Scotland for a series of engagements.
On February 28, the couple joined Prince William and Kate Middleton at a Royal Foundation Forum.
March 2018 — Meghan is Baptised and Carries out First Official Engagement With the Queen
On March 6, Meghan was baptised and confirmed into the Anglican faith during a private ceremony.
And then on March 12, Meghan attends her first official engagement with the Queen at the Commonwealth Day service. She tells the schoolchildren outside Westminster Abbey that she is “very, very excited” about her wedding.
May 2018 – The “Markle Debacle” and a Royal Wedding
On May 13, Meghan’s father Thomas Markle, posed for a series of paparazzi photos which showed him preparing for the royal wedding. The faked images included him being measured for a suit to wear to the wedding, being caught with a book of British landmarks and working out with weights to get in shape.
Then, on May 14, there were reports that Thomas had suffered a heart attack. An understandably upset Meghan appealed for “understanding and respect” for her father.
On May 17, Meghan confirmed in a statement that her father would not be walking her down the aisle, nor attending the wedding, saying he needed to focus on his health. It was then confirmed that Prince Charles would be accompanying her down the aisle.
On May 18, nearly two years after the couple first met, Prince Harry and Meghan Markle married, becoming the Duke and Duchess of Sussex.
On May 22, the newlyweds carried out their first official engagement as a married couple, attending a Garden Party at Buckingham Palace in honour of Prince Charles 70th birthday.
June 2018 – Trooping the Colour and Meghan’s First Solo Engagement with the Queen
On June 9 2018, Meghan took her place on the Buckingham Palace balcony for the very first time for the Trooping the Colour celebrations.
On June 14, Meghan accompanied Her Majesty on a day trip to Cheshire — her first solo outing with the Queen.
On June 18, Thomas Markle conducted an interview saying that Harry and Meghan will try for children soon.
The couple made several appearances in June including Meghan watching her husband play polo at Ascot, and the pair attending the Young Leaders awards ceremony at Buckingham Palace.
July 2018 — Prince Louis’ Christening, Dublin
Meghan and Harry joined the rest of the family for Prince Louis’ christening on July 9, and Meghan appeared in her first official family photo after the wedding.
The couple then carried out a two-day engagement in Dublin (July 10-11).
October — Another Royal Wedding, a Tour Of Australia and New Zealand and a Baby Announcement
Harry and Meghan attend Princess Eugenie’s wedding to Jack Brooksbank, and rumours began to circulate that Meghan was pregnant.
Then, on October 15, Harry and Meghan touched down in Australia and when she got off the plane, Meghan was holding two folders in front of her belly, sparking more pregnancy rumours.
Later that night, the couple announced via Kensington Palace that they were, indeed, expecting a baby in Spring 2019.
Their Royal Highnesses The Duke and Duchess of Sussex are very pleased to announce that The Duchess of Sussex is expecting a baby in the Spring of 2019. pic.twitter.com/Ut9C0RagLk
— Kensington Palace (@KensingtonRoyal) October 15, 2018
But the pregnancy was not without controversy, as Meghan was accused of “flaunting” her baby bump and holding her stomach excessively throughout the tour.
In an article condemning the criticism of Meghan, the Guaridan’s Suzanne Moore said: “She is not allowed to have those feelings, though, because her job is to breed in captivity, The Duchess of Sussex is public property as far as the media are concerned … the subtext is that she is devious.”
February 2019 — Meghan’s Letter to her Father
The Daily Mail released a letter that Meghan had written to her now estranged father. The “bombshell five-page letter” had been sent in August last year and was said to have “bared the true depths of the Duchess’s estrangement from her father”.
Thomas then said “that the letter made no attempt to heal their bitter rift. ‘I thought it would be an olive branch. Instead, it was a dagger to the heart.
The letter would later become subject for legal action against The Mail on Sunday and its parent company Associated Newspapers, over “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,” a legal spokesperson from Schillings, who represents Meghan said.
March 2019 — Rumours of Rifts and a Household Split
As quickly as there was love for Meghan, things turned sour after rumours circulated of a discourse between Meghan and Kate.
On 15 March, it was announced that Meghan and Prince Harry were to split households from Kensington Palace, and rumours of a rift were now between the brothers, William and Harry.
April 2019 — Frogmore Cottage
In April 2019, after an extensive $4 million dollar renovation, the Sussex’ moved into Frogmore Cottage.
May 2019 — A Royal Baby is Born
On May 6 2019, the Sussex’ released a statement saying that Meghan was in labour. Then within thirty minutes, another statement was released saying that Meghan had given birth.
Archie Harrison Mountbatten-Windsor was born at Portland Hospital in London, after Meghan went into labour in the early hours of the morning.
