It’s Been One Year Since Harry & Meghan Quit the Royal Family. Here’s Everything They’ve Done Since.
The clock had barely struck 2020 when the royal decree, er, IG came through: Prince Harry and Meghan Markle would be stepping down as senior members of the royal family and moving to North America. Their plan (which as it turned out, had yet to receive the blessing of HRH the queen, oops) was to become financially independent, but also to take a break from the merciless tabloid reporters and raise Archie away from the spotlight, all while launching their own charity and finding their voice away from the monarchy—no small job.
But after a hiccup or two (like—cough, cough—the palace’s reaction when it came to the use of their intended brand name, Sussex Royal), they rode off into the sunset disembarked in Canada (eventually California) and, even during a pandemic, haven’t stopped making moves since. But what have they actually accomplished? Here, Harry and Meghan’s year in review.
1. They Sorted Out Their New Setup with Charles, William and the Queen
Like we said, inside the walls of Buckingham Palace, the official announcement came as a pretty big shock. (Harry and Meghan had mentioned it, but their move to make a statement timed with the launch of the Sussex Royal website was supposedly quite a surprise.) Cue the Sandringham Summit with Prince Charles, Prince William and Queen Elizabeth, a chance for Prince Harry to come together with his fam and hash thing out. The upshot of the meeting: The queen admitted that “constructive discussions” were had and that she respected and understood their decision to leave. Of course, the palace later banned the use of Sussex Royal since it implied Harry and Meghan were still affiliated with the monarchy, which meant they had to start from scratch on their brand, but…progress.
2. Then, Together, They Nailed Their Farewell Tour
It was mid-March, just weeks before lockdown. Harry and Meghan left Archie at “home” (their temporary set up was still in Canada at this point) and made appearances at U.K. events ranging from the Endeavor Fund Awards, the Mountbatten Festival of Music and joined the entire royal family for Commonwealth Day. The trip had highs and lows of course—the lows included the frosty non-exchange between Harry and William at Westminster Abbey and Harry tearing up while wearing his full royal military garb for the last time. But the biggest high was how relaxed and happy and confident they appeared. That rainy day shot? They couldn’t have scripted it better themselves.
3. They Relocated from Canada to California
Temporary or not? At this point, all we knew was that Harry and Meghan had left Vancouver Island for the L.A. area to wait out the pandemic (it was presumed).
4. Then Came the Big Reveal: The Archewell Foundation
Bye-bye, Sussex Royal. Hello, Archewell, a name partially inspired by their son, but also from the Greek word “arche,” which means “source of action.” As the world tried to figure out exactly how to pronounce the name of their new non-profit organization (FYI, it’s arch-eh-well), the formerly royal couple made key hiring moves bringing on Catherine St. Laurent from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to be their new chief of staff. They also filed trademark requests for goods and services including educational materials, magazines, films, podcasts and more. But the launch date remained TBD, in large part thanks to the pandemic.
5. Meghan Dipped Her Toe Back Into Acting
Her role? Behind the scenes, lending her voice to the Disneynature documentary, Elephant. Still, it felt like old times.
6. Harry and Meghan Delivered Meals
The first royals to don masks publicly, Harry and Meghan hit the streets of Los Angeles, delivering meals to those in need on behalf of Project Angel Food in early April. Their last official day as working royals was March 31. Pandemic or not, they made it clear they were prepared to continue to do the work.
7. Archie Turned One
It’d been a minute since we’d heard from Harry and Meghan in an official capacity but come May 6—Archie’s first birthday—they didn’t disappoint. With their @SussexRoyal Instagram channel now defunct, they partnered with Save the Children’s #SaveWithStories campaign to release a video of Meghan reading Archie one of his favorite books, Duck! Rabbit! with Harry filming and quacking in the background. Aw.
8. They Continued Their Work as Royal Patrons
Meghan Zoomed on behalf of Smartworks; they both participated in a virtual panel on behalf of the Queen’s Commonwealth Trust. But that’s not all: Harry kept us in the loop on the future of the Invictus Games (a Paralympic-style competition for wounded service members and veterans that he created) and the pair were accidentally outed for their work with the Crisis Text Line in Atlanta…which just so happened to coincide with Mental Health Awareness week in the U.K.
