Signs Harry And Meghan Were Always Planning To Leave The Royal Family

When Meghan Markle first met the royal family, they were pretty impressed with her, even though they had their reservations about her career as an actress. Prince Harry revealed in the couple's docuseries "Harry & Meghan" that he was pretty sure his family thought their relationship wouldn't last — but it did. When the couple tied the knot, practically the whole world was in love with them. The wedding was watched by millions, and the media painted their union as one that showcased royal modernity. 

Unfortunately, the positive headlines didn't last long. Soon, the media started to paint Meghan as "difficult," and some outlets even went as far as to insinuate that Prince Harry was unhappy in his marriage. Other headlines were downright ridiculous. For example, a headline from the Daily Mail read: "How Meghan's favorite avocado snack [...] is fuelling human rights abuses, drought, and murder." Looking back, it's no wonder the couple decided to take a step back from royal life. Sadly, stepping back eventually turned into stepping down, as the media storm continued to rage. 

Knowing what we know now, there were some subtle signs that the royal couple was starting to distance themselves from the family, and it set the stage for their eventual exit. While many blamed Meghan for what went down, Omid Scobie and Carolyn Durand's book "Finding Freedom" claims that Harry was the one who wanted to leave all along, and Meghan's support simply meant that it was easier for him to take the leap.

Harry once said royal life triggered painful memories of his mother

Princess Diana's tragic death is embedded in the minds of all who knew her, and it's even more intense for her immediate family.

In an ITV documentary, Prince Harry opened up about how hard it's been for him to continue his royal duties since her death. While touring Africa with Meghan Markle, he was asked whether he'd made peace with his mother's death yet, especially knowing that the press played a huge part in it. The prince's answer was brutally honest: "I think [it's] probably a wound that festers," he said, saying that being subjected to the press in his everyday life is a painful reminder of what happened to his mother. "I think being part of this family, in this role, in this job, every single time I see a camera, every single time I hear a click, every single time I see a flash, it takes me straight back, so in that respect it's the worst reminder of her life, as opposed to the best," he said, adding that much of the duties that come with being a member of the royal family reminds him of "the bad stuff."

Harry's honesty about how royal life affected him was seen by many as a sign that the prince was looking for a way out, and we can't really blame him, given what he'd been through.

Harry was never very taken with royal life

Prince Harry has always been the odd one out in the royal family — the black sheep, so to speak — and when he granted an exclusive interview to Newsweek in 2017, it became clear why. He repeatedly told the outlet that he desired to be "something other than Prince Harry" and that he craved an ordinary life. He praised his mother for making him and Prince William aware of what life is like outside the palace walls. "My mother took a huge part in showing me an ordinary life, including taking me and my brother to see homeless people. Thank goodness I'm not completely cut off from reality," Harry said.

The prince also admitted to having no desire to become king one day. "Is there any one of the royal family who wants to be king or queen? I don't think so, but we will carry out our duties at the right time," he said. While Harry tried to fulfill his royal duties the best he could, he felt much more at home while he served in the military. It was a place he could showcase his skills and where no one cared about his royal title. "I also felt I was one of the lads and could forget I was Prince Harry when I was with them," he admitted, adding that it served as an amazing escape and that it was incredibly hard when he had to leave it all behind.

Harry and Meghan tried to petition for independence early on

Not long after Prince Harry and Meghan Markle got married, they reportedly petitioned Queen Elizabeth II to grant their household independence from Buckingham Palace. The duke and duchess were eager to start their joint humanitarian work and planned on creating their own Sussex brand to do just that. Meghan was also eager to continue advocating for important matters she believed in.

Their request was not granted, however, with a royal source telling The Sunday Times that the kind of independence Harry and Meghan asked for simply doesn't exist within the royal institution. "The feeling is that it's good to have the Sussexes under the jurisdiction of Buckingham Palace, so they can't just go off and do their own thing," the source told the outlet. The decision was made by Queen Elizabeth II and then-Prince Charles. This was likely a blow to the couple, who were clearly eager to get started on changing the world for the better without having to cut through all the red tape.

