On 31 March 2020, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex stepped back from their positions as senior members of the royal family for good.
Ever since Prince Harry and Meghan Markle announced their decision to step back from royal duty in January last year, people have been speculating about what the move would mean for their careers.
The couple officially stepped back a year ago, and have since given up a host of privileges, including the use of their royal and military titles, and even relocated from London to Santa Barbara, California.
Since this time last year, we’ve learnt a lot more about the Sussexes, with the couple going into detail about the challenges they faced in their lives as royals in their interview with Oprah Winfrey. Meghan has also opened up about her miscarriage and the pair released their first-ever podcast, in which their son Archie can be heard speaking for the first time.
In the last year, the couple have been using their newfound freedom and connections to advocate for change and voice their opinions about issues such as poverty, racism and mental health.
Duke and duchess deliver meals to people during lockdown
In April, the duke and the duchess both personally volunteered to deliver meals to people in Los Angeles during Covid-19 when they spent two days volunteering for Project Angel Food. And in June, they visited Homeboy Industries, another LA-based non-profit organisation that works to improve the lives of people who have been incarcerated and released from prison by employing them at cafes.
“In honour of the Easter holiday, the duke and duchess spent Sunday morning volunteering with Project Angel Food,” executive director Richard Ayoub said in a statement shared to Instagram. “And on Wednesday they quietly continued delivering meals to relieve our overworked drivers."
Meghan speaks to former high school about Black Lives Matter movement
One of the couple’s greatest focuses seems to be on the racial-justice movement. Since the death of George Floyd at the hands of the police in the US, the couple has been speaking with community leaders and grassroots advocates to listen, learn, and figure out how they can support their work.
In June, Meghan publicly spoke out about racial injustice in a video address to the graduating class of her former high school, Immaculate Heart High School in Los Feliz, California. During the call, the duchess reflected on Floyd’s death and the many other lives lost to systemic racism in the US.
“I wanted to say the right thing and I was really nervous that I wouldn’t or that it would get picked apart and I realised that the only wrong thing to say is to say nothing,” she said.
Couple warn Commonwealth's past wrongs must be acknowledged
The Sussexes also spoke to young Commonwealth leaders, during which Harry said past wrongs needed to be acknowledged across the Commonwealth in order to move forward.
“When you look across the Commonwealth, there is no way that we can move forward unless we acknowledge the past,” he said. "So many people have done such an incredible job of acknowledging the past and trying to right those wrongs, but I think we all acknowledge there is so much more still to do."
The duchess added that being complacent about racism makes “people complicit”, saying: "It’s not even in the big moments, it’s in the quiet moments where racism and unconscious bias lies and it’s those nuances that makes it confusing for a lot of people to understand the role they play in that, either passively or actively.
“In people’s complacency they’re complicit and that I think is the shift that we’re seeing."
Meghan also made a call to Althea Bernstein, a Wisconsin woman who was the victim of an alleged racist attack.
According to local media, Bernstein, an 18-year-old paramedic, was driving when men shouting racial slurs, sprayed her face with lighter fluid and threw a lighter at her. She suffered second and third-degree burns on her face and neck.
Calling for Facebook advertising boycott
The couple has also indicated that the problem of hate speech on the internet will be another area they will focus on in the future. Harry and Meghan have been working behind the scenes to urge top executives across the world to stand in solidarity with groups which are calling for a Facebook boycott.
The duke and duchess have spoken with a number of organisations leading the Stop Hate for Profit campaign, which is calling on businesses to pause advertising on the platform over the social network's failure to do more to remove hate speech.
Couple win legal action against Associated Newspapers
The couple won a legal case against the publisher of the Mail on Sunday and Mail Online, with regards to the publication of extracts of a letter Meghan sent to her father, Thomas Markle, in 2018.
The court proceedings led to the unveiling of further information about what led to their departure: in early July, documents revealed that the Duchess of Sussex felt “unprotected by the institution” of the monarchy during her pregnancy.
A judge ordered Mail on Sunday to publish a front-page statement on Meghan’s legal victory, and also ruled that a statement should run on the MailOnline website for seven days.
Launch of new charity Archewell is underway
Since stepping down as senior members of the royal family Harry and Meghan have also been working on the launch of their new charitable organisation Archewell, named after their son Archie.
Reports claimed that the couple’s trademark application for the non-profit was rejected because the couple did not sign the paperwork and failed to pay the required fee.
However, a source close to the Sussexes has denied these claims, telling The Independent that the trademarking process remains ongoing and that “this is part of the normal back-and-forth of the trademarking process”.
The couple set up home in Santa Barbara, California
The Duke and Duchess of Sussex set up a permanent home for themselves and their son Archie, in Santa Barbara, California, which is situated over 100 miles north-west of Los Angeles.
The couple relocated to the property in July, a spokesperson confirmed to The Independent the following month.
“The Duke and Duchess of Sussex moved into their family home in July of this year,” the spokesperson said. “They have settled into the quiet privacy of their community since their arrival and hope that this will be respected for their neighbours, as well as for them as a family.”
Meghan reveals she suffered a miscarriage
In November, Meghan revealed she suffered a miscarriage several months earlier. The 39-year-old published a powerful essay in The New York Times recalling a morning in July when she felt a “sharp cramp” while changing the nappy of her son, Archie Harrison Mountbatten Windsor.
“I dropped to the floor with him in my arms, humming a lullaby to keep us both calm, the cheerful tune a stark contrast to my sense that something was not right,” the Duchess wrote. “I knew, as I clutched my firstborn child, that I was losing my second.”
The family share a new family photo on their Christmas card
Meghan and Harry shared a new family photo on their bespoke Christmas cards. Featuring the couple, their 19-month-old son Archie, and their two dogs, the card had the appearance of a painting but was based on a photograph taken by Meghan’s mother, Doria Ragland.
It pictured the family gathered around a playhouse with a festive twist – a miniature Christmas tree was set in front of it, decorated with ornaments picked out by Archie.
“The original photo of the family was taken at their home earlier this month by the duchess’s mother,” said a spokesperson for the Sussexes. “The small Christmas tree, including the homemade ornaments and other decorations, were selected by Archie, and the tree will be replanted after the holidays.”
Meghan and Harry launch their podcast
The Duke and Duchess of Sussex released the first episode of their new Spotify podcast on 29 December.
The 33-minute episode featured guests including Sir Elton John, Stacey Abrams, James Corden, author Matt Haig and George the Poet.
The podcast - released from the couple’s newly formed Archewell Audio production company - focused on positive life lessons and acts of kindness amid the pandemic. The couple’s toddler son Archie also made a guest appearance, marking the first time royal fans have heard him speak.
The couple give a tell-all interview to Oprah Winfrey
In March 2021, the couple gave an explosive interview to TV host Winfrey, in which they were open about their rift with the royal family.
Meghan revealed that she had experienced suicidal thoughts and claimed she had been denied help from the palace. The duchess also said there had been “concerns and conversations” about how dark their son Archie’s skin would be.
Harry explained how the couple were living off Princess Diana’s inheritance, and revealed that his relationship with his brother Prince William and his father Prince Charles had been strained since the couple stepped back from royal duties.
In response, the palace said that the issues raised in the interview would be addressed “privately” but claimed recollections of the events described “may vary”.
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