What a 2020 it was for the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, who – even taking Covid out of the equation – have gone through one of the most tumultuous and life-changing years one can imagine.
With the announcement they were leaving their roles as senior members of the Royal Family and moving to North America, the Sussexes were among the family’s most headline-making members this year. Let’s take a look back at their busy 2020.
After spending six weeks of quiet family time in Canada, the Sussexes kicked off the new year with a visit to Canada House in London on 7 January to thank the High Commissioner for the hospitality they received in Vancouver. They also made a private visit to the Hubb Community Kitchen to catch up with the women Meghan worked with on Together, Our Community Cookbook.
Just a day later, Harry and Meghan made headlines around the world as they announced they would be stepping down as senior royals. Their statement, initially shared on Instagram and pointing people to a new Sussex Royal website, expressed the couple’s desire “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 Buckingham Palace apparently not consulted about the details before the couple launched their departure plan, a “Sandringham Summit” was called to discuss the couple’s future. The Queen, Prince Charles, Prince William and Prince Harry (Meghan had returned to Canada) met at Sandringham on the 13th to hash out a plan for the Sussexes’ exit.
On 15 January, Prince Harry starred in a video message announcing that the 2022 Invictus Games would take place in Düsseldorf, Germany.
The following day, Harry made another video announcement, sharing the launch of the Rugby League World Cup 2021 Mental Fitness Charter, a new initiative to “champion the importance of good mental fitness and create sustainable legacy the sport can be proud of.”
Meanwhile, back in England, final arrangements were made for the couple’s future. On the 18th, The Queen released a statement sharing that she recognised “the challenges they have experienced as a result of intense scrutiny over the last two years and support their wish for a more independent life.”
As part of the deal, Harry lost his official military appointments, and the couple will no longer be able to use their HRH titles or receive public funding for their duties. It also was announced Harry would pay back the £2.4 million renovation costs on Frogmore Cottage.
Following the announcement, Harry attended a dinner in London for supporters of his charity Sentebale and made a deeply personal speech, which the Sussexes shared on Instagram. He shared his “great sadness that it has come to this” and expressed that “there really was no other option” other than to step back and have “a more peaceful life.”
The Duke of Sussex met with leaders from Malawi, Mozambique, and Morocco during the UK-Africa Investment Summit the next morning, discussing issues such as the environment, renewable energy, jobs, and tourism.
The Sussexes shared a photo on their Instagram account on 22 January showing a private visit Meghan made earlier in the month to animal charity Mayhew, one of her patronages.
Back in Canada, Meghan was photographed in a local park with Archie and the family’s dogs, leading the couple’s lawyers to send a warning letter to the paparazzi.
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Early February was largely quiet on the Sussex front, with the family enjoying their new life in Vancouver.
On the 13th, the Sussexes shared a behind-the-scenes video on their Instagram account featuring Meghan and British Vogue‘s Edward Enninful. The conversation centers around the “Forces For Change” issue Meghan guest edited, which was the fastest-selling issue in the history of the publication.
The final details of Harry and Meghan’s departure agreement were released on the Sussex Royal website, including that their revised role would undergo a 12-month review.
Back in the UK to complete his final engagements as a senior royal, the Duke of Sussex spoke at a travel summit in Edinburgh in his role with Travalyst, the sustainable travel initiative Harry launched in 2019.
Harry ended the month on a high note (literally) when he joined Bon Jovi to record a charity single for the Invictus Games Foundation at Abbey Road Studios, posing for a photo on the iconic crosswalk outside after the session.
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With Meghan arriving in the UK, the couple started the new month and their last series of official engagements by jointly attending the annual Endeavour Fund Awards on the 5th, honouring “the achievements of those veterans injured in service who have taken part in remarkable sporting and adventure challenges over the last year.”
On the 6th, Harry was joined by Formula One champ Lewis Hamilton to open The Silverstone Experience, “a brand-new immersive museum that tells the story of the past, present and future of British motor racing.” The same day, Meghan, who serves as patron of the National Theatre, visited their Immersive Storytelling Studio to see how virtual reality is being used to develop new forms of emotive storytelling.
The Sussexes stunned on the red carpet as they attended the Mountbatten Festival of Music at the Royal Albert Hall on 7 March. Harry wore his uniform as Captain-General of the Royal Marines and looked close to tears while receiving a standing ovation during the event, which marked the 75th anniversary of the end of WWII and the 80th anniversary of the formation of Britain’s Commandos.