Harry and Meghan moved out of Kensington Palace

Shortly before the birth of their first child, Prince Harry and Meghan Markle moved out of Kensington Palace, which they shared with Prince William and Princess Catherine. This effectively split the royal household in two, and it raised a few eyebrows. Many argued that the couple simply wanted more privacy as they readied themselves to become a family of three, which, of course, made a lot of sense.

Of course, there was plenty of speculation about the move, with some wondering whether it had anything to do with a behind-the-scenes disagreement between the Sussexes and the Cambridges at the time. In an article royal correspondent Rebecca English wrote for the Daily Mail, she revealed that Harry was eager to move "because he wants to escape the goldfish bowl of royal life for the sake of his marriage and his unborn child." English added that Harry didn't want to raise his children as publicly as Prince William had. While William had limited choices, given that he was second in line to the throne at the time, Harry had more freedom, and he chose to take hold of it with both hands.

Shortly after moving out of Kensington Palace, the duke and duchess set up their own Instagram account, which really made the royal household split official. The account garnered over three million followers in just a few days, showcasing the couple's popularity.

Reports claimed that Harry and Meghan didn't get along with the rest of the royal family

Shortly after Prince Harry started dating Meghan, reports were swirling that there was some strife between Harry and his brother Prince William. The feud reportedly started when William told Harry not to rush into things with Meghan. According to Omid Scobie and Carolyn Durand's book "Finding Freedom," William told his brother that he was "blindsided by lust." Harry did not take to this kindly, and this was the first of many alleged disagreements between the two. The tension extended to Meghan and Princess Catherine, who reportedly disagreed on various occasions. The feud reached a tearful end when they had a disagreement about flower girl dresses for Meghan's wedding.

After Harry and Meghan tied the knot, reports surfaced that Meghan was having a hard time adapting to royal life. A royal insider told Us Weekly that Meghan was no longer allowed to speak publicly about many of the things that mattered to her, and that the duchess had a hard time dealing with this new reality. "It's just been frustrating and stressful to have no voice," the insider said, adding, "She's always been so independent, her entire life, and that's all been taken away from her. She's always been able to clap back on social media and now she can't."

Meghan Markle admitted to having a hard time coping with royal life in a documentary

In the documentary "Harry & Meghan: An African Journey," Meghan Markle opened up about the struggles she faced behind the scenes while navigating royal life as a new wife and mother. Speaking to Tom Bradby for the documentary, she gave an honest answer when he asked her if she was okay. "Look, any woman, especially when they're pregnant, you're really vulnerable," Meghan said, adding that juggling all her royal duties while having a newborn baby was no easy feat.

The duchess continued to explain that adjusting to life as a newlywed and then a new mom had been a challenge given everything that had been going on — Meghan was receiving a lot of negative coverage in the press at the time, and this was likely what she was referring to while speaking with Bradby. She also thanked Bradby for his concern. "Thank you for asking, because not many people have asked if I'm OK, but it's a very real thing to be going through behind the scenes," Meghan said. It was clear that royal life was getting the better of her, and who wouldn't be exhausted juggling an African tour while also trying to look after your newborn baby?

Meghan and Harry kept Archie's christening private

In a decision that left the press and royal fans raging, Prince Harry and Meghan Markle decided to keep their firstborn son Archie's christening private. The ceremony was held at the queen's private chapel with only about 25 guests in attendance. "It was just very, very low-key," a Windsor source told People. Another insider added that Meghan and Harry were determined to do things their way. "[T]his is not a couple that will conform if they don't feel it's right for them. It's that simple," the source told the outlet.

