Privacy rows, family rifts and an attack on the press have made 2019 a turbulent year for the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, who are to quit their roles as senior royals following a shock announcement yesterday.
Soon after returning from a six-week break in Canada, Harry and Meghan issued a statement saying their decision follows ‘many months of reflection and internal discussions’. The pair haven’t had the smoothest of rides in the spotlight since getting married 19 months ago at St George’s Chapel, Windsor Castle. Now they’ve made the decision to step back as senior members of the Royal Family, working to become financially independent while still supporting the Queen.
The move will help them balance their time between the UK and North America with their eight-month-old baby Archie. Here is what happened in the months leading up to the pair’s surprise announcement.
Meghan’s pregnancy and royal baby
The Duchess kept herself busy as she prepared to bring baby Archie Mountbatten-Windsor into the world. The former actress visited new patronages including Smart Works, which provides high-quality interview clothes to help unemployed women into work.
She went on a solo trip to New York City where she caught up with friends and attended a lavish and rather expensive baby shower. Including a private jet journey and penthouse suite, the bash is thought to have cost around £300,000 and was reportedly funded by pals.
Harry and Meghan moved into their new home in Frogmore Cottage, Windsor in April ahead of Archie’s birth on May 6. Weighing 7lb 3oz the new addition to the family left the duke beaming with pride and joy.
Speaking at Windsor Castle’s Royal Mews, he said: ‘It’s been the most amazing experience I could have ever possibly imagined. ‘How any woman does what they do is beyond comprehension. We’re both absolutely thrilled and so grateful for all the love and support out there. It’s been amazing. As every father and parent will ever say, you know, your baby is absolutely amazing, but this little thing is absolutely to die for, so I’m just over the moon.’
Buckingham Palace announced Meghan was in labour just before 2pm, but in fact the duchess had given birth more than eight hours earlier at 5.26am. As Archie was introduced to the world two days later at a photocall in the castle’s St George’s Hall, Meghan declared: ‘It’s magic, it’s pretty amazing. I have the two best guys in the world so I’m really happy.’
Due to rules restricting the number of family members who could have a royal title, Archie was not entitled to be an HRH nor a prince. Harry and Meghan chose not to use the courtesy title Earl Dumbarton, nor to style him Lord Archie Mountbatten-Windsor. Instead they decided he should just be plain old master Archie.
The duke and duchess kept Archie’s birthplace a secret, before it was inevitably shown on his birth certificate to be the private Portland Hospital in London. Their child’s royal christening at Windsor Castle was kept private as per tradition, but Harry and Meghan faced criticism after deciding not to announce who their son’s godparents would be.
Photographs were taken by their personal wedding photographer Chris Allerton, with a couple of images released publicly afterwards. Frogmore Cottage Harry and Meghan faced further problems when financial accounts revealed the refurbishment of Frogmore Cottage had cost taxpayers £2.4 million. Republic, which calls for an elected head of state, questioned why the public’s money had been ‘thrown’ at the duke and duchess while public services were struggling.
Royal duties and charity work
The duke began working with Oprah Winfrey on a mental health documentary series for Apple while his wife guest-edited British Vogue. Meghan brought together 15 women for the cover of the September edition entitled Forces for Change. It saw Harry interview chimpanzee expert Dr Jane Goodall and tell her he will only have two children for the sake of the planet.
The duchess launched her Smart Works high street clothing range in aid of charity. She stepped out wearing some of her capsule collection, made up of four pieces of clothing, and a bag – which sold out online within hours. The duke broke down at the WellChild awards, citing how his own journey into fatherhood meant learning about those with serious illnesses “pulls at my heartstrings”.
Reports of problems between Meghan and Kate, Duchess of Cambridge and then Harry and his brother William have refused to subside. The Sussexes split their household from Kensington Palace and set up their own at Buckingham Palace with a separate head of communications and their own SussexRoyal Instagram account. They then left the Cambridges’ Royal Foundation to start a separate Sussex Royal charity. Sources denied there was a feud and said the split was ‘largely about preparing both couples for their future roles, which are obviously on divergent tracks’.
But William, Kate, Harry and Meghan’s joint Royal Foundation venture was intended to harness all of their star power. The project lasted just 16 months after the foursome appeared for its first and only forum in February 2018. Private Jets Harry and Meghan faced accusations of hypocrisy over their use of private jets after taking four flights in 11 days, despite championing environmental causes. Sir Elton John stepped in to defend the pair, saying he had paid for the flight to ‘maintain a high level of much-needed protection’ and insisted his donation to Carbon Footprint offset its pollution. Harry said he spends ‘99%’ of his life using commercial flights but occasionally needs alternative means to keep his family safe.
Harry and a heavily pregnant Meghan went on an official overseas tour to Morocco in February. The Duchess was given a henna tattoo as a good luck gesture from her hosts and the couple had an audience with King Mohammed VI.
When Archie was four months old, the couple travelled to South Africa for their first tour together as a family. Harry headed solo to Botswana, Malawi and Angola for humanitarian missions. He brought back memories of a visit made by his mother Diana, Princess of Wales, as he walked through a minefield in Dirico, Angola to see the work of a landmine clearance charity.
In the Nyanga township in Cape Town, South Africa, the duchess gave a rousing speech to young women who have benefited from an initiative teaching them self-defence and female empowerment. Speaking about her mixed race heritage, she said: ‘I want you to know from me I am here with you as a mother, as a wife, as a woman, as a woman of colour and as your sister.’
The duke was in all-action mode as he travelled on a South African Maratime Police vehicle at Kalk Bay Harbour. But baby Archie stole the show as he received a tender kiss n the forehead from Archbishop Desmond Tutu as Meghan held him. In a private visit, Meghan tied a ribbon at the memorial to murdered University of Cape Town student Uyinene Mrwetyana, showing solidarity to those taking a stand against gender-based violence.
The couple’s high profile South Africa tour was overshadowed on its penultimate day when Harry launched a scathing attack on the British tabloid press. Accusing them of a ‘ruthless campaign’ against Meghan, he said: ‘I lost my mother and now I watch my wife falling victim to the same powerful forces.’
It came after Meghan had begun a lawsuit against the Mail On sunday over an alleged breach of copyright and privacy after it published a private letter between her and her estranged father. The newspaper said it would be defending its case vigorously. Harry later filed his own proceedings at the High Court against News Group Newspapers, which owns The Sun and the now-defunct News of The World along with Daily Mirror owner Reach plc over alleged illegal interception of voicemails.
Harry and Meghan opened up about their struggles in an ITV programme filmed during their Africa tour. US-born Meghan said she had tried to cope with the pressures of her new royal life by putting on a ‘stiff upper lip’ but admitted she was not prepared for the intensity of tabloid interest. Explaining how vulnerable she felt, she added: ‘It’s not enough just to survive something, that’s not the point of life. You have got to thrive.’
Questioned about an alleged rift with the Duke of Cambridge, Harry said he loved his brother dearly but admitted they were on ‘different paths’ and that their relationship had ‘good days’ and ‘bad days’. He described his mental health and the way he deals with life pressures as a matter of ‘constant management’. It was announced the Sussexes and Archie would be spending Christmas with Meghan’s mother Doria Ragland, rather than with the Queen at Sandringham, Harry and Meghan went on a six-week break from royal duties in Vancouver, Canada and only made their first public appearance in the UK yesterday.
Despite their difficulties, Harry and Meghan had no shortage of celebrity fans. They met power couple Beyonce and Jay-Z at the European premiere of Disney’s The Lion King, with the former telling them: ‘We love you guys.’ Pharrell Williams, who was also in the line-up heaped praise on the Sussexes and called their relationship ‘significant’ and ‘beautiful’. Former US presidential candidate Hillary Clinton said she wanted to ‘put her arms’ around Meghan over the alleged racist sexist treatment she faced, adding: ‘Oh my God I want to hug her.’
Also backing the couple, Ellen DeGeneres said: ‘I mean I can’t tell you how sweet they are. ‘But the most important thing is I got to hold Archie. I fed Archie. I held Archie. ‘And I just hate it, I see them get attacked and it’s not fair.’