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From golden couple to Megxit, how it all fell apart between Harry, Meghan and the media

The couple have complained about alleged media fabrications about their lives.

The couple are to 'step back' from royal duties.
The couple are to 'step back' from royal duties.
Image: PA Images

THE ANNOUNCEMENT BY Britain’s Prince Harry and his wife Meghan Markle that they are to effectively quit the royal life is the culmination of a whirlwind few years for the couple. 

The pair were seen as a 21st century reinvention of the British royal family when they married in May 2018, but a desire to go against tradition has seen them face frequent criticism and intense scrutiny in the British media. 

The couple has made reference to what they say is press intrusion into their lives and have previously complained about alleged fabrications in the media. 

So, how has it come to this that the once ‘golden couple’ of the British royal family have split from ‘the Firm’? 

July 2016

The couple began dating when they were set up on a blind date by a mutual friend in the summer of 2016. 

Harry later said he had never heard of Markle while the actress added she was largely ignorant about the British royal family.

The couple have said that after that first date they immediately met up again before going camping together for five days in Botswana just a few weeks later.

November 2016

The relationship between the actress and the son of the Prince of Wales generated feverish media attention.

Much of it focused on Markle’s background with media outlets making reference to her mixed-raced heritage. In one such example the Daily Mail suggested that if the pair had a child it would bring some “rich and exotic DNA” into the royal family. 

In a strong statement issued by Kensington Palace in November 2016, the royal family said that Harry was being “worried about Ms Markle’s safety” due to the attention she was receiving. 

“He knows commentators will say this is ‘the price she has to pay’ and that ‘this is all part of the game’. He strongly disagrees. This is not a game – it is her life and his,” the statement read. 

The statement accused the media and online coverage of being both racist and sexist.

September 2017

Throughout 2017 the couple’s profile sky-rocketed and they were pictured together much more frequently. 

Speaking in June 2017, Harry revealed he once became so disillusioned that he considered leaving behind the royal life.

The couple’s first official public appearance together came in September 2017 when they attended the Invictus Games.

The annual sporting event was set up by Harry and features wounded members of the armed services.

harry The couple at the Invictus Games in 2017.

That same month, Markle appeared on the front cover of Vanity Fair magazine in an article titled ‘Meghan Markle, Wild About Harry!’

During the interview, she spoke about the difficulties of their high-profile relationship. 

It has its challenges, and it comes in waves — some days it can feel more challenging than others. And right out of the gate it was surprising the way things changed. But I still have this support system all around me, and, of course, my boyfriend’s support.

November 2017

The couple announced their engagement and said they intended to marry in the first half of the following year.

While the announcement was made towards the end of the month, the couple revealed they had been engaged for a number of weeks. 

Speaking they day the announced their engagement, Harry said he proposed over roast chicken and said she would be “unbelievably good” at her new royal role despite its pressures.

The following day, as with today, the UK newspapers were full of photos of their engagement and it became global news. 

May 2018

The pair married in St George’s Chapel in Windsor Castle in a ceremony that was attended by a whole host of famous faces from the worlds of sport and entertainment.

Upon their marriage, Queen Elizabeth granted them the titles of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex.

“Despite all the hype – and even a sizeable hitch – Prince Harry’s wedding to Meghan Markle did not disappoint, thanks largely to the charisma of the House of Windsor’s new golden couple,” the Sunday Express wrote of the day.

The build up to the wedding was dominated by talk in the media about the possible attendance of Markle’s father due to the pair becoming estranged. 

It was reported that Thomas Markle had suffered a heart attack and it was also revealed that he had posed for paparazzi photos in the UK in the weeks ahead of the wedding. 

The images, showing him being measured for a suit and admiring a photo of the future royal couple on his computer, sold for $100,000 (€83,000) according to the Daily Mirror.

He did not attend the wedding and the incident sparked a frequent tabloid media interest in the relationship between Meghan Markle and her father.

July 2018

mark Source: Leah Farrell/RollingNews.ie

The couple’s first foreign trip was to Ireland and during their stay here they met with Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and President Michael D Higgins.

As part of their visit to Ireland, the couple also walked around Trinity College, the Famine memorial and the Irish Emigration Museum. 

