All the Signs Leading to Meghan Markle and Prince Harry's Decision to Step Back From Royal Family

On Jan. 8, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex announced that they would be stepping back from their royal duties.

Ever since Meghan Markle and Prince Harry began their relationship, they have done things their own way.

From being set up on a blind date, to engaging in some PDA during their first public appearance, to quickly getting engaged within the span of a year and half, the now Duke and Duchess of Sussex have and are paving their own path when it comes to the way the rest of the royal family are accustomed to doing things.

Jan. 8 marked one of the most unexpected moves from Meghan and Harry, after they announced their decision 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."

With Harry sixth in line for the throne, the prince has had more leeway as opposed to his big brother, Prince William, who will one day be king. Harry and Meghan have not shied away from going against royal protocol, opting to change things up with regard to personal and professional matters.

As the royal couple has now decided to step away from the royal family, take a look at how Meghan and Harry are writing their own chapter in royal history.

Dating and Engagement: For the most part, the two had a fairly normal beginning, dating and keeping their relationship on the down-low. Once things began to get more serious, they did publicly speak out about one another. While theirs was a whirlwind romance, they followed protocol when it came to announcing their engagement and having their first interview together and photocall. 

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Glamorous Engagement Photos: A total 180 from William and Kate Middleton's classic engagement pics, Meghan and Harry's looked straight out of a magazine. In one of the pics, Meghan is seen wearing a stunning black-and-gold Ralph & Russo gown, which reportedly cost $75,000. They did, however, also take more casual shots as well, which saw the bride-to-be wearing a light sweater and cuddled up to her fiance, who donned a big coat.

Alexi Lubomirski
Alexi Lubomirski

Meghan's Messy Bun, Love of the Color Black and Trousers: It was assumed that by joining the royal family, one would have to adhere to a whole new set of rules and responsibilities -- but not Meghan. Since her second official royal appearance, where she stepped out with her hair up in a bun and wearing black trousers, Meghan has been fighting royal attire standards that Kate strictly follows.

Per some of the "rules," royal ladies cannot wear bright manicures or wear black unless it is a funeral or special service, and instead opt for more modest and classic ensembles.

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In July of 2018, a source told People that Meghan's found some aspects of royal protocol "difficult to understand."

"[She] has found certain rules in the royal household difficult to understand, like the fact that the queen prefers women in dresses or skirts rather than trouser suits, and is often asking Harry why things have to be done in a certain way," the source told the magazine.

"I think she finds it a little frustrating at times, but this is her new life, and she has to deal with it," the source added.

Making the Royal Wedding Their Own: When Meghan's father, Thomas Markle, was unable to attend his daughter's wedding, the former Suits star walked herself down the aisle. The bride chose to walk unescorted through St. George's Chapel's Nave, before meeting Prince Charles at the Quire, and even then, she walked the final few feet to meet her groom alone.

The move was unprecedented in the British royal family, and Meghan became the first royal bride to walk down (part of) the aisle herself. She also chose not to have a maid of honor or bridesmaids.

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Other ways they strayed from tradition on their May 19 wedding day: They chose Bishop Michael Curry of Chicago, Illinois, to give an address at her ceremony and he delivered a passionate sermon in which he quoted Martin Luther King Jr. They also chose a predominately black choir, Karen Gibson and the Kingdom Choir, to perform Ben E. King's "Stand by Me" during the ceremony, as well as selecting 19-year-old Sheku Kanneh-Mason to play the cello.

Meghan and Harry also chose an elderflower cake for their reception -- making them the first royal couple not to go with a traditional fruit cake.

PDA All the Way: Much different than the way Kate and William behave in public, Meghan and Harry don't mind holding hands, cuddling up to one another and occasionally sharing a kiss here and there.

The duke and duchess have made headlines many times for their affectionate nature. On their first foray into public life, Meghan and Harry left no uncertainty about their relationship status. Throughout the 2017 Invictus Games in Toronto, Canada, the pair was seen whispering in each other's ear, laughing together and holding hands.

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Their PDA continued, with a major one -- aside from their wedding -- happening just two months after officially becoming husband and wife. After Harry and Meghan posed with the trophy from the polo match at the Royal County of Berkshire Polo Club in July 2018, the newlyweds leaned in for a sweet kiss.

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Meghan Isn't Afraid to Speak Her Mind: Since the age of 11, when she saw a dishwashing liquid commercial that she felt was sexist, Meghan has been an outspoken advocate for women. Her fearless personality and openness may have rubbed some people across the pond the wrong way, but the royal family has fully embraced Meghan's passion.

