From dating to royal departure: a timeline of Meghan Markle, Prince Harry's relationship

WATCH ABOVE: Buckingham Palace has struck a deal with Prince Harry and Meghan that will allow the couple to step back from royal duties and become financially independent. Crystal Goomansingh explains the terms of the agreement and the reaction to the unprecedented move.

Meghan Markle and Prince Harry recently announced that they will no longer serve as working members of the Royal Family.

In a statement released on Saturday, Buckingham Palace said the pair will be required to “step back from royal duties, including official military appointments,” and will no longer receive public funds for royal duties.

Here is a timeline of the relationship — from their early days as a couple until they took the unprecedented move of stepping aside.

July 2016: They meet in London

It is unclear exactly when they officially began dating, but in an interview with Vanity Fair, Meghan Markle said the couple met in London through friends during the summer of 2016.

Nov. 2016: The Royal Palace makes it official, urges paparazzi to stand down

After months of are-they-or-aren’t-they rumours about the two, Kensington Palace released a public statement in which Markle was referred to as Harry’s girlfriend for the first time.

Earlier that month, the Daily Star Online — a U.K. tabloid — released headlines like, “Prince Harry could marry into gangster royalty — his new love is from a crime-ridden Los Angeles neighbourhood” and “the royal’s future mother-in-law still lives in Crenshaw, surrounded by bloodbath robberies and drug-induced violence.”

In the statement, the Royal Palace revealed Prince Harry was concerned for the safety of his girlfriend, who was subject to a barrage of harsh criticism about her race, family and relationship with Prince Harry from British tabloids.

“The past week has crossed a line,” the statement read. “ girlfriend, Meghan Markle, has been subject to a wave of abuse and harassment. 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.”

“This is not a game — it is her life and his.”

Prince Harry, Meghan will no longer be working members of the royal family

Dec. 14, 2016: Photographed together for the first time

After being spotted shopping for a Christmas tree earlier in December, the Sun, another U.K.-based tabloid, published the first photos ever seen of the couple in London holding hands, admiring Christmas lights.

A few days later, they were seen walking together to see the play, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, in the city’s West End.

“They are both clearly crazy about each other,” a pal reportedly told The Sun. “They’re very serious and have told friends they are very much in love… As an actress, Meghan loves the theatre so this was an obvious date to go on.”

May 2017: A first public appearance

Markle was photographed applauding Prince Harry from the royal box at the Audi Polo Challenge in Ascot, England.

In between matches, the couple was photographed kissing by the U.K.’s Daily Mail.

A royal wedding (just not theirs!)

Later that month, Markle and Prince Harry were spotted at the Middleton family home for the wedding reception of Kate Middleton’s younger sister, Pippa, who got married to financier James Matthews.

She and Harry were photographed driving up to Middleton’s parents’ estate for the wedding, which was off-limits to the press.

Nov. 27, 2017: A royal engagement

Prince Charles released a statement late November announcing Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s engagement.

In the statement, Prince Charles said the two would officially get married in Spring 2018. He also revealed that Prince Harry proposed a week earlier than the announcement and that prior to popping the question, he’d asked Markle’s parents for their permission. Prince Charles added the couple plan to live in Nottingham Cottage at Kensington Palace.

Fuelling the announcement, local media reported Markle had recently left her television show, Suits, and was in the process of moving her rescue dogs, Guy and Bogart, to the U.K.

Both the Queen and her husband, Prince Philip, as well as then-Prime Minister Theresa May, congratulated the couple. Markle’s parents also welcomed the news.

“We are incredibly happy for Meghan and Harry. Our daughter has always been a kind and loving person. To see her union with Harry, who shares the same qualities, is a source of great joy for us as parents,” Markle’s parents, Thomas Markle and Doria Ragland, said in a joint statement.

Shortly after announcing their engagement, the two made their first televised appearance, where they joked around and revealed how Harry proposed.

On a cozy night at the Nottingham Cottage, Markle said the two were having a “cozy” night trying to carve a chicken in the kitchen when Harry got down on one knee and asked her to marry him.

“He got on one knee,” Markle said, adding that she said “yes” instantly. “I could barely let him finish proposing.”

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“It was a really nice moment, it was just the two of us,” Harry said.

May 19, 2018: Markle and Harry get married

The royal couple said “I do” on May 19, at St. George’s Chapel, Windsor Castle, in England. The ceremony was a mix of traditional British pomp with a gospel choir and other nods to her American heritage.

During the ceremony, the Queen officially gave Meghan and Harry their titles as Duke and Duchess of Sussex.

Oct. 15, 2018: A bun in the oven

The Duke and Duchess of Sussex announced their royal pregnancy several months after their wedding.

“Their Royal Highnesses have appreciated all of the support they have received from people around the world since their wedding in May and are delighted to be able to share this happy news with the public,” the couple’s Kensington Palace office said in a statement.