On May 8, Archie was introduced to the world at an official photo call and press briefing at St George’s Hall at Windsor Castle.
Archie would not be given a title, and would be called “Master” instead.
“I have the two best guys in the world so I’m really happy,” Meghan said at the call.
That same day, a historic photograph (alongside a caption announcing Archie’s full name) was released featuring the Queen, Prince Philip, Doria Ragland (Meghan’s mum), Prince Harry, Meghan and Prince Charles.
June 2019 — A Split from the Royal Foundation
On June 20, Prince Harry and Meghan announced that they were splitting from the Royal Foundation charity they shared with William and Kate, to start Sussex Royal, which they officially launched in 2020.
July 2017 — A Royal Christening
On July 7, the world caught another glimpse of Archie as he was christened in an intimate ceremony attended by only close family.
Harry and Meghan went against the conventional route of choosing not to announce Archie’s godparents to the world.
It was also announced that Meghan would guest edit the September issue of British Vogue and instead of featuring herself, she chose to put faces of “15 change makers” on the cover.
August — Private Jet Criticism
In August, Prince Harry and Meghan came under fire for using private jets to go on a holiday with Archie to the South of France.
On August 19, Sir Elton John defended the couple revealing that he had paid for a flight for them and their son Archie to “maintain a high level of much-needed protection”.
In September, Harry would further defend the choice, saying it was to “ensure the safety” of his family.
September 2019 — Royal Tour of Africa
In September, Harry and Meghan took Archie on a two-week Royal Tour of Africa. The couple released video and photographs of their son, giggling and enjoying time with the Archbishop Desmond Tutu and his daughter Thandeka Tutu-Gxashe.
Harry also visited a minefield where his mother was pictured walking 22 years prior.
October 2019 — Prince Harry’s Statement
Prince Harry took a powerful stand against the “ruthless” treatment Meghan had received at the hands of the British tabloids.
In a statement released by Sussex Royal on October 2, he said:
November 2019 — Christmas Break Announcement
January 2020 — Harry and Meghan Step Back as Senior Members of the Royal Family
On January 8, after visiting Canada House in London the day before, Prince Harry and Meghan announced that they would be “stepping back as senior members of the royal family” and working towards becoming financially independent.
“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. 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.
“It is with your encouragement, particularly over the last few years, that we feel prepared to make this adjustment. We now plan to balance our time between the United Kingdom and North America, continuing to honour our duty to The Queen, the Commonwealth, and our patronages. This geographic balance will enable us to raise our son with an appreciation for the royal tradition into which he was born, while also providing our family with the space to focus on the next chapter, including the launch of our new charitable entity. We look forward to sharing the full details of this exciting next step in due course, as we continue to collaborate with Her Majesty The Queen, The Prince of Wales, The Duke of Cambridge and all relevant parties. Until then, please accept our deepest thanks for your continued support.”
The Queen then released a statement that read:
“Discussions with The Duke and Duchess of Sussex are at an early stage,” the statement read.
“We understand their desire to take a different approach, but these are complicated issues that will take time to work through.”
On January 9, trusted royal reporter, Omid Scobie, revealed in Harpers BAZAAR that there was sound justification for the couple’s decision to announce the move before the palace was ready.
Meghan and Harry had actually intended to hold back from telling the public anything until the logistics had been fleshed out with all households, however the move was reportedly leaked to The Sun, and a source told Scobie that “they felt they had been cornered.”
“It was a case of act now or lose control of something they had spent a long time working on,” the source said.
On January 11, it was reported by royal correspondent, Omid Scobie, that Prince Harry will join a family meeting on Monday 13 January with Queen Elizabeth, Prince Charles, and Prince William at Sandringham “to talk things through.”
Meghan would likely join by phone from Canada, and “it would follow a series of consultations and will see “a range of possibilities” brought to the table.”
On January 13, Buckingham Palace released a statement from the Queen following Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s landmark decision to step down as senior members of the royal family.
“Today my family had very constructive discussions on the future of my grandson and his family,” it read.
“My family and I are entirely supportive of Harry and Meghan’s desire to create a new life as a young family. Although we would have preferred them to remain full-time working Members of the Royal Family, we respect and understand their wish to live a more independent life as a family while remaining a valued part of my family.
“Harry and Meghan have made clear that they do not want to be reliant on public funds in their new lives. It has therefore been agreed that there will be a period of transition in which the Sussexes will spend time in Canada and the UK. These are complex matters for my family to resolve, and there is some more work to be done, but I have asked for final decisions to be reached in the coming days.”
On January 18, the Queen released a statement saying that Prince Harry and Meghan Markle will no longer be called His and Her Royal Highness.
Harry and Meghan would still continue to support their private patronages, however, also agreed to repay the £2.4million ($4.5million AUD) of taxpayers’ money spent on renovating their UK home, Frogmore Cottage.