In another break with tradition, Harry and Meghan also kept Archie's godparents private. According to royal sources, the couple made this decision to protect the privacy of their son and his new godparents — as is their right. Naturally, this meant that no press were allowed at the ceremony, so no pictures were taken of baby Archie or of the guests in attendance, which is something else that couples before Meghan and Harry hadn't done. Royal commentator Richard Fitzwilliams told Insider at the time that it was a bad PR move. "They could have at least in some way tried to make the public feel a part of the proceedings, which is what William and Kate successfully did," he said. This break from tradition indicated that Harry and Meghan were determined to forge their own path, and a few years later, they did exactly that when they took a step back from their royal duties.

Harry told Dr. Jane Goodall that Archie wouldn't receive a royal upbringing

Having a private christening ceremony for their son was already an indication that Prince Harry and Meghan Markle weren't planning on following in Prince William and Princess Catherine's footsteps, and this became more evident as time went on.

While paying a visit to the new family of three, ethologist and conservationist Dr. Jane Goodall learned that Harry was determined not to shove Archie into the spotlight. Speaking to the Daily Mail, Goodall revealed that she was likely the first outsider who ever got to cuddle little Archie. "I made Archie do the Queen's wave, saying, 'I suppose he'll have to learn this,'" Goodall said, adding, "Harry said, 'No, he's not growing up like that.'" Yup. Even then the prince knew he didn't want his son to grow up the way he had. 

About six months after this encounter, Harry and Meghan shocked the world by announcing their plans to step back from their royal duties. Clearly, having Archie in their lives played a major role in their decision to break with the royal family.

The couple stepped back from the Royal Foundation

In another decision that raised some eyebrows, Prince Harry and Meghan Markle parted ways with the Royal Foundation, which was originally established by Prince Harry and Prince William in 2009 as a way to combine their charitable efforts. A royal source told The Sun that the split was, in part, because of an ongoing feud between Harry and William that had been dragging on since Harry's wedding, adding "Meghan and Harry want to do things differently to William and Kate. William is the future king and so is sometimes restricted in what he can do."

Another source told People that there was no need to worry, and that the Sussexes' split from the charity was simply a "natural progression." With Harry having more freedom when it comes to choosing what charity work he gets to be involved in, it made sense for him and Meghan to establish their own foundation to tackle projects close to their hearts, the source added.

Nonetheless, the split left many disappointed. When the four royals all made an appearance at the charity's first Q&A forum, fans fondly dubbed them the "Fab Four," with CEO of the Royal Foundation Forum, Lorraine Heggessey, telling People that it was a great representation of the royal family joining efforts. The Q&A forum was supposed to occur annually, but unfortunately, fans never got to see the Fab Four together like that again.

Harry and Meghan skipped Christmas with the royals

Things really started to look a little dodgy when news broke that Prince Harry and Meghan Markle would not spend their first Christmas with Archie at Sandringham with the royal family. Welp!

A royal source told the Daily Mail that the couple was skipping the family gathering because they needed some space. "They need some time away to recharge and decide their plans for next year," the source revealed. Royal biographer Ingrid Seward also weighed in, saying that Christmas with the royal family could be pretty taxing, and that Harry and Meghan likely wanted to avoid it now that Archie was in the picture. Seward added that Harry had never missed a Christmas at Sandringham, except in 2012 when he was in Afghanistan. Clearly, something was amiss. "It does seem to be nothing to do with Archie and to do with their own personal feelings," Seward observed. Royal biographer Phil Dampier added that Meghan and Harry's decision was "very telling and worrying."

As we all know now, Harry and Meghan announced that they'd be stepping back from royal duties shortly after in January 2020, which puts them skipping the family gathering at Sandringham in 2019 in a whole new light.

Meghan guest-editing an issue of British Vogue was another red flag

When Meghan Markle guest-edited an issue of British Vogue, even she couldn't have predicted the backlash (and praise) that would follow. Meghan was asked to appear on the cover of the magazine as many royals had before her, but she wasn't really interested in being a cover star, and instead wanted to play an active role as a guest editor. The magazine's editor-in-chief, Edward Enninful, granted her request, and the two had a great time brainstorming together, Meghan said in her guest editor's letter.

