British Royal Family

Archie's birth, exactly a year ago, was the first major clue that Harry and Meghan were having second thoughts about being in the royal family

Something was brewing, but the world didn't notice a thing.

By Jess Pullar
If you cast your minds back to a year ago, you might remember the late night Palace announcement that sent every royal fan across the world into a state of meltdown.
After a whirlwind pregnancy, countless chic maternity outfits, and a baby bump that couldn't have been watched and scrutinised more, Duchess Meghan finally welcomed her first child with Prince Harry into the world - and suffice to say royal fans were smitten from the get-go.
The announcement came in stages. First, we received word that Meghan was in labour.
Barely an hour later, Sussex Royal shared three simple words in one image: "It's a boy" - and thus began a new, and transformative chapter for the brand new royal parents.
Looking back on that happy time for the pair is like looking through a window into a previous life.
At that stage, Harry and Meghan were fully entrenched in their roles as senior royal family members.
Blissfully wedded, now with a brand new baby son, whose name they later revealed to be Archie Harrison, the Sussex duo were a true force to be reckoned with.
Only, there was something brewing behind the scenes that we, the avid royal watchers, knew nothing about - something only Harry and Meghan were aware of, thinking of and weighing up as the world watched and doted over their newborn baby.
Archie's first photo call strayed from tradition - and it was a sign of things to come. (Chris Allerton / Getty)
A few days after Archie was born, the world revelled when a new image was released of the Queen and Prince Philip meeting Archie for the first time alongside Harry, Meghan and Meghan's mother Doria Ragland.
The picture coincided with the pair's very first photo call, which was set up inside Windsor Castle and involved only a small pool of reporters - one journalist, one videographer and one photographer.
It was different to the other crowd-filled extravaganzas we'd come to know from the likes of Kate Middleton and Princess Diana, after they gave birth to their royal children.
Of course, the world didn't think much of it when considering the simple feat that Meghan had just given birth, and regardless of a roaring crowd, you couldn't complain that this, much quieter way still gave us the clear view of Archie we so desperately wanted to see.
Isn't hindsight a funny thing though?

Looking back at that very first photo call, and the jarring difference between its low-key style compared to the traditional hospital steps visual, it seems we missed a major red flag suggesting the Sussexes had change on their mind.
It soon became clear, though.
Over the next few months, Meghan and Harry stayed notoriously private about their son.
The baby's christening was the next big event that caught our attention.
While Kate, Diana and other royals have been open to making their children's christenings a public affair in part, Meghan went in the opposite direction, choosing to not only make the ceremony and reception private, but also choosing to keep Archie's godparents anonymous.
"Archie Harrison Mountbatten-Windsor will be christened in a small private ceremony by the Archbishop of Canterbury in the Private Chapel at Windsor Castle on Saturday 6th July," a Palace statement read at the time.
"The Duke and Duchess of Sussex look forward to sharing some images taken on the day by photographer Chris Allerton."
That was it - no pomp, no cheer, no nothing apart from a very controlled, very simple statement and photographs.
WATCH: Baby Archie is christened in a royal ceremony. Story continues...
In the hours following the christening, the world was gifted just two simple photos from the day.
One featured the royal family members in attendance, including Kate Middleton in her now-iconic pink Stella McCartney frock.
The other was a more intimate shot of Meghan (wearing a gorgeous white custom Dior creation), Archie and Harry sharing a special moment in the castle grounds.
Again, this very simple and private gesture from the Sussexes was a major hint that they were taking serious stock of their position - and potentially considering whether they really wanted the exposure unwillingly thrust upon them as senior royals.
Harry, Meghan and Archie featured in a stunning image taken at the royal christening. (Chris Allerton / Sussex Royal)
The next few months were largely the same.
Meghan remained on maternity leave until September, after which she made a few sporadic formal appearances with her various royal patronages.
Between these appearances, she certainly continued living out her own, personal agenda.
The world was intrigued one September day when it was revealed she had secretly flown quickly to New York where she saw her close friend Serena Williams play in the US Open tennis finals.
The pair's secretive trip via a private jet to France also resulted in tabloids splashing their 'lavish' endeavours across headlines - a stark contrast to the watered down treatment given to Wills and Kate's private affairs.
In late November, the public was surprised to hear that Harry and Meghan had decided to take a six week hiatus, where they intended to holiday and spend Christmas in Canada.
With Christmas being high time for royal watching (think the Queen's pre-Christmas lunch, the Sandringham church service, and appearances galore for various festive events), it was a little odd to see the such a key part of the senior royal fold be absent at the time.
Harry and Meghan steadily withdrew from the public eye as the year went on. (Getty)
Of course, it all made sense that fateful day on January 8, when Harry and Meghan shared the statement that shocked the world (including key members of the royal family, no less), announcing that they would be stepping back from their roles as senior royals.
"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 pair wrote.
"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."
It was the statement that marked a new era for the royal family, and a brand new chapter for the Sussexes.
They've since begun their formal transition into a financially independant life, having now relocated to Los Angeles and even announcing the name of their new foundation, Archewell, which they intend to work on as they pursue a world outside of their former royal roles.
WATCH: Prince Harry shares an emotional statement after stepping down as a senior royal. Story continues...
Looking at them now, you'd think they were destined for this new life - Meghan is fiercely passionate and knows how to spark action for the greater good. Prince Harry is as influential as ever, and he's never lost his cheeky demeanour and uncanny charm.
But a year ago, things were so different for the pair - they were staring down the barrel at a life of forced smiles no matter the circumstance and being watched with a royal filter rife of expectations seemingly impossible to fulfil.
When you look at it that way, can you really blame them for making the decision to walk away from it all?
Can you really blame them for choosing to take the best parts of their status (the part that can spark postive action and bring to light worthy causes, to be clear) and moving forward with a life outside of the strict royal confines they were painstakingly thrown into two years ago?
Archie's birth on May 6, 2019 was the first signal of a big change for the couple - and it remains to be said: What a difference a year truly makes.