It’s been an eventful 12 months for the Duke and Duchess of Sussex. After they stood down as senior members of the royal family in 2020, Prince Harry and Meghan Markle proceeded to book up their 2021 diary rather quickly with a slew of deals, ranging from Netflix to Spotify.
In March, the world awaited as Harry and then-pregnant Meghan sat down with Oprah Winfrey for a tell-all interview — one which even led to Good Morning Britain host Piers Morgan resigning from his role. May saw Prince Harry’s mental health documentary The Me You Can’t See land on Apple TV+ in which he spoke candidly about the trauma of his mother’s death, and even invited viewers into a therapy session.
There were other sprinklings of uncommon royal behaviour along the way, such as an appearance on the Ellen DeGeneres Show from Meghan, and choosing not to share photographs of their newborn daughter, Lilibet, with the world until more than six months after she was born in June.
Despite stepping away from royal duties, Harry returned to the UK twice this year. First, to attend his grandfather, the late Prince Philip’s funeral and again to commemorate what would have been his mothers 60th birthday. The couple have also persevered in their philanthropy work, and even picked up an environmental award for deciding to limit their family to just two children.
Here’s a look back at everything Harry and Meghan got up to in 2021.
Meghan’s court wins
In February, Meghan won a High Court privacy claim against the Mail on Sunday over the publication of a “personal and private” letter she had written to her estranged father, Thomas Markle. The Duchess had sued Associated Newspapers Limited (ANL) in 2019 over a series of articles which reproduced parts of the letter, written in August 2018.
In the February judgment, the court ruled that the letter was “inherently private” and that its publication was “manifestly excessive and hence unlawful”. The ANL later brought an appeal against the decision, arguing that the case should go to trial, but this was dismissed.
Earlier this month, High Court judges upheld the previous decision and said that the letter was “personal, private and not matters of legitimate public interest”. Following the victory, Meghan issued a statement using the words “daily fail”.
“The courts have held the defendant to account, and my hope is that we all begin to do the same,” she said. “Because as far removed as it may seem from your personal life, it’s not. These harmful practices don’t happen once in a blue moon – they are a daily fail that divide us, and we all deserve better.”
That Oprah interview
In March, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex gave a two-hour interview to Oprah Winfrey, during which they spoke about life as senior members of the royal family, mental health and dealing with media scrutiny.
Meghan, who was pregnant with the couple’s second child at the time, told the host that she had felt “suicidal” while living and working as a member of the royal family, and that when she tried to seek professional help, she was warned that it “wouldn’t be good for the institution”.
She also claimed that a member of the royal household had voiced concerns about the colour of her son, Archie’s, skin before he was born. “We have in tandem the conversation of ‘he won’t be given security, he’s not going to be given a title’ and also concerns and conversations about how dark his skin might be when he’s born,” she said.
Harry also revealed that his father, Prince Charles, was not answering his calls, and that he does not have a relationship with his brother, Prince William. “The relationship is space, at the moment. Time heals all things, hopefully,” he said.
Earlier this month, Google revealed that the Oprah special, which was watched by an estimated 49.1 million viewers across 17 countries, was the most-searched interview in Google Trends history.
Harry lands first post-royal job
In a statement announcing his appointment, Harry said he was “really excited” about taking on the new job. His role includes driving advocacy and awareness of the importance of good mental health and expanding the company’s global community.
“As BetterUp’s first Chief Impact Officer, my goal is to lift up critical dialogues around mental health, build supportive and compassionate communities, and foster an environment for honest and vulnerable conversations,” he said.
“And my hope is to help people develop their inner strength, resilience, and confidence.”
Prince Philip’s funeral
Harry returned to the UK in April for the first time since he stepped down as a senior member of the royal family to attend his grandfather’s funeral. In a tribute to the Duke of Edinburgh, Harry described him as a “legend of banter” and a “master of the barbecue”.
“My grandfather was a man of service, honour and great humour. He was authentically himself, with a seriously sharp wit, and could hold the attention of any room due to his charm – and also because you never knew what he might say next,” he said. “To me, like many of you who have lost a loved one or grandparent over the pain of this past year, he was my grandpa: master of the barbecue, legend of banter, and cheeky right till the end.
“He has been a rock for Her Majesty the Queen with unparalleled devotion, by her side for 73 years of marriage, and while I could go on, I know that right now he would say to all of us, beer in hand, ‘Oh do get on with it!’”
Harry and Meghan moved to Santa Barbara
In their interview with Winfrey, Meghan and Harry said they had chosen to settle down in Santa Barbara, California. The Duke of Sussex said the “highlight” of their move was being able to spend more time with Archie outdoors.
“This year has been crazy for everybody,” he said. “But to have outdoor space where I can go for walks with Archie and we can go for walks as a family and with the dogs or have a hike or go down to the beach, which is so close, all of these things,” he said.
“The highlight for me is sticking him on the back of the bicycle in his little baby seat and taking him on these bike rides, which is something I was never able to do when I was young.”