9. And Spoke Up in the Name of George Floyd
The June forum was thoughtful and impactful: Meghan gave the virtual commencement speech at her own alma mater, the Immaculate Heart High School in L.A. In it, she spoke to graduates about their accomplishments, but also the police killings of unarmed Black people across the U.S. “George Floyd’s life mattered and Breonna Taylor’s life mattered and Philando Castile’s life mattered and Tamir Rice’s life mattered. And so did so many other people whose names we know and whose names we don’t know,” she said. Harry followed up in July, pledging to fight racism via a surprise speech at the Diana Award’s virtual awards ceremony and making a public commitment to be part of the change.
10. Next Came the Girl Up Leadership Summit
Meghan joined as keynote speaker, speaking about gender equality and racial injustice. She also set the stage for what would become one of her biggest initiatives with Harry going forward: a healthier digital community. “We are not meant to be breaking each other down, we are meant to be building each other up,” she remarked.
12. And Invited Gloria Steinem to Hang in the Backyard
With the election upon us, Meghan teamed up with activist Gloria Steinem and Makers Women in August to discuss the power of a single vote, but also the pivotal role that Black women play in each election, especially for Democrats. As part of this, we also saw Meghan looking quite at home in her new backyard.
13. Then Came Their Multi-Million Netflix Deal
The plan: To work with the streaming service (yep, the same one responsible for The Crown) to create documentaries, docuseries, feature films, scripted shows, children’s programming and more. There was also a disclaimer in their September announcement: The bulk of their work would be behind-the-scenes, squashing rumors that Meghan would return to her roots in a starring role.
14. They Repaid the Renovation Costs Spent on Frogmore Cottage
It was the royal residence gifted to them by the queen in spring 2019, but after sinking close to $3 million dollars into renovations, taxpayers were upset at the expenditure when Harry and Meghan announced their royal exit. So, the Sussexes promised to repay it—and, on the heels of their Netflix deal, they did.
15. And Teamed Up with the Time100 for a Series of Events
First up, an appearance at Time Magazine’s Time100 TV special, where Harry and Meghan advocated for others to vote. Then, in October, the Sussexes teamed up with Time again, this time to host one of their Time100 Talks series, where they connected guests ranging from Reddit cofounder Alexis Ohanian to Rappler CEO and executive editor Maria Ressa to discuss the future of the digital landscape.
16. Meghan Revealed She Suffered a Miscarriage
In a pre-Thanksgiving op-ed she penned for The New York Times, Meghan revealed that, over the summer, she had experienced a miscarriage. The name of the piece—“The Losses We Share”—connected her experience to the grief that everyone (the world over) is experiencing in bits in pieces as a result of the pandemic, police brutality and more, but she also talked about the need to normalize miscarriage and regularly ask others “Are you OK?” (A mantra from her and Harry since their ITV interview in Africa last year.)
17. And Also Announced Her First Public Investment
The company? Clevr Brands, a woman-founded wellness startup that specializes in oat milk lattes. There to help her make the announcement and test the product? Meghan’s pal Oprah, of course.
18. Speaking of Announcements, Get Ready for Archewell Audio
Ending the year with a bang: Harry and Meghan are coming to a Spotify account near you thanks to a multi-year deal with the audio streaming service in partnership with—you guessed it—Archewell. (Did we mention their first episode—a holiday special—features a toddler-aged Archie wishing all listeners “Happy New Year” and belly laughing?)
19. They Closed Out the Year By Teaming Up with José Andrés
Their mission in partnership with the celeb chef and World Central Kitchen: To help build a series of community relief centers, which will be activated as service kitchens during (and after) moments of crisis. The first center is already underway in Dominica, which was hit hard by hurricanes in 2017. The next will be opened in Puerto Rico with more locations coming later in 2021.
20. Archewell.com Finally Went Live
We’ve been waiting, well, a year for the big reveal—an encapsulation of what their non-royal life will focus on. The website lays it out in full, plus an open letter from Harry and Meghan (no titles) with never-before-seen baby pics of the pair.