International Women’s Day was marked by the Duchess of Sussex on the 8th when she visited a school in Dagenham. Speaking at a special assembly, she said, ”I encourage and empower each of you to really stand in your truth, to stand for what is right – to continue to respect each other.”
Harry and Meghan carried out their final engagement as senior royals when they participated in the Commonwealth Day service at Westminster Abbey on 9 March, joining The Queen, the Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, and the Earl and Countess of Wessex. Prior to the service, Meghan met with a group of scholars in her role as patron of the Association of Commonwealth Universities, marking her last solo engagement.
Saying goodbye to Vancouver, the Sussex family settled down in Meghan’s hometown of Los Angeles following their return from Britain. It was widely reported that the couple was eager to move before the U.S./Canadian border closed due to the worsening COVID-19 pandemic.
The Sussexes released a statement confirming they had “no plans to ask the US government for security resources” after President Donald Trump posted a tweet on 29 April raising concerns about who would pay for the couple’s security.
The couple said goodbye to Instagram and thanked their followers on 30 March, posting a farewell message on their official account. It read, in part, “While you may not see us here, the work continues.”
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April 1 marked the start of Harry and Meghan’s new life outside of official royal duties, and it was in with Archewell and out with Sussex Royal when the name of the couple’s new nonprofit was trademarked. The couple said in a statement: “Before SussexRoyal, came the idea of ‘Arche’—the Greek word meaning ‘source of action.’ We connected to this concept for the charitable organization we hoped to build one day, and it became the inspiration for our son’s name.”
The Sussexes reached out to nurses and parents of children with serious illnesses to hear how they were coping with the pandemic during a video chat with charity WellChild, one of Harry’s longtime patronages.
Harry and Meghan sent letters to the editors of four UK tabloids (The Sun, Daily Mail, Express and Mirror) saying they will no longer cooperate with their publications. In their statement, released on 19 April, the couple said they had made the move due to “distorted, false or invasive” stories.
Meghan gave Good Morning America a preview of “Elephant,” the Disney+ documentary she narrated on the 20th, saying how she was “very lucky to have hands-on experience with elephants in their natural habitat.”
Harry took on a fun new role when it was announced he would star in a new Thomas the Tank Engine episode with a royal theme, sharing “I certainly have fond memories of growing up with Thomas & Friends and being transported to new places through his adventures.”
The Duchess of Sussex ended April by joining in a video call with her patronage Smart Works, praising them for their work during the pandemic and taking part in a session with a client who was preparing for an interview.
The first of the month started with some bad news for the Sussexes when they lost the first round of their case against Associated Newspapers, the publisher of the Mail on Sunday. The couple did not appeal the decision but carried on with their copyright infringement battle.
The publication of a new tell-all book about the Sussexes was announced in early May, with royal reporters Omid Scobie and Carolyn Durand co-writing the biography to be released in August 2020.
Archie celebrated his first birthday on 6 May and an adorable video of Meghan reading the book “Duck! Rabbit!” to him was released in support of two charities, Save the Children and No Kid Hungry.
Prince Harry was busy making video appearances on the 9th, 10th and 11th, honouring OnSide Youth Zones in a message played during the charity’s virtual awards programme, recording a special message on what would have been the day of the Invictus Games’ opening ceremony, and appearing on BBC’s The One Show to share stories from WWII veterans in honour of VE Day.
The Duke and Duchess of Sussex celebrated their second anniversary quietly at home on 19 May, while Royal Central took a look back at the special day.
The incredible work by the landmine clearing charity The HALO Trust was recognised by Prince Harry when he wrote a letter praising their staff, calling COVID-19 “a disease that recognises no frontlines.”
Harry ended May by participating in a video call with young volunteers from Street Games and Sport at the Heart, hearing more about the virtual activities and support they’ve been providing to their communities during the lockdown.
Meghan touched on the Black Lives Matter movement in early June when she delivered a virtual commencement speech to her former school, Immaculate Heart High School in Los Angeles. “I realised the only wrong thing to say is to say nothing because George Floyd’s life mattered and Breonna Taylor’s life mattered, and Philando Castile’s life mattered, and Tamir Rice’s life mattered,” she said.
Prince Harry sent a letter of thanks to Team Rubicon for delivering meals across London from the Hubb Community Kitchen, the kitchen supported by Meghan through her cookbook project. “At a time when there is so much uncertainty and isolation, to see the coming together of organisations my wife and I champion so strongly was truly humbling,” he wrote.
