The rise and fall of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle

Kristine Tarbert
Senior Lifestyle & Entertainment Producer
Harry and Meghan's relationship. Photos: Getty/Twitter

As the world continues to digest Prince Harry and Meghan Markle's shock announcement that they would be stepping down from their royal duties, we decided to take a look back at the couple’s eventful relationship timeline.

It’s clear things started out perfectly well, with a fairytale engagement and royal wedding of the century. But where did things start to go downhill? What were the signs the Sussexes were headed for what some are likening to royal exile?

2016 - The start of a fairytale

News breaks on October 30, 2016, that Prince Harry is dating an American actress - the star of Suits, Meghan Markle.

Almost within a month, protective Harry lashes out at the media over its “abuse and harassment” of his girlfriend. We should have taken that as the first sign, but given the tragic nature of his mother Princess Diana’s death, most people were supportive of this sentiment.

2017 - Things get seriously royal

After a few ‘secret’ dates, Meghan announces in April 2017 she is ending her lifestyle blog thetig.com, which is taken as a sign she is preparing for life as a royal. Rumours also start to swirl that Harry wants to propose.

In May Meghan joins Harry at Pippa Middleton's wedding reception, but stays away from the church service.

In September Meghan is on the cover of US magazine Vanity Fair and speaks openly about Harry for the first time. “We're two people who are really happy and in love,” she tells the publication.

Meghan opens up about Harry romance in magazine interview. Photo: Vanity Fair

Later that same month, Meghan makes her first appearance at an official engagement when she attends the Invictus Games opening ceremony in Toronto, Canada.

Harry is also present although the pair were seated apart. But the next day they appear hand in hand to make their first official public appearance together as a couple at Invictus's wheelchair tennis.

Meghan Markle and Prince Harry attend the Wheelchair Tennis. Photo: Getty

Harry was then seen kissing Meghan inside a darkened VIP box at the Invictus closing ceremony. The pair were joined by Meghan's mother Doria Ragland.

A quick kiss. Photo: Getty
Meghan Markle and Prince Harry at the games with her mother. Photo: Getty

In October Harry reportedly took Meghan to officially meet his grandmother the Queen, whose permission they need to marry.

By November, Clarence House announced the engagement and the couple pose for pictures at Kensington Palace, and do an interview with the BBC, revealing how Harry proposed over a roast chicken.

It didn’t take long for the wedding venue to be confirmed - St George's Chapel, Windsor Castle.

A royal engagement. Photo: Getty

In December Harry and Meghan carry out their first joint engagement in Nottingham, before they announce the wedding date as May 19, 2018.

They also release romantic engagement photos by photographer Alexi Lubomirski.

Romantic engagement photos released. Photo: Alexi Lubomirski

Fitting into the royal role with ease, Meghan then joins Harry at the Queen's traditional pre-Christmas lunch at Buckingham Palace.

She also celebrated Christmas with the royals, joining them at church in Sandringham and for the famous walk on Christmas Day.

It all seemed picture perfect, but when Harry guest-edited BBC Radio 4's Today Programme, and spoke about Meghan spending Christmas with “the family she's never had”, Meghan’s family caused a media storm.

Both her father, Thomas Markle Snr, and her half-sister, Samantha Markle, openly slammed the Duke for insinuating she hadn’t had a ‘proper’ family growing up.

2018 - The royal wedding of the century

Despite the Markle’s making a lot of noise in the media, Harry and Meghan continued on as the dutiful royal couple impressing crowds and royal watchers at various engagements.

In Cardiff in January 2018 they were given love spoons, and in February Meghan attended her first official evening engagement with Harry at the Endeavour Fund awards.

Later that month the couple took part in their first joint engagement with the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge at a Royal Foundation forum and the ‘Fab-Four’ is born.

The 'fab-four' at their high point. Photo: Getty

In March Meghan is baptised Anglican during a secret ceremony led by the Archbishop of Canterbury at the Chapel Royal. But as the wedding date draws closer Meghan's father Thomas Markle looks set to miss the occasion amid reports he staged photos for the paparazzi and suffered a heart attack.

On May 17 Meghan confirms her father will not be attending her wedding, saying he needs to focus on his health.

But despite this, over one billion people tuned in to watch Harry and Meghan marry at St George's Chapel and become the Duke and Duchess of Sussex.

This huge moment was without a doubt the couple’s high point in the eyes of the public.

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle kiss outside St George's Chapel in Windsor Castle after their wedding. Photo: Getty Images
What a wedding. Photo: Getty

Throughout May and June the newlyweds carry out their first official engagements as a married couple.

