Meghan Markle and Prince Harry's Highs and Lows: Their Royal Roller Coaster

As Meghan Markle and Prince Harry make their official exit from their royal roles on March 31, look back at some of the high points — and challenges — from their lives as working members of the royal family

Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex arrive at Canada House on January 07, 2020 in London, England
Meghan Markle and Prince Harry. Photo: DANIEL LEAL-OLIVAS/POOL/AFP via Getty
01 of 23

Low: Prince Harry Spars with the U.K. Press

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle visit Nottingham Academy, UK - 01 Dec 2017
REX/Shutterstock

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle tangled with the British tabloids early in their relationship. Harry simultaneously confirmed their romance and condemned what he viewed as racist and sexist attacks in a rare personal statement.

"The past week has seen a line crossed. His girlfriend, Meghan Markle, has been subject to a wave of abuse and harassment," the statement read. "Some of this has been very public — the smear on the front page of a national newspaper; the racial undertones of comment pieces; and the outright sexism and racism of social media trolls and web article comments."

It added, "This is not a game — it is her life and his."

02 of 23

High: Meghan and Harry's Public Debut as a Couple

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Tim Rooke/REX/Shutterstock

Their public debut came at the prince's September 2017 Invictus Games in Toronto, where the pair held hands as they headed to the wheelchair tennis event. (A few days earlier, Meghan cheered on her boyfriend from the stands of the opening ceremony!) They announced their engagement just months later.

03 of 23

High: The Couple's Engagement Interview

Prince Harry Meghan Markle engagement interview
CNN

Meghan and Harry's love was on full display during a joint interview released in conjunction with their engagement news. They excitedly talked about how the prince proposed (over roast chicken!), Meghan meeting the Queen (and her corgis) and their romantic trip to Botswana. They even showed off their silly side!

04 of 23

High: Their First Royal Engagement as a Couple

Prince Harry & Meghan Markle Visit Nottingham
Meghan Markle and Prince Harry. Dan Kitwood/Getty

Meghan wasted no time in getting to work as a royal. Four days after their engagement announcement, Meghan joined her new fiancé on their first official royal outing as a couple to Nottingham.

05 of 23

High: Meghan's Christmas Walk Debut

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Kate Middleton, Prince William, Meghan Markle and Prince Harry on Christmas Day in 2017. Chris Jackson/Getty

Prince Harry broke tradition by bringing his fiancée to Christmas with the royal family. The high-profile outing was a departure from typical protocol, as unmarried partners of royals had previously not been invited to Sandringham for the big day. (As Prince William's fiancée back in 2010, Kate Middleton did not attend Christmas services with him.) It also marked the first time seeing the royal brothers and their brides all together — and Meghan's perfect curtsy to the Queen!

06 of 23

Low: Tensions with Meghan's Family

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Thomas Markle. Good Morning Britain/ITV

Meghan's family wasted no time chatting with the media after the couple's engagement. Her half-brother and half-sister both criticized Prince Harry's comments that the royals are the "family she's never had," while her dad Thomas Markle staged several photoshoots with paparazzi. Her father ended up not attending the royal wedding at the last minute. (He cited medical reasons.)

07 of 23

Low: Disagreements Over Charlotte's Dress

Prince Harry Marries Ms. Meghan Markle - Windsor Castle
Andrew Matthews/WPA Pool/Getty

It also emerged following the wedding that Kate was "left in tears" after a fitting for daughter Princess Charlotte's bridesmaid dress. Several insiders told PEOPLE that there was a notable amount of "stress" surrounding those involved in the wedding.

08 of 23

High: Their Fairytale Wedding

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Aaron Chown/Gety

After exchanging vows at St. George's Chapel at Windsor Castle in a dazzling and heartfelt ceremony that celebrated Meghan's African-American heritage, the newlyweds embarked on a horse-drawn journey through the streets of Windsor. Highlights of the historic wedding included Prince Charles walking the bride down the aisle, Elton John performing at the afternoon reception and their movie-worthy getaway car moment.

09 of 23

High: Meghan's Trooping the Colour Debut

Trooping The Colour 2018
Max Mumby/Indigo/Getty

Another highlight of Meghan and Harry's royal life together was the Duchess of Sussex's Buckingham Palace balcony debut. She joined the rest of the royal family at Trooping the Colour in June 2018, celebrating Queen Elizabeth's birthday.

10 of 23

High: Meghan's Away Day with the Queen

The Duchess Of Sussex Undertakes Her First Official Engagement With Queen Elizabeth II
Meghan Markle and Queen Elizabeth in 2018. Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images

In a big step, Meghan joined the Queen on a royal outing — without Prince Harry — by taking the royal train.

The outing was seen as the monarch's way of helping immerse Meghan into public royal engagements. "It is the way of the royal family—all part of the training and getting used to being in public life and under public scrutiny," Elizabeth's former press secretary, Charles Anson, told PEOPLE. "Showing people the ropes is a high priority for the Queen."

11 of 23

High: Meghan's First Solo Endeavour

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BEN STANSALL/AFP/Getty

Meghan chose a subject close to her heart for her first project as a working royal: food! She wrote the foreward for a charity cookbook featuring recipes from a group of women whose community was affected by the Grenfell Tower fire in which more than 70 people died. She also hosted her first event, where she gave her first royal speech (without notes!).

