A Full Timeline of Meghan Markle and Prince Harry’s Dramatic Exit From the Royal Family

A Full Timeline of Meghan Markle and Prince Harry’s Dramatic Exit From the Royal Family

It’s been over three years since Meghan Markle and Prince Harry stepped away from senior royal duties amid non-stop royal feud drama, and the vibes have remained messy, to say the least. The Sussexes still aren’t on speaking terms with Prince Harry’s relatives, and to really understand why you have to go allll the way back to January 2020. Which, conveniently, is when we started tracking every royal plot twist in a handy timeline that you can whip out next time someone asks for your ~hot take~ on the biggest royal scandal since Tampon Gate. Ready? Me neither, but here goes!

January 8, 2020

Meghan and Harry casually hit Instagram and drop the bombshell news that they intend to step back as senior royals, become financially independent, and split their time between North America and the United Kingdom. Here’s exactly what they put in their Insta caption:

“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.”

The couple also reveals a shiny new website outlining how they plan to distance themselves from the Royal Rota system of reporting.

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In a shocking twist, there are claims that the rest of the royal family received zero heads-up about the Sussexes’ plan, with BBC News royal correspondent Jonny Dymond tweeting, “BBC understands that no other member of the Royal Family was consulted before Harry and Meghan issued their personal statement tonight. The Palace is understood to be ‘disappointed.’”

(Note: Prince Harry later refuted these claims, telling Oprah, “I would never blindside my grandmother. I have too much respect for her.”)

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Either way, Buckingham Palace goes ahead and drops the most terse and salty statement E-V-E-R, saying, “Discussion with The Duke and Duchess of Sussex are at an early stage. We understand the desire to take a different approach, but these are complicated issues that will take time to work through.”

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January 9, 2020

Reports stream in re: how the royals are feeling, and nope…no one is okay! Let’s start with Prince William because this source quote from Us Weekly is pretty telling:

“William was blindsided by Harry and Meghan’s decision and statement….There’s still a rift between the two brothers. It’s sad because when they were younger, William would be the first person Harry would go to with big news like this….William is incredibly hurt, but at the same time, he has his own family to focus on and is trying to move forward with his life.”

Meanwhile, check out this series of quotes from royal aides who spoke to the Daily Mail, claiming the Queen and her fam were “deeply disappointed” with the news:

“People had bent over backward for them. They were given the wedding they wanted, the house they wanted, the office they wanted, the money they wanted, the staff they wanted, the tours they wanted and had the backing of their family. What more did they want?”

“It’s deeply unfair to the Queen, who doesn’t deserve to be treated this way. It is a shoddy way to treat her. The family understands that they want to do something different and is perfectly willing to help them. People are just devastated.”

“The level of deceit has been staggering and everyone from the top of the royal household to the bottom feels like they have been stabbed in the back.”

Completely wild, but even wilder? Right in the middle of this drama, Kate Middleton reminds everyone that it’s her freakin’ birthday and drops a casual portrait of herself perched on a fence giving zero effs:

Meghan and Harry comment on her post, writing, “Wishing a very happy birthday to The Duchess of Cambridge today! 🎂❤️” which we can all agree is a nice gesture. But William isn’t having it, with a source telling Us Weekly that “Harry and Meghan rubbed salt into the wounds by making the huge announcement a day before Kate’s birthday. It hasn’t gone down well with William.”

Anyway, a new report comes through claiming Harry tried to meet with the Queen about his plans and was shot down by her staff. According to the Evening Standard, he “originally contacted Prince Charles about spending more time in Canada and America just before Christmas” and then asked for a “summit with the Queen at Sandringham.” She said yes, but then the meeting was reportedly blocked by courtiers (!!!!).

January 10, 2020

Already exhausted? Sorry, there’s still much to discuss. News breaks that Meghan left England and returned to Canada to reunite with Archie. The trip is said to be temporary, with royal reporter Chris Ship tweeting that Meghan should be back in the U.K. within several days:

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Meanwhile, we finally get some insight into why Meghan and Harry want to step down as senior royals. Harry’s friend Tom Bradby says “really bad personal splits” are behind their decision, and then dramatically muses, “There’ve been a lot of fallouts; a lot of harsh things were said around the time of the wedding. And it’s gone a bit too far. And certainly the rest of the family find Harry and Meghan very difficult, and from Harry and Meghan’s point of view, they’re just being driven out, as they see it. And it’s sad.”

January 11, 2020

Harry’s friend JJ Chalmers hits up The One Show, saying, “The decision that he has made, at the forefront of that is to protect his family because that’s the number one rule is to be a father and to be a husband.”

