A year ago today, Meghan Markle and Prince Harry changed the royal family forever when they posted a 195-word statement revealing their plans to quit.
In the weeks that followed, the Duke and Duchess worked with their furious family as well as staff and charities to work out the logistics of the “progressive new role within the institution” they were determined to take.
It wasn’t until March 9 that they officially turned their back on their senior duties when they joined the royal family for one final engagement – the Commonwealth Day Service at Westminster Abbey.
They also carried out several goodbye engagements behind the scenes, and Meghan gave a tearful final speech as she prepared to head back to Canada.
Omid Scobie was one of a small group of journalists invited to the private meeting with Association of Commonwealth Universities scholars – during which Meghan spoke to students about their work on subjects including climate change.
He writes about the emotional day in his bombshell autobiography, Finding Freedom, which hit the shelves last year.
He claims that after the speech, she chatted to people individually and hugged him, uttering the heartbreaking words: “It didn’t have to be this way.”
Recalling the day, Omid writes: “Staff who had been with the couple from day one were mourning the end of what was supposed to be a happy story: two people fall in love, get married, have a baby, serve the Queen, the end. Instead, they were leaving the country.
“As Meghan gave me a final hug goodbye, she said, ‘It didn’t have to be this way’.”
Meghan also said emotional goodbyes ahead of the Commonwealth Day service, but still found humour as she made a last joke about her hat.
In Finding Freedom, Omid and his co-author Carolyn Durand describe what happened on that historical day.
They write: “Harry quietly slipped through the door of the 1844 Room to say hello, and the reality – and the emotions – finally set in.
“Meghan turned around to hug goodbye the last remaining people in the room, including an author of this book.
“With the state room almost empty except for a few familiar faces, the tears the duchess has been holding back were free to flow.
“She embraced some of the dedicated team members whose tireless efforts – to promote the couple’s work, launch landmark projects, and deal with the near-daily crisis brought on by the tabloids – had come to an abrupt end.
“‘I can’t believe this’, she said, hugging one of the young female aides she had become close with.
“Though Team Sussex was a much smaller operation than the more sophisticated offices at Clarence House and Kensington Palace, in the short space of a year since setting up, they had become like family.”
Meghan then went to change into the stunning green outfit she chose for the historical event, joking with staff that it was her “last hat for a while”.
After their final engagements, Meghan and Harry returned to Canada, however they decided to make another move shortly before the world was thrown into lockdown due to the pandemic.
They have now bought a beautiful 9-bedroom family home in Montecito, Santa Barbara, which set them back £11.1m.
They moved in July after taking out a £7.25m mortgage and getting some financial help from Prince Charles.
While the price tag might look huge, it seems Meghan and Harry may have actually picked up a bargain as it’s said to actually be worth closer to £20m.
One of the downsides of their new home will be living a 90-minute drive from Meghan’s mum Doria, who they are very close to, but the mansion has its own two-bed guest house so Archie’s nan will always have somewhere to stay.
Montecito is a popular area with celebrities, and Meghan and Harry have a lot of very famous neighbours – including several of their close friends.
Oprah lives in a huge $90million home in nearby, with huge lawns and a stunning sea view.
Meanwhile Ellen DeGeneres, who visited Meghan and Harry at their Windsor home shortly after Archie was born, has several homes in the area.