Prince Harry and Meghan Markle have had a chaotic, controversial 2020. In January they announced that they were stepping down as working royals, and since then speculation about the reasons for taking such a dramatic step has been rife. The Duke and Duchess kept quiet as they moved around, going from Britain to Canada to California. But anonymous sources have offered up some insight.
It was thought at first that Harry and Meghan would stay in Canada for a while. In their initial January statement about stepping down from the royal family, the couple said, “We now plan to balance our time between the United Kingdom and North America, continuing to honor our duty to The Queen, the Commonwealth, and our patronages.”
The statement went on, “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.” And Meghan had some very strong ties to Canada as well, so it seemed ideal.
Though Meghan is of course American rather than Canadian, she’s spent a lot of time in the country. Indeed, she spent six whole years in Toronto while she was starring on the TV series Suits. And Canada played host to part of Harry’s courtship of her too. The two attended the Invictus Games there in 2017.
Even before the January announcement, Canada seemed to have a good relationship with Harry and Meghan. When the pair visited the country in December 2019 Prime Minister Justin Trudeau tweeted out, “Prince Harry, Meghan, and Archie, we’re all wishing you a quiet and blessed stay in Canada. You’re among friends, and always welcome here.”
And it seemed like they genuinely were welcome. Regarding Harry and Meghan’s move, Canadian newspaper Globe and Mail said that the couple had “sparked the type of change in which everybody wins” and said their decision to step down from the royal family was a “fairy-tale ending” and a “power move.”
It also appeared that Harry and Meghan would be able to escape media intrusion in Canada. In mid-January the BBC website noted in an article, “Although Canadian media has certainly taken a keen interest in their exploits here, Canada just doesn’t have the same tabloid culture or paparazzi as Britain or the U.S.”
The paparazzi and tabloid reporting had long been a problem for Meghan and Harry. In October 2019 Meghan had given an emotional interview to journalist Tom Bradby and had said of the media scrutiny, “The biggest thing that I know is that I never thought that this would be easy, but I thought it would be fair.”
Stories that seemed to paint Meghan in a bad light had popped up frequently in the media. To give one example, in November 2018 a rumor had spread that Meghan had made Kate Middleton cry after arguing with her about a bridesmaid dress for her daughter Princess Charlotte. The two women, the media claimed, were feuding.
At about the same time there were stories in the tabloid press about Meghan being rude to palace staff. In December 2018 an anonymous source told The Sun newspaper that Meghan had overstepped boundaries with Kate’s own courtiers, allegedly causing Kate to tell her, “That’s unacceptable, they’re my staff and I speak to them.”
Indeed, in April 2020 Harry and Meghan made another important announcement, this one regarding the media. Via their representatives, they sent a statement to British tabloids including the Daily Mail and The Sun. The Duke and Duchess would be freezing out those newspapers and not engaging with them.
The statement read, “It is gravely concerning that an influential slice of the media, over many years, has sought to insulate themselves from taking accountability for what they say or print – even when they know it to be distorted, false, or invasive beyond reason. When power is enjoyed without responsibility, the trust we all place in this much-needed industry is degraded.”
It was clear that Harry and Meghan were very, very keen to live quieter lives away from the media’s glare. Canada seemed like the perfect location for them – but then all of a sudden it wasn’t. At the beginning of March 2020 a source suggested to People magazine that another move would shortly be happening.
And by March 27 it was confirmed.An anonymous insider told The Sun – one of the newspapers to whom Harry and Meghan were no longer speaking – that the couple had moved quickly as recent global events had been forcing the issue: non-essential travel was about to have been restricted between borders.
According to the insider, “Harry and Meghan have left Canada now for good. The borders were closing and flights were stopping. They had to get out. But this move was planned for some time. They realized Canada would not work out for various reasons and they want to be based in the Los Angeles area.”
The anonymous person said, “They have a big support network there. It’s where their new team of Hollywood agents and PRs and business managers are based. Meghan has lots of friends there and, of course, her mum Doria.” And also, according to The Sun, the wider royal family had been “horrified” by the move.
Although the Duke and Duchess kept quiet, one person who had plenty to share about the move was royal correspondent Katie Nicholl. On March 31 she told the CBC website via email, “They were always heading to L.A. That was the master plan. I think with North America shutting down… they decided to move to California sooner.”
Nicholl went on, “Meghan wants to be near her mom, which is understandable at this time, and they clearly have projects in the pipeline and wanted to get to L.A. as quickly as possible.” Meghan is reportedly very close to her mother Doria, who lives in Los Angeles, and Harry considers her a friend as well.
Other royal experts spoke about the move to CBC too, and the subject of Prince Charles’ recent health issues came up. Biographer Penny Junor said, “Harry must, of course, be anxious about his father and his grandparents. But equally, Meghan’s mother is in L.A. It must have been a tough choice, but having made their decision to step back, it would have been difficult to reverse that decision so quickly in order to show solidarity.”
And Nicholl said, “With the royals in isolation, there isn’t much they can do, although I suspect Harry will probably be feeling far from home right now. They won’t want to take any risks by traveling, and their priority is to keep Archie settled and in a routine. I think they will come to the U.K. when it is safer to do so.”
Nicholl had plenty more to say about Harry and Meghan, it transpired. On May 23 the royal expert told Australian news website 9Honey that although Meghan had been “used to being photographed” and “famous in her own right” before joining the royal family, she still hadn’t been prepared for the levels of press intrusion she had experienced.