12 of 23

High: Baby on the Way!

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Karwai Tang/WireImage

Meghan and Prince Harry started their tour of Australia, Fiji, Tonga and New Zealand with exciting news: the announcement that they were expecting their first child!

13 of 23

Low: Baby Bump Criticism

Prince Harry and Meghan Duchess of Sussex tour of Australia - 22 Oct 2018
REX/Shutterstock

Despite the joyous baby news, Meghan was criticized in the media for frequently cradling her growing stomach.

"I think it shows that she really cares for her baby, and that's terrific," Mary Jane Minkin, an obstetrician gynecologist who teaches at Yale University and is part of PEOPLE's Health Squad, told PEOPLE.

14 of 23

Low: Split from Prince William and Kate Middleton

The Royal Family Attend Church On Christmas Day
Stephen Pond/Getty Images

The couples separated their joint "court" at Kensington Palace by creating two separate offices in March 2019, followed by Meghan and Harry creating their own charitable foundation and personal Instagram account. A source told PEOPLE that the split was a "natural progression" for the brothers in their different roles, but a growing rift between William and Harry clouded the news.

15 of 23

High: Putting a New Spin on Royal Babies

Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, pose with their newborn son Archie
Dominic Lipinski - WPA Pool/Getty Images

Meghan and Prince Harry broke with a royal tradition dating back to 1977 when they welcomed their son, Archie, on May 6, 2019. Instead of introducing their baby to the world shortly after his birth outside the hospital, they opted to do a small photo call two days later. They also kept Archie's christening private, releasing just a handful of photos from the event.

16 of 23

High: Proud Parents

Meghan Markle
Samir Hussein/WireImage

Archie had his first playdate with cousins Prince George, Princess Charlotte and Prince Louis at a charity polo match in July 2019. Meghan's laidback California mom style was on full display, happily holding her son as Prince Harry competed.

17 of 23

Low: Private Jet Controversy

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Samir Hussein / WireImage

After news of the royal couple's summer vacation to Nice in the south of France broke, headlines focused on their use of a private jet to make the journey — a seeming contradiction to their stance on protecting the environment. Elton John defended them, sharing that he provided the private jet — and ensured their flight was carbon neutral — so they could have a relaxing vacation as a family of three.

18 of 23

Low: 'Not Okay'

Harry & Meghan: An African Journey ITV 9pm Sunday
ITV

The Duke and Duchess of Sussex made it clear they were unhappy with aspects of royal life in a personal documentary from their fall 2019 tour of Africa. Harry expressed fears over the constant media attention, while Meghan shared the struggle of being a new mother in the spotlight. Interviewer Tom Bradby asked if it "would be fair" to say that she's "not really okay, as in it's really been a struggle?" to which Meghan responded, "Yes."

19 of 23

Low: Fight Against Tabloids

Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex
Meghan Markle and Prince Harry in South Africa. Samir Hussein/WireImage

In the midst of their Africa documentary, Meghan and Harry also revealed they were launching several lawsuits against the U.K. press. Legal documents filed at the High Court in London show that Meghan is suing the publisher of the Mail on Sunday for printing a "private and confidential" letter to her father at a "time of great personal anguish and distress." Additionally, the palace confirmed ithat claims have been filed on behalf of the Duke of Sussex against News UK (owner of The Sun) and MGN (former owner of The Mirror) at the High Court regarding alleged illegal interception of voicemail messages.

20 of 23

Low: Meghan and Harry Announce Their Plan to Step Down

Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex arrive at Canada House on January 07, 2020 in London, England
DANIEL LEAL-OLIVAS/AFP via Getty

In January 2020, after taking time off from royal work in Canada, Prince Harry and Meghan made the stunning announcement that they intended to "step back as senior members of the Royal Family" and planned to split their time between the U.K. and North America.

21 of 23

Low: The Sandringham Summit

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In response to the announcement, Queen Elizabeth gathered Prince Harry along with Prince William and Prince Charles at her Sandringham home to "talk things through" regarding the decision.

"Today my family had very constructive discussions on the future of my grandson and his family," the Queen later said in a statement. "My family and I are entirely supportive of Harry and Meghan's desire to create a new life as a young family. Although we would have preferred them to remain full-time working Members of the Royal Family, we respect and understand their wish to live a more independent life as a family while remaining a valued part of my family."

22 of 23

Low: A Tense Commonwealth Day Reunion

Commonwealth Day

It was a chilly reunion between the royal brothers and their wives at the March 2020 Commonwealth Day service. In their brief interaction, Harry and Meghan smiled and greeted William and Kate. William and Kate both offered brief hellos before taking their seats in front.

23 of 23

High: Their New Family Life in L.A.

Archie, Prince Harry
Prince Harry and son Archie. Sussex Royals

Meghan, Harry and Archie are settling into their next chapter. They have been living in a secluded compound in L.A. since leaving their Vancouver Island home — a move they made before the United States' border with Canada was temporarily closed to nonessential travel on March 21 due to the coronavirus pandemic. Harry has also been in touch with his father Prince Charles, who has spoken with both his sons Harry and Prince William since his positive coronavirus diagnosis. (He has now recovered.)

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