Harry and Meghan spent some time in the kitchen on 23 June while volunteering with Homeboy Industries, an organisation that offers rehab and re-entry programmes to former gang members and the previously incarcerated.
The Sussexes ended the month by signing a deal with the Harry Walker Agency, the same speaking agency representing the Clintons and Obamas.
The Duke of Sussex honoured the accomplishments of young people during the virtual Diana Awards ceremony on 1 July, what would have been his mother’s 59th birthday.
The same day, Harry and Meghan took part in an online discussion about equality in their roles as president and vice president of The Queen’s Commonwealth Trust.
On 14 July, Meghan participated in the virtual Girl Up Leadership Summit, encouraging young women to “use your own voices to drown out the noise.”
Later in the month, the Sussexes filed an invasion of privacy lawsuit over pictures of Archie that were taken via drone and helicopters over their property.
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The Duchess of Sussex celebrated her 39th birthday on 4 August and a day later won a court battle to keep the identity of her friends private as potential witnesses in her case against Associated Newspapers..
Meghan confirmed she would vote in the upcoming U.S. election during an event for Marie Claire, making history as the first member of the Royal Family to do so. “I know what it’s like to have a voice, and also what it’s like to feel voiceless,” she shared.
The anticipated Sussex biography Finding Freedom was released on 11 August and Royal Central spoke with author Omid Scobie about the headline-making book.
Mid-month, the couple joined an online discussion about social media and the power of online communities with The Queen’s Commonwealth Trust.
The Duchess of Sussex stressed the importance of voting during an online event titled the “When All Women Vote Couch Party.” Meghan shared that “if you don’t vote, you don’t have a right to complain,” later adding, “We all know what’s at stake this year.”
With many children in America heading back to school virtually, the Sussexes helped out by distributing school supplies to at-need families during a drive-through event on behalf of the nonprofit Baby2Baby.
Meghan recorded a relaxed video interview in the garden of activist and author Gloria Steinem for the organisation MAKERS, with the two discussing women’s representation and the importance of young people voting.
Prince Harry participated in a video chat with players and volunteers to celebrate the Rugby Football League’s 125th anniversary on 29 August and hosted a special birthday quiz.
August ended with a big announcement when it was shared that Prince Harry and his brother would unveil a statue of their mother on 1 July 2021 to mark what would have been her 60th birthday. On the anniversary of her passing, 31 August, Harry and Meghan volunteered at a preschool and planted her favourite flowers, Forget-Me-Nots.
The month started with a bang when the couple announced a major Netflix deal. The Sussexes are set to produce documentaries, docu-series and children’s programming “that informs but also gives hope.”
New legal action was launched against Splash News and Picture Agency when the duchess sued them in early September for breach of privacy. The lawsuit involved the photographs that were taken of her walking in a Canadian park with Archie back in January.
The Sussexes agreed they would repay the £2.4 million renovation costs on Frogmore Cottage when they decided to step back as senior royals, and in September a statement released by the couple’s office confirmed they paid back the full amount.
Meghan participated in a video call with her patronage Smart Works to celebrate the one-year-anniversary of her capsule collection, the Smart Set.
The Duke of Sussex celebrated his 36th birthday on 15 September and the couple made a $130,000 donation to charity CAMFED, matching the amount raised by fans of the couple in honour of their birthdays.
The Duchess of Sussex issued a statement in the wake of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s death, calling her “a human of deep conviction.”
During a video for TIME 100, the Sussexes discussed the importance of voting, with Harry saying “it’s vital that we reject hate speech, misinformation, and online negativity.”
Amid comments that the Sussexes were interfering in the U.S. election by making remarks seemingly against President Donald Trump, Buckingham Palace issued a statement saying, “The Duke is not a working member of the Royal Family and any comments he makes are made in a personal capacity.”
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Kicking off Black History Month in the UK, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex sat down for a video interview with the Evening Standard and also penned an editorial for the publication to share their Black History Month Next Gen Trailblazers list.
The London Marathon took place virtually for 2020 and Prince Harry recorded a video message for those participating. He also was able to surprise runners living in Los Angeles with a socially-distanced visit. Harry, who is an ambassador for the marathon, chatted with husband-and-wife runners Mark and Chudney Espiritu and learned about Mark’s cancer journey and how running changed his life.