According to Nicholl, “There was this suggestion that [Meghan] would be able to handle the press attention and find her way in the spotlight because of her previous experience. Whereas actually, I think what she encountered was almost impossible to prepare for and certainly her experience as a B-List actress wasn’t going to stand her in [good] stead for suddenly becoming the most famous woman in the world.”
Comparing Meghan and her sister-in-law, Nicholl said, “[Kate] did have a tough time with the press in the early days but I think in Meghan’s case it does seem to be the case where she couldn’t do anything right – from her color of her nail varnish to how much she patted her bump, to the clothes that she wore to being overly hands-on and hugging people – she seemed to ruffle feathers with whatever she was doing.”
But Nicholls wasn’t done there either. On May 24 she wrote an article which appeared in newspaper The Sunday Times titled “The great escape: Prince Harry and Meghan’s new life in L.A.” It went into detail about the Duke and Duchess’s sudden move and included some intriguing quotes from friends of the couple.
Nicholl noted in the article that Canada had seemed like a good place for Harry and Meghan to settle in initially. However, she claimed, “After the Queen made it clear that a half-in, half-out attachment to the royal family was not on the cards, it made less sense for them to remain within the realm.”
The royal reporter also commented, “By the time the press got wind of their flit across the border from Canada, Harry and Meghan were already settled in Beverly Hills. The home they are staying in is already a marked upgrade on Frogmore Cottage, the Windsor residence gifted to them by the Queen.”
But living in the lap of luxury wasn’t necessarily helping matters, at least not for the Duke of Sussex. According to one friend, “It’s not easy for Harry. He had a much more established life in England and he doesn’t really know anyone in L.A. I imagine he might be feeling a bit of what Meghan felt over in the U.K.: lonely and directionless.”
Yet Harry and Meghan were finding joy in their young son. Another friend said, “At the moment they are just enjoying watching Archie experience so many milestones. They have spent a lot of time together as a family during the lockdown and it’s been a magical time. Archie is a happy and sweet baby, full of love and joy, and it’s contagious.”
Nicholls claimed in the article that Meghan had simply been unhappy at Windsor. The Duchess, she said, “found the protocols and cautious pace of palace life increasingly frustrating, while courtiers —some of whom she feared were briefing against her — found her West-Coast idiosyncrasies, such as sending dawn emails to staff, jarring.”
Stories of Meghan annoying her staff by sending emails had indeed spread. That had seemingly been another nail in the coffin. According to another friend who spoke to Nicholls, “She was convinced there was a conspiracy against her and so she basically put herself in isolation when they moved to Frogmore.”
The friend went on, “I think [Meghan] felt like an outsider from the start. This wasn’t the life she was used to and she wanted out.” Another friend added, “One of the things she struggled with was not earning an income. She has always worked and I think she felt unfulfilled. Having financial freedom was a big part of them wanting to leave.”
The Duke and Duchess have already started making money. Meghan has embarked on a new career of sorts as a voiceover artist, and has already narrated a documentary about elephants for Disney. Both she and her husband are reportedly pulling in at least $1 million per event just for speaking engagements.
People seem optimistic about Harry and Meghan’s new path in life. CEO of the Queen’s Commonwealth Trust Nicola Brentnall told Nicholl, “I don’t think anything has changed with them being in the U.S. because they are committed to the young people we are supporting. The Queen gave her blessing for them to continue these roles and I think this can work.”
Plenty was made about Meghan’s alleged haughty behavior before the Duke and Duchess left Britain – but it transpired later on that much of it most likely wasn’t true. Regarding the apparent issues with staff, a source told the Elle magazine’s website in January 2019 that Meghan’s employees didn’t have any problems with her at all.
And as for the relationship between Meghan and Kate, apparently that wasn’t what it was reported to be either. Another royal source told Elle, “The stories of the two duchesses having a major ongoing feud are just overblown. They have enormous respect for each other and are both devoted to representing Her Majesty in the humanitarian and charitable work they do.”
Many people think racism played a factor in the media treatment of Meghan and thus her desire to leave the country. Newspaper the Daily Star had a headline in November 2016 which read, “Harry to marry into gangster royalty? New love ‘from crime-ridden neighborhood.’” At the same time the Daily Mail said Meghan was “(almost) straight outta Compton” and called her home “gang-scarred.”
At the time, Prince Harry called this out. His representative released a statement in 2016 saying that Meghan had been “subject to a wave of abuse and harassment” and added that “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.”
When the Black Lives Matter campaign gained worldwide attention in 2020, some newspapers republished comments Meghan had made about racism in 2012. But a few of these were the same ones Meghan and Harry had cut off. Royal expert Marlene Koenig spoke to the website Insider about the matter in June.
Koenig said, “I think it is a bit much for the tabloids, who have used Meghan as a whipping boy for more than two years, to highlight her messages about racism as the papers have no interest in acknowledging their roles [in] the unfavorable, sometimes racist coverage. It is a bit rich, actually.”
It now remains to be seen if Meghan and Harry can maintain a life away from the tabloids. If they do remain in Los Angeles they will still be pursued by the press there, no matter what else the city has to offer. And though many insiders have spoken out, they themselves haven’t done so yet. Maybe they will in the months to come.