“Following many months of conversations and more recent discussions, I am pleased that together we have found a constructive and supportive way forward for my grandson and his family,” the official statement read.
“Harry, Meghan and Archie will always be much-loved members of my family.
“I recognise the challenges they have experienced as a result of intense scrutiny over the last two years and support their wish for a more independent life.
“I want to thank them for all their dedicated work across this country, the Commonwealth and beyond, and am particularly proud of how Meghan has so quickly become one of the family.
“It is my whole family’s hope that today’s agreement allows them to start building a happy and peaceful new life.”
Story continues after statement.
Following the first announcement, another statement was issued by Buckingham Palace.
“The Duke and Duchess of Sussex are grateful to Her Majesty and the Royal Family for their ongoing support as they embark on the next chapter of their lives.
“As agreed in this new arrangement, they understand that they are required to step back from Royal duties, including official military appointments.
“They will no longer receive public funds for Royal duties. With The Queen’s blessing, the Sussexes will continue to maintain their private patronages and associations.
“While they can no longer formally represent The Queen, the Sussexes have made clear that everything they do will continue to uphold the values of Her Majesty.”
“The Sussexes will not use their HRH titles as they are no longer working members of the Royal Family. The Duke and Duchess of Sussex have shared their wish to repay Sovereign Grant expenditure for the refurbishment of Frogmore Cottage, which will remain their UK family home. Buckingham Palace does not comment on the details of security arrangements.
“There are well established independent processes to determine the need for publicly funded security. This new model will take effect in the Spring of 2020.”
On January 19, Prince Harry attended an event in support of his Sentebale charity, an organisation aimed at supporting the mental health and wellbeing of children afflicted with HIV.
During the event, Harry delivered a speech, addressing the recent agreement and expressing “great sadness” and that “there was no other option” to his decision.
“Before I begin, I must say that I can only imagine what you may have heard or perhaps read over the last few weeks.
“So, I want you to hear the truth from me, as much as I can share – not as a prince, or a duke, but as Harry, the same person that many of you have watched grow up over the last 35 years – but with a clearer perspective.
“The UK is my home and a place that I love. That will never change.
“I have grown up feeling support from so many of you, and I watched as you welcomed Meghan with open arms as you saw me find the love and happiness that I had hoped for all my life. Finally, the second son of Diana got hitched, hurray!
“I also know you’ve come to know me well enough over all these years to trust that the woman I chose as my wife upholds the same values as I do. And she does, and she’s the same woman I fell in love with.
“We both do everything we can to fly the flag and carry out our roles for this country with pride. Once Meghan and I were married, we were excited, we were hopeful, and we were here to serve.”
“For those reasons, it brings me great sadness that it has come to this.
“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 gotten it right, but as far as this goes, there really was no other option.
“What I want to make clear is we’re not walking away, and we certainly aren’t walking away from you.
“Our hope was to continue serving the Queen, the commonwealth, and my military associations, but without public funding. Unfortunately, that wasn’t possible.
“I’ve accepted this, knowing that it doesn’t change who I am or how committed I am.
“But I hope that helps you understand what it had to come to, that I would step my family back from all I have ever known, to take a step forward into what I hope can be a more peaceful life.
“I was born into this life, and it is a great honour to serve my country and the queen.
“When I lost my mum 23 years ago, you took me under your wing. You’ve looked out for me for so long, but the media is a powerful force, and my hope is one day our collective support for each other can be more powerful because this is so much bigger than just us.
“It has been our privilege to serve you, and we will continue to lead a life of service.
“It has also been a privilege to meet so many of you, and to feel your excitement for our son Archie, who saw snow for the first time the other day and thought it was bloody brilliant!
“I will always have the utmost respect for my grandmother, my commander in chief, and I am incredibly grateful to her and the rest of my family, for the support they have shown Meghan and I over the last few months.
“I will continue to be the same man who holds his country dear and dedicates his life to supporting the causes, charities and military communities that are so important to me.
“Together, you have given me an education about living. And this role has taught me more about what is right and just than I could have ever imagined. We are taking a leap of faith – thank you for giving me the courage to take this next step.”
On January 21, Meghan was snapped by paparazzi while on a walk in Vancouver with Archie and their family dogs, Oz and Guy.
Meghan was followed by two royal protection officers as she strolled through the Horth Hill Regional Park near the AUD $14million Vancouver Island mansion they have been living in since November 2019.
The following morning, news broke that Harry and his wife were reportedly taking legal action against the paparazzi, with the BBC reporting that Markle did not consent to the photographs taken of her.
According to the site, the lawyers also reported that there have been attempts by photographers to take pictures inside their home.