Tuesday, March 31, marks the final day of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle's life as senior members of the royal family. The Duke and Duchess of Sussex announced earlier this year their intention to step down from their royal roles, to split their time between North America and the United Kingdom, and to become financially independent from the royal family.
This was an unprecedented move and one which required several meetings between Harry and other senior members of his family, including Queen Elizabeth II, Prince Charles, and Prince William, but it's certainly not the first time the pair has made history during their time as a royal couple.
Just recently, after spending some time in Canada, the couple has relocated to Los Angeles. "It was always their plan to eventually be based in California since their work life will be focused in the US," a source told ET.
And on Monday, the couple shared their last Instagram post on the @Sussex Royal account, thanking their followers and supporters. "While you may not see us here, the work continues," they wrote. "Until then, please take good care of yourselves, and of one another."
As they go out on their own, here are some of Harry and Meghan's most groundbreaking moments as royals:
From the start of their public romance, Prince Harry made history defending his then-girlfriend against racist and hateful comments. In November 2016, the Duke of Sussex called his future bride his "girlfriend," thus publicly confirming their rumored relationship and using his position to defend her and protect her safety.
"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."
For their wedding day in 2018, Meghan and Harry chose to make modern, progressive statements. Highlighting diversity and inclusion, the historic day featured the Kingdom Choir gospel group, the spirited Bishop Michael Bruce Curry, the first African American head of the Episcopal Church, and a cello solo by Sheku Kanneh-Mason, the first black musician to win the BBC’s Young Musician of the Year Award.
Birth of Archie
Bucking tradition, the couple chose not to stay in London for the 2019 birth of their son, Archie. Instead, they stayed in Windsor, England, opting to not have a traditional photo op outside of the hospital like Kate Middleton and Princess Diana before them. Instead, Harry gave a touching interview just hours after the birth while standing in front of the stables in Windsor. Several days later, the couple spoke to the press within Windsor Castle while cradling their newborn son.
"It's magic. It's pretty amazing. I have the two best guys in the world so I'm really happy," Meghan said at the time.
Bringing Diversity to the Royal Family
During their 2019 Royal Tour of Africa, Meghan proudly referred to herself as a “sister” and “woman of color” for the first time since joining the royal family. In the subsequent documentary, Harry & Meghan: An African Journey, Meghan opened up about her decision to use this phrasing.
"When I made the choice to add those words into the speech, it was really at the last minute, and I said to Harry, 'What do you think if I add this in? I don't know. It just felt right.' And he very kindly and supportively said, 'If that's what feels right, then that's what you should say.' Because it's true," Meghan said. "Before I was part of this family, that's how I identified, with people and connection, as a mother now, as a wife now, but just as a woman of color, which has been brought to the forefront in a more prominent way."
Talking Gender Equality
Not only does Meghan champion causes that empower women, she's also encouraged her husband to do the same. In October 2019, the pair joined forces for a meeting of The Queen's Commonwealth Trust and One Young World.
"In terms of gender equality, which is something I have championed for quite a long time, I think that that conversation can't happen without men being a part of it," Meghan told the group at the time. "This is something that is also key to the way my husband feels. He's been working in this space since 2013, which a lot of of people don't notice as much. But I think that's what's really important. You can't have a conversation about women's empowerment with just women."
While most members of the royal family choose a more reserved approach, the couple has had no problem holding hands, wrapping their arms around one another, and even sharing kisses in public. Though this doesn't go against royal protocol, it certainly is outside the norm. The couple is often compared to Prince William and Kate Middleton, who rarely show any affection in public.
Going Public With Vulnerability
No members of the royal family have been quite so publicly candid about their feelings as Harry and Meghan. In the documentary special Harry & Meghan: An African Journey, the duke and duchess opened up about their struggles in their lives as royals, which many saw as a foreshadowing to their ultimate exit.
"Any woman, especially when they are pregnant, you are really vulnerable, so that was made really challenging," Meghan said in the special. "And then when you have a newborn, and especially as a woman, it is a lot… So you add this on top of just trying to be a new mom or trying to be a newlywed, I guess thank you for asking, because not many people have asked if I am OK. But it’s a very real thing to be going through behind the scenes."
In the documentary, Harry also opened up about struggling with the loss of his mother, Princess Diana.
"I think [the grief is] probably [like] a wound that festers. 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," he said. "So in that respect, it's the worst reminder of her life, as opposed to the best," Harry explained.
Standing Up to the Tabloids
Following the 1997 death of Princess Diana, her youngest son, Harry, has taken a no-nonsense attitude when it comes to invasions of privacy.
In addition to releasing a statement slamming those tabloids who attacked Meghan early on, the couple joined forces after the birth of their first child, Archie, announcing their intention of suing Associated Newspapers, owners of the Daily Mail and Mail on Sunday, for allegedly printing false rumors about Meghan and her family.
Here's more on Harry and Meghan's life now that they've stepped down from their duties as royals: