Sparring statements, incendiary quotes from unnamed sources and emotive teasers for the couple’s imminent Oprah Winfrey TV interview have only added fuel to the fire, making the family’s latest crisis worthy of a plotline in a future season of “The Crown.”
Harry and Meghan’s decision to write their own story has been praised by some and denounced by others. And while the pair are unlikely to attack specific family members in Sunday’s broadcast, the duo are now free from the shackles of royal protocols to disclose what led to their momentous departure.
So, how did it all go so horribly wrong? CNN looks back at the warning signs of trouble brewing between the Duke and Duchess and the rest of the royals.
Their love story began in the summer of 2016 when Meghan Markle met up with Prince Harry for a drink on what was perhaps the most impressive blind date set-up in history. They revealed later that neither knew much about the other: She wasn’t particularly familiar with the royal family; while he hadn’t seen the TV show “Suits” which Meghan starred in at the time. But they hit it off, quickly organizing a date for the very next day.
Just a few weeks later, and unbeknown to the world at that point, Harry convinced Meghan to join him in Botswana where they camped under the stars. It was there the budding couple really got a chance “to get to know each other,” Harry later said in the couple’s engagement interview with the BBC. Meghan added: “We were able to really have so much time just to connect, and we never went longer than two weeks without seeing each other, even though we were obviously doing a long-distance relationship. We made it work.”
“His girlfriend, Meghan Markle, has been subject to a wave of abuse and harassment. Some of this has been very public — the smear on the front page of a national newspaper; the racial undertones of comment pieces; and the outright sexism and racism of social media trolls and web article comments,” the Kensington Palace statement read.
The abnormally candid statement also revealed the prince’s concern for Markle’s safety, adding: “This is not a game — it is her life and his.” It was the first indication that this relationship was different to previous romances and that Harry was drawing a line over how much of his private life he was willing to divulge.
November 2017 — Harry pops the question
“The family has been great, and over the past year and a half we’ve just had a really nice time getting to know them and progressively helping me feel a part of not just the institution but also part of the family,” Meghan said.
March 2019 — Meghan targeted online
March 2019 — A separate household
Some questioned if there had been a falling out between the senior royal couples but Kensington Palace insisted it was part of a “long-planned move.”
May 2019 — Royal baby makes three
On May 6, Buckingham Palace announced the Duchess of Sussex had given birth to a boy. The first child of Meghan and Prince Harry was “delivered safely at 5:26 am” weighing 7lbs. 3oz, the palace said.
The customary ceremonial easel with a framed notice of birth was placed in the forecourt of Buckingham Palace hours after the palace statement. “The Queen and the Royal Family are delighted at the news that Her Royal Highness The Duchess of Sussex was safely delivered of a son,” it read.
News of the Sussexes’ growing family had been revealed back in October as they embarked on their first overseas tour to Australia. Much of the pregnancy was kept away from prying eyes with the royal couple sticking to their repeated requests for privacy.
And in a break from royal tradition, Meghan chose not to follow in the footsteps of her sister-in-law, Catherine, and Harry’s mother, Diana, who both appeared before photographers with their newborns cradled in their arms hours after giving birth in central London.
June 2019 — Sussexes split from joint charity with Cambridges
Royal aides said the decision was merely a reflection of the divergent paths the two couples were on and rejected any suggestion of divisions by confirming the so-called “Fab Four” would continue to appear together for official engagements.
October 2019 — Meghan reveals pressures of royal life; Harry confirms conflict with William
“I never thought that this would be easy, but I thought that it would be fair,” she told reporter Tom Bradby — a close friend of Prince Harry and his brother Prince William. “I’ve really tried to adopt this British sensibility of a stiff upper lip,” she said. “I tried, but I think what that does internally is probably really damaging.”
Mid-November 2019 — Time to take a break
After completing a hectic run of public events, Harry and Meghan took some “family time” towards the end of the year.
January 2020 — Stepping back and summits
“After many months of reflection and internal discussions, we have chosen to make a transition this year” they said via their Instagram account, explaining that they hoped to “carve out a progressive new role within this institution.”
Discussions over the couple’s future were already in hand privately and the Queen was said to have been “disappointed” with her grandson over his public revelation, Palace sources told CNN at the time.
Under the terms brokered by the family, the couple had to step back from their royal duties, including military appointments and would no longer represent the Queen. The arrangement — which would go into effect in the spring — also saw them drop the titles His and Her Royal Highness and they would no longer receive funds for royal duties.
He added, “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.”
July 2020 — Hints of unhappiness in court documents
Meghan was “the subject of a large number of false and damaging articles by the UK tabloid media, specifically by the defendant [ANL] which caused tremendous emotional distress and damage to her mental health,” her lawyer wrote in legal filings seen by CNN.
“As her friends had never seen her in this state before, they were rightly concerned for her welfare, specifically as she was pregnant, unprotected by the Institution, and prohibited from defending herself,” the lawyer wrote.
The legal documents were the first time Meghan had publicly indicated her unhappiness at the support Palace staff were providing to her. More specifically it disclosed a hint of her frustration at the royal protocol not to respond to speculative media reports.
February 2021 — Door closed on royal return
As the end of the one-year transition period drew closer, friction reignited between the Sussexes now based in Los Angeles and the royals back home in the UK.
It was announced that Harry and Meghan had agreed with the Queen that they would not be returning as working members of the family. As a result, their honorary military appointments and royal patronages were revoked and would be redistributed.
A spokesman for the couple responded swiftly reiterating the Sussexes’ commitment to their duties and service around the world. He rather pointedly added, “We can all live a life of service. Service is universal.