The news emerged shortly after the royal couple landed in Australia for their first overseas tour, a busy trip which also included New Zealand and the South Pacific islands of Tonga and Fiji.

When the world found out about Markle’s pregnancy, British media said she was believed to be about 12 weeks pregnant.

May 6, 2019: Baby Archie is born

Markle and Prince Harry welcomed their son, named Archie Harrison Mountbatten-Windsor, on May 6.

Archie is seventh-in-line to the British throne, behind Prince Charles, Prince William and his children, Prince George, Princess Charlotte and Prince Louis, and then Prince Harry.

Archie joined his parents on their royal tour of Africa in the fall, and made a royal debut in South Africa when he met Archbishop Desmond Tutu.

June 20, 2019: Couple splits from joint charity with Prince William, Kate Middleton

Signs of trouble brewed when Duke and Duchess of Sussex formally parted ways from the charity foundation they shared with the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge that was formed in 2009.

The Royal Foundation announced that Markle and Harry were breaking off to form their own charity organization, while Prince William and Kate Middleton stayed on as the foundation’s leads.

“These changes are designed to best complement the work and responsibilities of Their Royal Highnesses as they prepare for their future roles, and to better align their charitable activity with their new households,” the foundation said in a statement.

Meghan Markle, Prince Harry split from joint charity with Prince William, Kate Middleton

Even though they’re parting ways, the foundation said that both couples will “continue to work together on projects in the future, including on The Foundation’s mental health programme, Heads Together.”

The splitting of the charities and households fuelled rumours that the couples were not as close, and wanted space from one another — a situation Harry addressed in an interview.

Oct. 1, 2019: Markle and Prince Harry sue the tabloids

Towards the end of their African royal tour together, Harry announced a lawsuit against the Mail on Sunday and its parent company, Associated Newspapers, for its “ruthless” campaign against his wife.

“There is a human cost to this relentless propaganda, specifically when it is knowingly false and malicious, and though we have continued to put on a brave face — as so many of you can relate to — I cannot begin to describe how painful it has been,” the statement read.

“There comes a point when the only thing to do is to stand up to this behaviour, because it destroys people and destroys lives. Put simply, it is bullying, which scares and silences people. We all know this isn’t acceptable, at any level. We won’t and can’t believe in a world where there is no accountability for this.”

Prince Harry lost his mother, Princess Diana, after a car crash in Paris on Aug. 31, 1997. His mother was in the rear seat of a Mercedes S280 limo with her lover Dodi Al-Fayed, driver Henri Paul and bodyguard, Trevor Rees-Jones, when Paul sped through the tunnel that lies next to the River Seine, trying to get away from the paparazzi. Rees-Jones was the only survivor.

“My deepest fear is history repeating itself. I’ve seen what happens when someone I love is commoditised to the point that they are no longer treated or seen as a real person,” said Harry. “I lost my mother and now I watch my wife falling victim to the same powerful forces.”

Oct. 18, 2019: Markle opens up about how much she’s been struggling since Archie’s birth

In ITV’s recently released documentary created during the tour, Harry & Meghan: An African Journey, Markle opened up about coping with being in a constant spotlight and being a new mother.

When asked by ITV News at Ten anchor Tom Bradby if it was fair to say that she wasn’t “really OK,” Markle replied, “yes.”

“Not many people have asked if I’m OK … it’s a very real thing to be going through behind the scenes.”

In the documentary, Harry also opened up about his relationship with Prince William, and said they were on “different paths.”

“Inevitably stuff happens, but we’re brothers. We’ll always be brothers,” Harry told Bradby.

Dec. 31, 2019: Markle and Harry spend Archie’s first Christmas in Canada

The couple spent an extended vacation on Vancouver Island, B.C. — rather than with the rest of the royal family in England — for a private family getaway over the holidays.

How the Royal Family does Christmas, from gift giving to turkey dinner

Jan. 8, 2020: Stepping away from royal duties

In an unprecedented move, Markle and Harry announced were going to “step back” from their duties as senior members of the Royal Family.

The Duke and Duchess of Sussex took to Instagram to share the news.

“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,” the statement read. “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.”

In a statement from Buckingham Palace released shortly after Harry and Markle’s, the palace said: “Discussions with the Duke and Duchess of Sussex are at an early stage. We understand their desire to take a different approach, but these are complicated issues that will take time to work through.”

Jan. 18, 2020: No longer working members of the Royal Family

After a week of negotiations with the Queen, Buckingham Palace announced Meghan and Harry would no longer be working members of the royal family.

In a statement released on Saturday, the Palace confirmed the pair will be required to “step back from Royal duties, including official military appointments,” and will no longer receive public funds for royal duties.

“Harry, Meghan and Archie will always be much loved members of my family,” the Queen said in the statement. “I recognize 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.”

— With files from Global News’ Katie Scott, Laura Hensley, Hannah Jackson and Meaghan Wray.

© 2020 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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