Harry and Meghan appeared on the podcast Teenager Therapy to discuss mental health during the pandemic in light of World Mental Health Day on 10 October. During the episode, Meghan shared how it felt to be one of the most trolled people in the world and things they do to look after their own well-being, such as meditation.
To mark the International Day of the Girl, the Sussexes chatted with activist Malala Yousafzai and shared their thoughts on education, especially for girls, and how they’ve been handling the pandemic. “Having the privilege of being able to go to school is something that, I think, oftentimes is taken for granted,” the Duchess shared.
Sharing how she thinks social media has become “unhealthy for a lot of people,” the Duchess of Sussex was interviewed for the Fortune Most Powerful Women Next Gen Summit on 13 October.
The Sussexes took part in the TIME magazine “Time100 Talks” series on 20 October, discussing how to create a healthier digital environment amidst “a global crisis of hate” and giving a preview of some of what they hope to achieve with their new nonprofit, Archewell.
The couple’s Archewell website was launched on the 21st, with Archewell.com featuring a simple background with contact information and an email newsletter signup form.
Prince Harry wrapped up the month by participating in a video conversation with British GQ and Black Lives Matter activist Patrick Hutchinson, where Harry spoke with him about how to further anti-racism. The Duke also admitted that he initially had “no idea” what unconscious bias was due to his upbringing and that his wife’s experiences helped him learn more about the topic.
October ended with a High Court Judge approving a request by the Duchess of Sussex to delay her privacy trial (originally planned for January 2021) until Autumn 2021 for “confidential reasons.”
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With Remembrance Sunday in the UK and Veterans Day in America both taking place in November, the Duke of Sussex took part in a special episode of the podcast Declassified talking about the importance of his time in the military. “Being able to wear my uniform, being able to stand up in service of one’s country, these are amongst the greatest honours there are in life,” he said on the episode.
Normally, the Duke of Sussex would take part in Remembrance Day services in London, but he found a way to honour military veterans close to home. The Duke and Duchess visited the Los Angeles National Cemetery on 8 November and laid flowers from their garden on the graves of two Commonwealth soldiers.
On the 12th, Harry packed and distributed food parcels with Compton Veterans, a Los Angeles group that helps local veterans who are homeless or experiencing hardships.
Continuing in the spirit of honouring veterans, the Duke of Sussex then made a very fun video appearance on Strictly Come Dancing to support his friend JJ Chalmers, a contestant on the show. Harry said he was “so proud” of his friend, an Invictus Games medalist and wounded former Royal Marines Commando.
Just before celebrating their first American Thanksgiving, Meghan published a heartfelt op-ed piece in the New York Times titled “The Losses We Share.” In the article, she discussed her thoughts on the past year and also revealed a very personal loss: that she suffered a miscarriage in July. Royal Central’s editor in chief shared his thoughts on the stark contrast between the reaction to Meghan’s loss and the one experienced by Zara Tindall.
Finally, Harry closed out November by attending a virtual discussion to launch WaterBear, a new streaming service for climate documentaries.
As 2020 came to a close, we saw several big announcements from the Sussexes. The month kicked off with Harry filing a libel action against the Mail on Sunday. The lawsuit, which he won later in the month, was due to an article published that alleged that the Duke failed to maintain contact with the Royal Marines after he formally stepped down from royal duties.
Later in the month, Meghan made an appearance on “CNN Heroes: An All-Star Tribute,” paying tribute to everyday heroes during the pandemic. The following day, it was announced that Meghan had made an investment in Clevr Blends, a female-founded instant latte startup.
More big news broke just a day later when the Sussexes’ major deal with streaming service Spotify was announced. The couple shared they will be rolling out podcasts “to spotlight diverse perspectives and voices” through their new audio production company, Archewell Audio.
On the 20th, the couple settled their legal claim with Splash U.K. over the paparazzi photos that were published in January of Meghan taking a walk with Archie. The same day, Harry and Meghan’s first project with Archewell was announced: helping fund new community relief centres for non-profit World Central Kitchen, an organisation that helps people in disaster-stricken areas.
The couple released their holiday card two days before Christmas with one of Meghan’s patronages, The Mayhew, sharing the image on their social media accounts. The card featured an adorable illustrated version of a family photo in their garden, complete with the family dogs, Guy and Pula.
Finally, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex donated 100 hats to New Zealand-based Make Give Live in Archie’s name, allowing the social enterprise to “make an extra 200 hats to distribute to families in need next winter through the various charities it supports.”