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In addition to this insight, a source confirms to Us Weekly that Meghan and Harry were pressured into making their announcement because British tabloid The Sun scooped them. Per the source: “It was the paper’s front page hours before the official announcement, so Harry and Meghan technically didn’t beat them to it.”

Meanwhile, the Queen tells officials to “turn a crisis into an opportunity” and come up with a plan in case future generations decide to step down as senior royals.

January 12, 2020

The Sunday Times claims Prince William has expressed “sadness” about his severed bond with Harry, reportedly telling a friend:

“I’ve put my arm around my brother all our lives and I can’t do that anymore; we’re separate entities. All we can do, and all I can do, is try and support them and hope that the time comes when we’re all singing from the same page. I want everyone to play on the team.”

Meanwhile, The Sun reports Harry and Meghan “fast-tracked” plans to step down because Harry was concerned about Meghan’s happiness. (Meghan later confirmed that she was struggling with her mental health during this time.)

The Queen schedules a summit in Sandringham with Harry, William, Charles, and Meghan (who plans to call in from Canada). A source lays out what they’ll discuss, saying:

“Following a series of meetings and consultations across the last few days, there is a range of possibilities for the family to review which take into account the thinking the Sussexes outlined earlier in the week. As we have said previously, making a change to the working life and role of the monarchy for the Duke and Duchess of Sussex requires complex and thoughtful discussions. Next steps will be agreed at the meeting. The request for this to be resolved ‘at pace’ is still Her Majesty’s wish. The aim remains days, not weeks. There is genuine agreement and understanding that any decision will take time to be implemented.”

January 13, 2020

Harry and William issue a joint statement through their spokesperson, saying, “Despite clear denials, a false story ran in a U.K. newspaper today speculating about the relationship between The Duke of Sussex and The Duke of Cambridge. For brothers who care so deeply about the issues surrounding mental health, the use of inflammatory language in this way is offensive and potentially harmful.”

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Here’s the thing, though. Harry later revealed he had no idea a statement was being made: “I was told about a joint statement that had been put out in my name and in my brother’s name, squashing the story about him bullying us out of the family. I couldn’t believe it, no one had asked me. No one had asked my permission to put my name to a statement like that. I rang M and I told her, and she burst into floods of tears because within four hours they were happy to lie to protect my brother and yet for three years they were never willing to tell the truth to tell us.”

Truly yikes, but we’re not done yet! The Queen releases her first official statement following Meghan and Harry’s announcement—and notably she does NOT call them “duke and duchess.” Read it in full here:

“Today my family had very constructive discussions on the future of my grandson and his family. 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.”

January 14, 2020

Amid speculation that Meghan was “barred” from calling into the royal summit, the Palace releases a statement saying that “the Sussexes decided that it wasn’t necessary for The Duchess to join.”

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We also get a little more insight into Prince William and Prince Harry’s drama, with a source telling The Sun they had a “falling out” right before a summer polo match and tensions escalated as a result.

Just circling back to this summit real fast, Harry actually spoke about it in his Netflix docuseries, saying, “It was terrifying to have my brother scream and shout at me, and my father say things that simply weren’t true. And my grandmother, you know, quietly sit there and sort of take it all in.”

January 18, 2020

The Palace releases a statement from Queen Elizabeth, saying she’s come to an “agreement” with Harry and Meghan:

“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. Harry, Meghan, and Archie will always be much-loved members of the family. I recognize 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.”

Details about the agreement are also released, and the major takeaways are that Harry and Meghan are giving up their royal titles, will no longer receive public funds, will pay back the country for their Frogmore Cottage renovations, will pay rent on said cottage, and can no longer represent the Queen. Wow!

January 19, 2020

Prince Harry gives a lengthy speech about his “royal exit,” which you can read in full over here. In it, he says the following:

“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 U.K. 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, hooray! 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.”

On top of that, a royal source tells People that the arrangement, which goes into effect spring 2020, will last for a year before the royal fam revisits it—presumably to see if it’s working out for everyone.

January 21, 2020

In a rather interesting update, we find out the Queen had thoughts of removing Meghan and Harry’s Sussex titles (they would have been downgraded to earl and countess) but ultimately opted against it. Why? Because she isn’t interested in being “petty,” according to the Evening Standard.