They attended a Buckingham Palace garden party in honour of the Prince of Wales's patronages in his 70th birthday year, and the Duchess of Sussex also took her place on the Buckingham Palace balcony for the first time during the Trooping the Colour celebrations.

Meghan also undertook her first joint engagement with the Queen to Cheshire, and by all accounts the pair got on extremely well.

Meghan's first trip with the Queen. Photo: Getty

Meghan’s father soon fuelled speculation they would be trying to start a family. But first they would join the Cambridges in celebrating the birth of Prince Louis in April, and attend his christening at the Chapel Royal in June.

In August, Meghan celebrated her 37th birthday, and the coming months started to show the first real signs the couple were set on doing things a little differently.

The pair enjoyed a holiday with George and Amal Clooney in Lake Como in Italy, before returning to St George's Chapel in October for Princess Eugenie's wedding to Jack Brooksbank.

Then they head Down Under for their royal tour of Australia, New Zealand and the South Pacific.

And on the day they arrived in Sydney the palace announced the Duke and Duchess are “very pleased” Meghan is expecting their first child.

The couple arrive in Australia with some exciting news. Photo: Getty

2019 - Royal turmoil increases

In February, Meghan is called out by royal fans for making a surprise trip to New York where she enjoys a two-day baby shower with close friends including Serena Williams and Amal Clooney.

Before long, rumours of a rift between Harry and William and Meghan and Kate emerge after the Sussexes split from Kensington Palace to form their own royal household.

By April, Harry and Meghan lost much of the public’s support after revealing the staggering cost of their move to Frogmore Cottage following taxpayer-funded renovations.

And then came their decision to effectively shut the public out of the birth of their first child.

Archie Harrison Mountbatten-Windsor is born at the Portland Hospital in London (not the Lindo Wing at St Mary's Hospital) on May 6 after Meghan goes into labour in the early hours of the morning.

It seemed at the time even the palace was caught off guard by the news of the birth, releasing a very late statement about her going into labour.

On May 8, the world got its first glimpse of baby Archie as the duke and duchess presented him to the world at a press briefing at St George's Hall at Windsor Castle.

They also chose not to use the courtesy title Earl Dumbarton, opting for him to just be called ‘Master’ instead. Archie is also christened at an intimate ceremony attended by close family, which is not out of the ordinary, but Harry and Meghan went one step further by only releasing photos after the fact and deciding not to announce Archie's godparents.

The world meets baby Archie. Photo: Getty

Harry and Meghan confirmed in June they were splitting from the Royal Foundation charity with William and Kate to start their own initiative, Sussex Royal. And continued to partake in more ‘out-of-the-ordinary’ engagements.

In July Meghan is announced as guest editor in the September issue of British Vogue, where she chose to put the faces of 15 ‘changemakers’ on the cover.

Public criticism of the couple ramped up in August after Harry said he will only have two children for the sake of the planet. But then they were called out for using private jets to go on holiday with Archie to the south of France.

In September, Harry defended using the private transport method to “keep his family safe”. Archie also heads on a two-week Royal Tour of South Africa with his parents.

Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex, Meghan, Duchess of Sussex and their baby son Archie Mountbatten-Windsor meet Archbishop Desmond Tutu in Cape Town, South Africa. Photo: Getty

Things got serious in October when Prince Harry issued a statement criticising the press for its coverage of his wife.

The Sussexes released a statement revealing they will take legal action against the Mail on Sunday and parent company Associated Newspapers for the “intrusive and unlawful” publication of one of her private letters.

The public were then given a glimpse at how difficult both Meghan and Harry were finding royal life, opening up in an ITV documentary.

“It's not enough to just survive something... You've got to thrive,” Meghan said, with Harry revealing he and William are on “different paths”.

Things soon spiralled when the Duke and Duchess of Sussex confirmed in November they will not spend Christmas at Sandringham with the Royal Family. Instead, they announced later, they would take a six-week break and spend the holidays in Canada.

2020 - Goodbye royals

While all seemed well when Harry and Meghan returned from their break on January 7, 2020, to visit Canada House in London, the following day they released their bombshell statement they would be ‘stepping back’ as senior royals.

The said they would be “working to become financially independent” and plan to split their time between the UK and the US.

Royal fans were understandably upset by the announcement and lashed out on social media, with Meghan herself copping a lot of heat.

“Well well she’s started it earlier than I thought she would! Won’t be long before he’s over there full time and away from his support network, she’s driven a wedge between him and his family,” one person commented on their account. 

“She has pushed away her own family now she has pushed away Harry's family,” another person said. 

How long exactly the ‘transition period’ will last, and what life will look like for Harry and Meghan remains uncertain, but no doubt the world will still be watching closely.

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