The Me You Can’t See
In May, Harry released The Me You Can’t See, a documentary series which featured a range of interviews with high-profile celebrities with the aim of tackling stigmas associated with mental health issues. During the series, Harry spoke candidly about his struggles with mental health and the impact of his mother’s death.
In one episode, viewers see him take part in a form of therapy called Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EDMR). EDMR involves a series of rapid eye movements which help patients revisit and come to terms with past trauma they may have repressed.
“EMDR is always something that I wanted to try and that was one of the varieties of different forms of healing or curing that I was willing to experiment with, and I never would have been open to that had I not put in the work and the therapy that I’ve done over the years,” Harry said in one episode.
He also revealed that visiting the UK can be traumatising for him. “Of course, for me, London is a trigger, unfortunately. Because of what happened to my mum, and because of what I experienced and what I saw,” he said.
The pair welcomed their daughter, Lilibet, in June
In June, the couple’s family grew to four as they welcomed the birth of their second child, a daughter named Lilibet “Lili” Diana Mountbatten-Windsor. Lili was born on 4 June at the Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital in California.
In a statement announcing her birth, the Sussexes said they had chosen names which pay tribute to both Queen Elizabeth II and Harry’s late mother, Princess Diana. “Lili is named after her great-grandmother, Her Majesty The Queen, whose family nickname is Lilibet. Her middle name, Diana, was chosen to honour her beloved late grandmother, The Princess of Wales,” a statement shared to the Archewell website read.
In an appearance on the Ellen DeGeneres Show in November, Meghan revealed that six-month-old Lili has now started teething.
Meghan releases ‘The Bench’
In June, Meghan released her debut children’s novel, titled The Bench. The Bench, which was illustrated by Christian Robinson, tells the story of a father-son bond through the eyes of a mother.
Ahead of the release, Meghan revealed that the book had started as a poem she wrote to Prince Harry on his first Father’s Day following Archie’s birth.
“That poem became this story. Christian layered in beautiful and ethereal watercolour illustrations that capture the warmth, joy, and comfort of the relationship between fathers and sons from all walks of life; this representation was particularly important to me, and Christian and I worked closely to depict this special bond through an inclusive lens,” the Duchess said.
On 9 June, the book was the third best-selling on Amazon USA. One week later, it topped the children’s picture books category of the New York Times best seller list.
Princess Diana’s 60th birthday
Prince Harry returned to the UK in July to commemorate what would have been Princess Diana’s 60th birthday. On 1 July, he joined Prince William at Kensington Palace to unveil a new statue in honour of their late mother. In a joint statement, the brothers said they hope the monument will be “seen forever as a symbol of her life and her legacy”.
“Today, on what would have been our mother’s 60th birthday, we remember her love, strength and character – qualities that made her a force for good around the world, changing countless lives for the better,” they said.
The bronze tribute was first commissioned in 2017 and was created by sculptor Ian Rank-Broadley.
Videos from the unveiling showed the brothers chatting with one another, less than four months after Harry told Winfrey their relationship is “one of space”.
Environmental role models
In July, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex were recognised as “environmental role models” for their decision to have no more than two children to limit their impact on the planet. Population Matters, a UK-based charity that campaigns for a “sustainable human population”, said the couple’s “enlightened” decision would ensure a “better future”.
Harry previously told British Vogue he and Meghan would have “maximum” two children. Archie was born in May 2019, followed by Lilibet in June this year.
“In choosing and publicly declaring their intention to limit their family to two, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex are helping to ensure a better future for their children and providing a role model for other families,” a spokesperson for Population Matters said.
“Having a smaller family reduces our impact on the Earth, and provides a better chance for all our children, their children and future generations to flourish on a healthy planet.”
The spokesperson added: “We commend the Duke and Duchess for taking this enlightened decision, and for affirming that a smaller family is also a happy family.”
Meghan turned 40
On 4 August, the Duchess of Sussex celebrated her 40th birthday. To mark the milestone, she released a video introducing her new project, 40x40.
The initiative aimed to recruit 40 activists, athletes and artists to dedicate 40 minutes of their time to helping women reenter the workforce following the pandemic.
In outtakes of the video, which was filmed at Harry and Meghan’s home in Santa Barbara, the father of two could be seen juggling outside while his wife chatted to Melissa McCarthy.
Time’s top 100 most influential people
In September, Time magazine named Meghan and Harry as two of the world’s 100 most influential people. The couple appeared on one of the magazine’s covers together to mark the issue, with Meghan wearing a white, buttoned jumpsuit and Harry standing behind her in a black jumper.
Time writer José Andrés said the pair had been chosen for their compassion and philanthropy.
“In a world where everyone has an opinion about people they don’t know, the Duke and Duchess have compassion for the people they don’t know. They don’t just opine. They run toward the struggle,” he wrote.
“They give voice to the voiceless through media production. Hand in hand with nonprofit partners, they take risks to help communities in need—offering mental-health support to Black women and girls in the US, and feeding those affected by natural disasters in India and the Caribbean.”
In a statement posted to the Archewell website, the couple said they were “humbled” to be featured on the list.
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