October 2018

The couple departed on a tour of the commonwealth during which the couple announced that Meghan was pregnant with their first child.  

The Guardian reported at the time how she was accused by the tabloid press of “flaunting” her baby bump and touching her stomach excessively – described as “virtue signalling” by some.

2019

Source: TheJournal.ie/YouTube

The entirety of 2019 turned into a turbulent year for the couple, ultimately leading to yesterday’s announcement.

Last year saw the birth of their first child but also a dramatic deterioration in their relationship with the media and a gradual move away from the royal family. 

Ahead of the birth of her first child, Markle carried out visits to her new patronages, including Smart Works, which provides high-quality interview clothes and training for unemployed women in need. 

Celebrations ahead of the birth included a solo trip by Markle to New York City with the private jet journey and penthouse suite, reportedly funded by friends, said to have cost some £300,000.

In April, Harry and Meghan moved into their new home in Windsor’s Frogmore Cottage, after building work was completed ahead of the arrival of their baby.

Financial accounts showed that the refurbishment of their new home had cost British taxpayers £2.4 million.

May 2019

Their son, Archie Harrison Mountbatten-Windsor was born on 6 May weighing 7lb 3oz.

Buckingham Palace announced Meghan was in labour just before 2pm but in fact she had given birth more than eight hours earlier at 5.26am.

Due to his position down the line of succession, Archie was not entitled to be an HRH or a prince. 

The couple chose not to use the courtesy title Earl Dumbarton, which Archie was allowed to use, nor to style him Lord Archie Mountbatten-Windsor, making a personal decision that he should be called ‘master’.

archie The baptism of Archie Mountbatten-Windsor. Source: Instagram

Royal baptisms are traditionally private but Harry and Meghan went one step further by going against convention and deciding not to announce Archie’s godparents, with the couple facing criticism from some quarters.

Summer 2019

The pair faced more criticism on a number of fronts throughout last summer. 

Harry told chimpanzee expert Dr Jane Goodall the couple planned to have two children only, for the sake of the planet. Soon afterwards the pair faced criticism over their use of private jets after taking four flights in 11 days.

Elton John escalated the situation by stepping in to defend them, saying he provided them with a private flight to “maintain a high level of much-needed protection”.

Harry explained his use of private planes, saying he spends “99% of my life” using commercial flights, but occasionally needs to ensure “my family are safe”.

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Meghan was also criticised for attending the Wimbledon tennis tournament “in a private capacity” during which a royal bodyguard reportedly told fans not to take photographs of her.

Markle is a long-time friend of tennis great Serena Williams and had been present to watch her compete. 

There were also big changes for Harry and Meghan behind the scenes with reports of problems between Meghan and the Duchess of Cambridge and Harry and his brother the Duke of Cambridge did little to quell the rumours. 

The Sussexes then split their household from Kensington Palace with a separate head of communications and their own SussexRoyal Instagram account.

They then left the charity they were jointly part of with the Cambridges to start a separate Sussex Royal charity.

October 2019

The couple’s high-profile tour to Southern Africa, carried out at the request of the government, was overshadowed on the penultimate day.

It was announced Meghan had begun a lawsuit against the Mail on Sunday over an alleged breach of copyright and privacy

The newspaper had published a private letter between her and her estranged father and said it would be defending its case vigorously.

Harry then launched a scathing attack on the British tabloid press, accusing them of a “ruthless campaign” against his wife, adding:

I lost my mother and now I watch my wife falling victim to the same powerful forces.

He later filed his own proceedings against The Sun and The Daily Mirror in relation to the alleged illegal interception of voicemail messages.

November 2019

View this post on Instagram

🎄🎅🏻☃️

A post shared by The Duke and Duchess of Sussex (@sussexroyal) on

It was announced in November the Sussexes and Archie would be spending Christmas with Meghan’s mother Doria Ragland, and not with the Queen at Sandringham, and later Harry and Meghan began a six-week break from royal duties.

The couple spent most of their six-week break in the Canadian province of British Columbia where they were spotted hiking on Vancouver Island.

Two days ago the pair spoke of the “unbelievable” welcome they received while in Canada.

- With reporting by Press Association

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About the author:

Rónán Duffy

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