The signs were always there that Prince Harry would leave the royal family.

In January 2020, Prince Harry and Meghan Markle announced their plans to "step back as 'senior' members of the Royal Family".

In an unprecedented move, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex shared they had decided to become financially independent and split their time between the UK and North America.

"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," a statement from the couple read.

Watch the trailer for Netflix's Harry & Meghan. Post continues below.

Video via Netflix.

"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.

"We now plan to balance our time between the United Kingdom and North America, continuing to honour our duty to The Queen, the Commonwealth, and our patronages."

In the years since their decision, the overwhelming rhetoric has been that Meghan was entirely responsible for "splitting up" Prince Harry from the royal family.  


Even amid the release of Netflix's Harry & Meghan - which aims to set the couple's story straight - the rhetoric continues on social media.

But while the "blame" has almost solely been placed on Meghan, the signs were always there that Prince Harry was going to leave the royal family.

Prince Harry had hinted at an exit before.

In 2008, an Australian publication leaked Harry’s location while he was serving in the British Army. The leak meant that Harry’s time in Afghanistan was cut short.

"I felt very resentful," Harry said, reflecting on the incident.

"Being in the Army was the best escape I’ve ever had. I felt as though I was really achieving something. I have a deep understanding of all sorts of people from different backgrounds and felt I was part of a team," he added.

"I wasn’t a Prince, I was just Harry."

The 38-year-old then explained that he struggled to find meaning in his position in the royal family before his deployment, as he came "very close" to having a breakdown.

"I felt I wanted out but then decided to stay in and work out a role for myself," he said.

"I am determined to have a relatively normal life, and if I am lucky enough to have children, they can have one, too," he added.

"We don’t want to be just a bunch of celebrities but instead use our role for good."


The Sussex and Cambridge split.

In March 2019, Kensington Palace announced the Cambridge and Sussex households would go their separate ways, with Harry and Meghan starting a new foundation while William and Kate kept the existing one.

The split came after months of rumours of a rift between the brothers as well as an unconfirmed report that Meghan and Kate had fallen out in the lead-up to Meghan and Harry's wedding.

In an ITV documentary, Harry appeared to confirm the rift with William, saying they were "on different paths."

"Stuff happens. But, look, we’re brothers, we’ll always be brothers," he said. "The majority of the stuff is created out of nothing but as brothers, you know, you have good days, you have bad days."


In their statement, Meghan and Harry confirmed their intention to "carve out a progressive new role within this institution" while focusing on their forthcoming charitable foundation.

The split between the two households – and the 'royal rift' – was a prominent sign that Prince Harry was stepping back from the royal family.

As host of the Royally Obsessed podcast, Kaitlin Menza wrote for NBC: "[Harry and Meghan's decision] might seem severe, but for royal watchers, it's been building for quite some time."

The ITV documentary.

In a raw and honest interview for an ITV documentary in October 2019, Meghan and Harry addressed the constant media scrutiny they have faced – particularly after welcoming their eldest child Archie.

In the interview, Meghan admitted that she was struggling behind the scenes.

"Look, any woman – especially when they are pregnant – you’re really vulnerable and so that was made really challenging, and then when you have a newborn – you know?" she told reporter Tom Bradby as she held back tears.

"And especially as a woman, it’s a lot. So you add this on top of just trying to be a new mum or trying to be a newlywed it’s, well..." she said.

After the documentary aired, reports began to surface that Harry wanted to leave royal life behind.

"There's an acceptance that things haven't worked out with the Sussexes full-time in Windsor so they could have a second base in America," a source told The Sun at the time.

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Prince Harry's response to the tabloids.

For years, Prince Harry has been known to speak out against the tabloid media.

As a child, Harry witnessed the relentless pursuit of his mum by the tabloid press, read the salacious stories printed about her, and saw the intrusive photographs published without her consent.

And as he grew older, he learned the fiery Paris car crash in which Princess Diana died may not have happened if paparazzi hadn't been chasing her.

When Harry began dating Meghan in late 2016, it didn't take long for the press to turn on her as well.

In fact, just a month after they publicly started dating, Harry issued a rare statement, which included a plea to the media to stop the "wave of abuse and harassment" including "outright sexist and racist comments" against Meghan.


In the years since, Meghan's life has become the media circus Diana's once was, leading the couple to file a lawsuit against the Mail on Sunday over the publication of a private letter Meghan wrote to her father.

“There is a human cost to this relentless propaganda, specifically when it is knowingly false and malicious, and though we have continued to put on a brave face – as so many of you can relate to – I cannot begin to describe how painful it has been,” Harry wrote in a statement on their website.

Harry went on to compare the relentless pursuit of Meghan to that of his mother.

"Though this action may not be the safe one, it is the right one. Because my deepest fear is history repeating itself. I’ve seen what happens when someone I love is commoditised to the point that they are no longer treated or seen as a real person.

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

The first three episodes of Harry & Meghan premiered on Netflix on December 8. The following three episodes will be released on December 15.

This article was originally published in 2020 and has since been updated. 

Feature Image: Getty.

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