Prince Harry and Meghan Markle Started Plotting Royal Exit Far Sooner Than We Thought

Discussions began just six months after their wedding, an expert says.

Prince Harry Meghan Markle
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Looking back, at least publicly, we began to sense unease between the Sussexes and the royal family around the time of their visit to South Africa in September 2019. Only four months later, Prince Harry and Meghan Markle famously stepped back as working royals, and it has been a bit of a rollercoaster ever since.

But, according to longtime royal biographer Andrew Morton, speaking recently on “Pod Save the Queen,” the couple planned their exit from royal life far sooner than we thought—just six months after their royal wedding in May 2018, The Mirror reports.

“Harry was having conversations in a London hotel with Oprah Winfrey back in November 2018, just six months after they’d been married,” Morton says. “So, they were thinking about a different direction of travel pretty early on.”

It’s a position Morton says is ironic, as it seemed as though, while Prince William and Kate Middleton were being set up to run the U.K., Harry and Meghan were positioned to become global royals, ambassadors to the rest of the world.

“The irony is they had been given the keys to the first-class lounge when Prince Harry was given the position of Youth Ambassador to the Commonwealth,” Morton says. “This was effectively the Queen’s way of saying ‘you do the rest of the world, leave William and Catherine to do the U.K., where they will eventually be the Heads of State.'”

In the same interview, Morton says that Harry saw his marriage to Meghan as his way out of the royal family.

“They were thinking about living in New Zealand, and they even spoke to the Prime Minister of New Zealand about this,” he says. “So, they had all kinds of plots and thoughts for their future. It didn’t work out because, when it actually comes down to it, Prince Harry is cursed with charisma but hates being a prince, and I think that he saw Meghan as a way out. They didn’t have to leave the royal family in the way that they did, but they did.”

He also added that the Queen—who herself took time away from the day-to-day grind of royal life when she and husband Prince Philip lived in Malta—would have been understanding if the Sussexes wanted to take a break, rather than step away entirely.

“The Queen has always been very understanding of anybody who wants to step back for a few years and just enjoy family life,” Morton says. “Because you’re a long time being a royal.”

Rachel Burchfield
Senior Celebrity and Royals Editor

Rachel Burchfield is a writer, editor, and podcaster whose primary interests are fashion and beauty, society and culture, and, most especially, the British Royal Family and other royal families around the world. She serves as Marie Claire’s Senior Celebrity and Royals Editor and has also contributed to publications like Allure, Cosmopolitan, Elle, Glamour, Harper’s Bazaar, InStyle, People, Vanity Fair, Vogue, and W, among others. Before taking on her current role with Marie Claire, Rachel served as its Weekend Editor and later Royals Editor. She is the cohost of Podcast Royal, a show that was named a top five royal podcast by The New York Times. A voracious reader and lover of books, Rachel also hosts I’d Rather Be Reading, which spotlights the best current nonfiction books hitting the market and interviews the authors of them. Rachel frequently appears as a media commentator, and she or her work has appeared on outlets like NBC’s Today Show, ABC’s Good Morning America, CNN, and more.