February 22, 2020

Meghan and Harry are no longer allowed to use the word “royal” in any of their branding by order of the Queen, meaning their website and Instagram handle will have to go by a new name. In response to the news, Meghan and Harry post a statement on their website:

“While there is not any jurisdiction by The Monarchy or Cabinet Office over the use of the word ‘Royal’ overseas, The Duke and Duchess of Sussex do not intend to use ‘Sussex Royal’ or any iteration of the word ‘Royal’ in any territory (either within the U.K. or otherwise) when the transition occurs Spring 2020.”

The statement also adds:

“The trademark applications that had been filed as protective measures and that reflected the same standard trademarking requests as done for The Royal Foundation of The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge have been removed.”

While all of this is going on, Meghan and Harry also release a separate statement on their website about how they felt leaving behind their staff members at Frogmore Cottage. They write:

“Based on The Duke and Duchess of Sussex’s desire to have a reduced role as members of The Royal Family, it was decided in January that their Institutional Office would have to be closed, given the primary funding mechanism for this official office at Buckingham Palace is from HRH The Prince of Wales. The Duke and Duchess shared this news with their team personally in January once they knew of the decision and have worked closely with their staff to ensure a smooth transition for each of them.

“Over the last month and a half, The Duke and Duchess have remained actively involved in this process, which has understandably been saddening for The Duke and Duchess and their loyal staff, given the closeness of Their Royal Highnesses and their dedicated team.”

February 26, 2020

Harry asks to be called by his first name only during his last set of royal engagements. During the Travalyst working summit in Scotland, host Ayesha Hazarika introduces Harry before he steps onto the stage, saying, “He wants to say a few words to kick-start the day, and he’s made it clear that we are all just to call him ‘Harry.’ So, ladies and gentlemen, please give a big Scottish welcome to Harry.”

March 3, 2020

Harry and the Queen meet for an emotional 4-hour heart-to-heart so they can talk about all the drama surrounding “Megxit.” Thankfully, it goes really well! The Queen allegedly offers Harry and Meghan a chance to come back if they ever change their minds about the whole thing. According to The Sun’s Dan Wootton, the Queen concludes their conversation by saying, “You are much loved and will always be welcomed back,” and a source says that “hopefully, it cleared the air.”

March 9, 2020

Meghan and Harry attend Commonwealth Day—alongside William and Kate—for their last royal event before formally stepping back from their senior royal duties. Meghan shows up in a LEWK:

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Lewks aside, though, things are a bit awkward because for the first time, Meghan, Harry, Kate, and William are asked not to join in on the Queen’s official royal procession during the Commonwealth Day service. Apparently, this hurts Meghan and Harry’s feelings, as a Daily Mail source says they feel “quite sensitive and emotional about it.”

Also, the greeting between Harry, Meghan, Kate, and William os extremely tense and “lackluster.”

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March 15, 2020

Harry reportedly thinks that in addition to him and Meghan being treated unfairly by the royal family, Archie “has been abandoned.” Unsurprisingly, “Those close to the brothers say things between them are worse than ever.”

March 25, 2020

Although William and Harry’s relationship is on the rocks, Meghan reportedly thinks the pandemic has brought them closer together and there’s hope they will reconcile. Daily Mail reports:

“Meghan told her inner circle of friends that Harry has been communicating with Prince William and the Queen on a pretty consistent basis. She said this world crisis has actually brought them all closer together, especially Harry and his brother.”

March 26, 2020

Since Meghan’s last day as a royal is March 31, it’s only natural she starts thinking about what her next job is gonna be! And lucky for us, her first post-royal gig is being the narrator of a Disney+ movie about elephants.

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March 27, 2020

Meghan and Harry move to Los Angeles after a brief stint in Canada. We now know the couples time in Canada involved very little communication with the royal family. As Harry would later put it to Oprah, “When we were in Canada, I had three conversations with my grandmother and two conversations with my father before he stopped taking my calls…I was desperate.…I went to all the places which I thought I should go to to ask for help. We both did. Separately and together.”

March 30, 2020

A day before Meghan and Harry officially step back as members of the royal family, they take to their @SussexRoyal Instagram account to announce they won’t be using it anymore and to thank everyone for their support the past couple of years. The couple writes, “While you may not see us here, the work continues….Until then, please take good care of yourselves and of one another.”

And that brings us to the end of their exit! The couple is now living in Montecito with their two sweet children, Prince Archie and Princess Lilibet, and it looks like Meghan might be in the process of re-joining Instagram. Stay tuned!

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Mehera Bonner is a celebrity and entertainment news writer who enjoys Bravo and Antiques Roadshow with equal enthusiasm, She was previously entertainment editor at Marie Claire and has covered pop culture for over a decade. 

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