In his own letter, Enninful referred to Meghan as "the country's most influential beacon of change," and mentioned that she didn't appear on the cover because she felt it would be "boastful." Instead, Meghan reserved the cover for various women she admired. The contents of the issue focused on important causes close to Meghan's heart, but it resulted in plenty of criticism, with many saying she was too political. "The issues [highlighted in the magazine] that have been deemed by some as 'too political' for a member of the royal family to take on have nothing to do with politics — they're about basic human rights and respecting mankind," royal biographer Omid Scobie told Buzzfeed News.

There's no denying that Meghan did impactful work as a guest editor. She broke the royal mold once again, and it's clear that she craved having a voice and becoming involved with work beyond what her royal duties required of her.

Harry and Meghan announced they would be taking a step back from royal duties

In January 2020, Prince Harry and Meghan Markle shocked the world when they revealed their plans to step away from their duties as senior members of the royal family. The couple assured the public that they would still work to support Queen Elizabeth II and the monarchy, but that their goal was to become self-reliant. The announcement also revealed that they planned to spend some of their time in North America.

Royal correspondent Jonny Daymond told BBC that palace officials were disappointed by the couple's decision. "This is clearly a major rift between Harry and Meghan on one part, and the rest of the Royal Family on the other," Daymond said. Even though the couple was planning on taking a step back from royal life, their joint statement assured the public that they weren't planning on forgetting their roots. "This geographic balance will enable us to raise our son with an appreciation for the royal tradition into which he was born, while also providing our family with the space to focus on the next chapter, including the launch of our new charitable entity," the statement read. For many, this was a sign that it was the beginning of the end of Harry and Meghan's relationship with the royals, and as we know, they ended up stepping down completely in the end.

Meghan and Harry pushed back against the royal rota system

After Prince Harry and Meghan Markle announced that they'd be taking a step back from their royal duties, they also made it clear that this decision included the royal rota system. For those not in the know, the royal rota system allows certain media outlets in the United Kingdom to gain inside information about the royal family's coming and goings.

It's no secret that Harry and Meghan were fed up with the negative press coverage they'd received up until that point, so this decision made sense, but it also served as another sign that they were slowly cutting ties with all things related to the royal family. Anyone paying attention could've seen this coming a mile away — in October 2019, Harry released a statement on the Sussexes' official website where he condemned the media's treatment of Meghan. He announced that they would be taking legal action against some outlets that published harmful stories. "[I]t destroys people and destroys lives," the statement read. Harry compared the press' treatment of Meghan to that of his mother, Princess Diana, and admitted that he was terrified of history repeating itself. "I lost my mother and now I watch my wife falling victim to the same powerful forces," the prince wrote. 

Needless to say, all the signs were there that the couple was ready to take a stand, even if it meant leaving the monarchy behind.

The couple spent an extended time abroad in Canada

After Prince Harry and Meghan Markle announced their plan to step back as working royals, Queen Elizabeth II agreed that the couple could spend some time abroad in Canada while the palace figured out the way forward.

A statement from the queen published on the royal website addressed the situation, saying that she understood Harry and Meghan's desire to become more independent. She also announced that the couple would be dividing their time between Canada and the United Kingdom for the time being. Of course, almost everyone was skeptical about the Sussexes leaving the country. Asking to step back from royal duties was one thing, but temporarily moving to another country was something entirely different — and hinted at a more permanent split. Flash forward to the present, and Harry and Meghan's docuseries revealed that the couple did consider moving to Canada permanently. The decision was largely based on escaping the British press. "If we're not there, they can't cover what we're doing," Meghan said in the documentary.

In the end, the couple never returned to the U.K., nor did they end up living in Canada. Instead, they made the move to the U.S., where they still reside.