Since they first stepped out as a couple in 2017, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex have been a subject of public fascination and tabloid mainstay. But one could argue that
2020 was Meghan Markle and Prince Harry's most significant year yet. On Jan. 8, the pair posted an announcement on their official Instagram page that would shock the world.
“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."
They went on to say that they would split their time between the UK and North America, balancing their need for space with their commitment to serve the queen.
Thus began a new chapter in the life of two of our favorite royals, leaving many excited about what a liberated Duke and Duchess of Sussex would look like. Where would they live? What would they do? Did the writers of future seasons of
The Crown will this high-drama moment into being?
We've gathered a month-by-month review of the couple's 2020 which, like everyone else's 2020, was full of surprises and didn't always wind up according to plan...
Chris Jackson/Chris Jackson Collection/Getty Images
Needless to say, the year started with big news for the Duke and Duchess of Sussex. While the proclamation was not out-of-the-blue — indeed, the pair had been very open about their
uneasy relationship with the press, which had been particularly ruthless in their treatment of Markle — it was widely reported that Queen Elizabeth, Prince Charles, and Prince William were all caught off guard and not terribly happy with the move.
Within days of the announcement, the queen called a family meeting at her palace in Norfolk, dubbed the "Sandringham Summit" to discuss, exactly, what "stepping back" meant and what it would like. On Jan. 18,
her Majesty issued a statement supporting the pair's decision to "start building a happy and peaceful new life." SIMON DAWSON/AFP/Getty Images
While the separation was official, not every detail had been ironed out or made public. But in February, the public did learn that the Duke and Duchess of Sussex's
last day as "working royals" would be March 31. The couple's spokesperson made clear that the two would remain dedicated to their charitable work, including supporting the welfare of servicemen and women, HIV, women's empowerment, conservation, and gender equality and education. Samir Hussein/WireImage/Getty Images
With an end in site, every official event had extra weight and meaning. They found themselves in an
unofficial "Farewell Tour," including the Commonwealth Day service at Westminster Abbey (and an awkward reunion with the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge).
But March offered another surprise from the couple — though it was widely assumed that the two would settle in Canada, where they'd been staying before their January return to the U.K., on March 15 the two
boarded Tyler Perry's private jet in Canada and flew to L.A.
The pair came to America just in time to
really enjoy the global epicenter of the coronavirus pandemic. Still, they were able to move forward and announced the creation of their new charitable foundation: Archewell, named both for their son and for the Greek word "arche" meaning "source of action." In an interview with , the two discussed the organization as an educational, multimedia endeavor that would include emotional support groups and a wellbeing website. The Daily Telegraph
With graduation ceremonies going virtual on account of COVID-19,
Markle delivered a powerful graduation speech to her alma mater, Immaculate Heart High School in Los Angeles. The event followed weeks of protests across the country called for justice for the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and other Black people who died at the hands of police.
“I wanted to say the right thing and I was really nervous that it would get picked apart," she admitted to graduates. "And I realized the only wrong thing to say is nothing. Because George Floyd’s life mattered and Breonna Taylor’s life mattered, and Philando Castille’s life mattered and Tamir Rice’s life mattered, and so did so many other people whose names we know and whose names we do not know.”
In spite of directly addressing the tragedies, she offered hope to the young women of Immaculate Heart. "You are going to lead with love, you are going to lead with compassion, you are going to use your voice."
Chris Jackson/Chris Jackson Collection/Getty Images Chris Jackson/Getty Images/ Jakub Porzycki/NurPhoto via Getty Images
In an important step toward their financial independence from the British monarchy, Markle and Prince Harry
announced a deal with Netflix to create content that "informs but gives hope." Though the exact numbers were not disclosed at the time, later reports, including from Newsweek, suggest approximately $150 million.
observed Remembrance Sunday, a commemorative day in the UK to honor the contributions of servicemen and women throughout Britain and the Commonwealth during the World Wars and later military conflicts. Though they did not travel to England for the event, they laid wreaths at the graves of two commonwealth soldiers in Los Angeles. Max Mumby/Indigo/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images
In November, Markle published an opinion piece — "The Losses We Share" — in
in which she revealed her July miscarriage. The intimate confession, including Markle and Prince Harry crying together, trying to imagine "how we’d heal,” was seen as a brave response to what is still considered a social taboo as well as a departure from royal norms, which zealously guard such personal moments. The New York Times
The Sussexes remained in California for the holidays, their second Christmas away from England (they were in Canada last year). They also revealed
a deal with Spotify to produce and host podcasts under their production company, Archewell Audio.
On Dec. 29, they launched their first podcast — a holiday special featuring Tyler Perry, Naomi Osaka, James Corden, Stacey Abrams, Elton John, and a very special New Year's greeting from the (newly verbal) Baby Archie.
Moving forward, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex plan to
return to England to visit Prince Harry's family. Royal biographer Andrew Morton suggests in that there are some important occasions across the pond that they want to attend — the Queen's 95th birthday in April, the Duke of Edinburgh's 100th birthday in June, and the unveiling of a statue of Princess Diana on June 1. They will also be renegotiating the terms of their "stepping back," ideally with less tension than the notorious Sandringham Summit. The Sun
But despite the drama and the whirlwind, it seems that the two have appreciated the freedom to live their own lives in 2020. We can't wait to see what 2021 has in store.