Last May, when she officially became the Duchess of Sussex, she was given her own page on the royal family's website that described her Hollywood career, charitable endeavors and experience volunteering as a child and early adult. The page also boldly displayed one of Meghan's quotes, which reads, "I am proud to be a woman and a feminist."

Splitting From Kate and William: In March, it was announced that Meghan and Harry would officially create their own royal household and separate from the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge.

"The Queen agreed to the creation of a new Household for the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, following their marriage in May last year. The Household, which will be created with the support of The Queen and The Prince of Wales, will be established in the spring," part of the statement read. The news was expected as William is set to one day take the throne and become king, and it was always planned for him and Kate to have their own household, separate from Harry.

In April, the Sussex family debuted their new social media platforms. "Welcome to our official Instagram; we look forward to sharing the work that drives us, the causes we support, important announcements, and the opportunity to shine a light on key issues. We thank you for your support, and welcome you to @sussexroyal.- Harry & Meghan," the two wrote on Instagram.

Baby Sussex's Arrival: When it came to delivering their firstborn child -- Archie Harrison Mountbatten-Windsor -- Meghan and Harry wanted to do things their way. In April, the couple announced that they would not be immediately announcing the birth of their child. Unlike Prince William and Kate Middleton, who posed for photos outside St. Mary’s Hospital following the arrival of their three children, Meghan and Harry wanted to have a photo op with their newborn on the grounds of Windsor Castle when they were ready, which they did two days after Archie's birth.


A royal source explained to ET in April why Meghan decided to break with tradition, sharing that "Meghan Markle does not want the pressure of having to pose on the steps for cameras so soon after childbirth," adding that, while the couple was "extremely excited" for the birth of their first child, they intended to "enjoy the magic of childhood without any undue expectations."

While the royal family had been very supportive of Meghan and Harry’s decision to do things their own way, when the pair’s child did arrive, some tried and true customs were honored.

Archie's Future: Seventh in line to the British throne, Archie is Queen Elizabeth II's eighth great-grandchild and is already making history as not only the first multiracial royal baby but also the first of both American and British ancestry. A source told ET late last year that the new parents were determined to give their children as "normal an upbringing as possible" -- which means they'll grow up differently from William and Kate's kids, who are in the direct line of succession to the throne. 

"Meghan and Harry, who want to use their platform and profile to further their humanitarian and charitable interests, want to pass on those same values to their children," the source said at the time. "They plan to spend a considerable amount of time in their Cotswold home and Doria will have a prominent role in their family as the children's grandmother." 

"Their children are expected to one day have regular jobs, and will be raised to appreciate the differences in society," the source added. "They will have a healthy respect for boundaries like other children. They will have chores at home and be brought up with respect."

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As Meghan and Harry begin to settle into parenthood, plan their future and continue with their royal duties, the two will no doubt continue to be making and changing history, creating a whole new way the royal family does things. And we, as well as many around the world, can't wait to see what their next chapter looks like. 

Missing Christmas: The couple is granted permission by the queen to miss the annual Christmas celebrations with the rest of the royal family. A spokesperson for the Sussexes told ET that "as has been reported, their Royal Highnesses, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, are spending private family time in Canada. The decision to base themselves in Canada reflects the importance of this Commonwealth country to them both."

The couple previously announced their decision to spend the Christmas holiday away from the royal family in a statement from Buckingham Palace. They noted that they had spent the last two Christmases at Sandringham and that Queen Elizabeth supported their decision. 

A royal insider, however, told ET that while the queen gave permission for the couple to skip Christmas with the royals, some members of the family were “disappointed” that they would not be joining in on the traditional holiday gathering. 

“Some members of the family think the couple should have considered the queen and Prince Philip’s advancing age,” the source said. "After all, at 93 and it being Archie’s first Christmas, neither Her Majesty the Queen nor Prince Philip will be around forever."

Stepping Back From Royal Family: Meghan and Harry make a historic move by becoming the first in the royal family to take a "step back" as senior members. The Sussexes announced the news in a statement, adding that they will "work to become financially independent while continuing to fully support Her Majesty The Queen."

"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. 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," their statement reads. "It is with your encouragement, particularly over the last few years, that we feel prepared to make this adjustment. 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."

"This geographic balance will enable us to raise our son [Archie] 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 continues. "We look forward to sharing the full details of this exciting next step in due course, as we continue to collaborate with Her Majesty The Queen, The Prince of Wales, The Duke of Cambridge and all relevant parties. Until then, please accept our deepest thanks for your continued support."

For more on the couple, watch below.