The former American actress, who became the Duchess of Sussex when she married Britain’s Prince Harry in May 2018, endured a whirlwind of triumphs and drama this year alongside her husband and their firstborn Archie.
Just days after welcoming the New Year, the couple dropped a bombshell when they announced their exit as prominent roles in Britain’s royal family, which was famously coined “Megxit” by the press, a play on Brexit, Britain’s departure from the European Union.
But the story was only beginning for Markle, 39, and Harry, 36, who were determined to control their image after the couple said they endured intrusive media coverage and racism as new parents.
Here are 15 ways the House of Sussex rocked 2020:
Taking a Step Back
The Duke and Duchess of Sussex kicked off 2020 with a bang when the royal couple announced in early January that they planned “to step back” as senior members of the British royal family. In a statement issued by Buckingham Palace, Markle and Harry revealed they intend to become financially independent while balancing their time between the U.K. and North America.
The pair cited their son Archie as a reason why they decided to live part of their time outside Britain. It is believed that some members of the royal household were taken by surprise by the bombshell announcement.
Living in Canada
By mid-January, Queen Elizabeth II gave the green light for her grandson Harry and his wife Markle to live part-time in Canada. The decision followed a summit at the reigning monarch’s Sandringham estate to discuss the couple’s desire to step back from their royal roles.
Giving Up HRH Titles
In mid-January, Buckingham Palace announced that Harry and Markle will no longer use their “royal highness” titles or receive public funds for their work, allowing them to become more financially independent. Instead, the couple would simply be known as Harry, Duke of Sussex and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex. Harry is still a prince and sixth in line to the throne.
Relocating to Los Angeles
After briefing residing in Canada’s Vancouver Island, the royal family headed to Markle’s native Los Angeles. In March, People magazine reported the trio were previously “looking at houses” in Los Angeles where Markle’s mother, Doria Ragland, also resides.
The former actress previously praised her beloved Los Angeles in her now-defunct lifestyle blog The Tig. “I was born and raised in Los Angeles, a California girl who lives by the ethos that most things can be cured with either yoga, the beach or a few avocados,” she once wrote.
Taking a Post-Royal Job
In March, Disney announced that Marke’s first post-royal job was that of narrator for the documentary “Elephant” on the Disney+ streaming service. The film follows an elephant family on a 1,000-mile journey across the Kalahari Desert.
Speaking Out Against ‘Institutional Racism’
In July, Harry recovered a speech for the Diana Awards, a charity for young people set up to honor his late mother, Princess Diana. In the video message shown in the virtual ceremony, Harry said that “institutional racism has no place in our societies, yet it is still endemic.”
“My wife said recently that our generation and the ones before us haven’t done enough to right the wrongs of the past,” said Harry. “I, too, am sorry – sorry that we haven’t got the world to the place that you deserve it to be.” Markle previously gave a speech in June to students at her old high school in Los Angeles following the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis.
Protecting Their Privacy
In July, Markle and Harry sued to stop the sale and publication of a photo of their son Archie that they say was shot at their home. The royal couple gave a detailed account in the lawsuit of the media harassment they say they’ve had to constantly fight in the months since they moved to Southern California.
According to the couple, the photo was being offered to media outlets without their consent. While they erected a large mesh fence to block photographers with telephoto lenses, they also noted that the move led to drones flying as close as 20 feet above their home, as often as three times a day, in attempts to get snapshots.
Moving to Santa Barbara
In August, it was revealed that the couple and their son moved to a new family home in California – a seven-acre estate in Santa Barbara County. “The Duke and Duchess of Sussex moved into their family home in July of this year,” a statement from the couple’s spokesperson said. “They have settled into the quiet privacy of their community since their arrival.” The statement added that the couple hopes such privacy will be respected on behalf of their family as well as their neighbors.
Making Netflix Debut
Harry made a special appearance in a new documentary about one of his most passionate causes. “Rising Phoenix,” which premiered on Aug. 26, tells the origin story of the Paralympic Games. The film was originally planned to coincide with the 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games in Tokyo.
However, due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, the events have been delayed until next year. “’Rising Phoenix’ is a story that the world needs now,” the British royal told Fox News in a statement. “We are confronted by the true power of the human spirit and the sheer strength of mind to overcome and achieve what most would deem impossible.”
Signing a Production Deal
In September, Harry and Markle signed a multiyear deal to produce nature series, documentaries and children’s programming for Netflix. In a statement, the couple said they plan to focus on stories and issues that elevate diverse voices and other issues close to their hearts. Several projects are already in development, including a nature docu-series, as well as a series focused on inspiring women. However, Markle said she will not return to acting.
Repaying British Taxpayers
In September, a spokesman for the couple confirmed that Harry repaid $2.4 million pounds ($3.2 million) in British taxpayers’ money that was originally used to renovate their Frogmore Cottage home, which is near Elizabeth’s Windsor Castle. According to the spokesman, Harry made the contribution to the Sovereign Grant, the public money that goes to the royal family. He said that the contribution “fully covered the necessary renovation costs of Frogmore Cottage.”
Fighting for Privacy
In October, a British judge granted a request by Markle to postpone the trial of her privacy lawsuit against U.K.’s Associated Newspapers. The reason for the delay “should remain secret,” and the exact date will be set later.
Markle is suing the British newspaper publisher for invasion of privacy and copyright infringement over several articles that published portions of a handwritten letter she wrote to her estranged father, Thomas Markle, after her royal wedding to Harry.
Speaking Out on Black Lives Matter
In October, the couple participated in a Zoom interview with the U.K.’s Evening Standard to discuss the global protests this year following the death of Floyd while in the custody of Minneapolis police in May. “The impetus is from a place of recognizing equality and if you just go back to its ground level, I don’t think there’s anything controversial about it,” Markle explained when asked about her thoughts on the Black Lives Matter movement.
“What has been inflammatory for a lot of people is when any version of the community becomes disruptive,” she continued, as quoted by the outlet. “But when it’s just peaceful protest and when there’s the intention of just wanting unity and wanting recognition of equality, then that’s a beautiful thing… If we just focus on the uplift and the positivity while still acknowledging the past, that’s how we reshape things and that shouldn’t be inflammatory at all. That should be really exciting.”
Becoming First Modern Royal to Vote
Markle officially became the first modern royal family member to vote in a U.S. presidential election. A source close to the duchess told People magazine she was voting in this year’s election but did not disclose whether she voted early. Members of the royal family are generally encouraged to avoid speaking publicly about politics, meaning they also stay out of elections.
Markle is one of the very few American citizens–including Wallis Simpson, who died in 1986–to join the royal family. The royal has been very outspoken in encouraging Americans to vote, revealing in August that she planned to cast a ballot.
Revealing a Traumatic Miscarriage
In November, Markle wrote an opinion piece for the New York Times where the duchess revealed she had a miscarriage in July. The royal detailed the painful experience in hopes of breaking the silence around an all-too-common tragedy.
“Losing a child means carrying an almost unbearable grief, experienced by many but talked about by few,” wrote Markle. “In being invited to share our pain, together we take the first steps towards healing.”
Fox News’ Nate Day and The Associated Press contributed to this report.