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And whether it feels to you like they’ve been married all our lives at this point or like their big day was just yesterday, it’s a fact that it’s officially been one full trip around the sun since that gorgeous day in May when every last member of the royal family and more than a few famous friends—Oprah Winfrey! Serena Williams! Victoria Beckham! The cast of Suits! –descended upon St George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle to watch an American-born commoner—the second-ever to marry into the British royal family—commit her life to Princess Diana’s beloved younger son.
They say that the first year of marriage is always the toughest, and there’s likely no one who understand that more than the Duke and Duchess of Sussex. From staffing snafus to fractious family members—on both sides, it turns out—not to mention the added pressures of a first pregnancy, Prince Harry and Meghan have been through it in this last year.
The first bit of seemingly never-ending drama that Meghan and Harry have had to endure actually predates their wedding, and it comes courtesy of her increasingly estranged father Thomas Markle and his daughter, Meghan’s older half-sister Samantha. In the weeks leading up to the big day, Thomas was embroiled in a bit of scandal regarding some staged paparazzi photos and then, after he suffered a heart attack and was unable to travel across the pond, he was erased from the day’s festivities, with Prince Charles walking his imminent daughter-in-law down the aisle in his place.
In June, Thomas broke his silence in the first of many interviews, this one via satellite on Good Morning Britain with Piers Morgan and Susanna Reid, where he explained why he staged the photos. “I thought this would be a nice way of improving my look, but obviously that all went to hell. I feel bad about it. I apologize for it and that’s all I can do. I can’t do much about it. That was a mistake,” he said. “The unfortunate thing for me now is that I’m a footnote in one of the greatest moments in history rather than the dad walking her down the aisle. That really upsets me somewhat.”
However, a month later, his tone changed considerably and in a handful of interviews, he lashed out in ways so extreme that you’d almost forget this was his daughter he was talking about. From saying that she seems “terrified” to accusing her of cutting him off completely, claiming that she’d “be nothing without me” and that he “made her the Duchess that she is today” to accusing the royal family of being “either like Scientologists or the Stepford family,” Thomas was relentless.
And Samantha wasn’t helping matters.
From comparing her half-sister to Cruella de Vil and her new husband to a hamster to tweeting that if Thomas died, it would be Meghan’s fault and showing up uninvited outside Kensington Palace in an attempt to deliver a message to Meghan, it seemed that the Markle apple didn’t fall far from the tree when it came to this father-daughter duo.
While it had been said that Meghan and Samantha had little in ways of a relationship throughout their lives, the latter was hellbent on convincing the world otherwise, touting her forthcoming tell-all at every turn of the way. Samantha took umbrage with just about everything her half-sister did in the last year, from slamming the Duke and Duchess’ first Christmas card to labeling Meghan a liar.
By February, it seemed as though any and all hope remaining for a reconciliation between Meghan and the Markles was, despite their unique pleas, a thing of the past. After five of the Duchess’ closest friends spoke to People anonymously, revealing that three months into her feud with her father, Meghan had written him a letter essentially begging him to stop talking to the media so that they might repair their relationship, Thomas went and did the one thing she’d explicitly asked him not to do: He spoke to the media. And taking it a step further, he released pages of said letter to the Daily Mail.
“The letter was presented in a way that vilified me and wasn’t true,” he told the publication. “It was presented as her reaching out and writing a loving letter in the hope of healing the rift, but the letter isn’t like that at all. Meghan can’t have it both ways. She can’t use the press to get her message across but hang me out to dry. I have the right to defend myself.”
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And right on cue, Samantha was there to defend her father, telling The Sun of the letter, “It was nasty. Dad is prepared to release more of it.” She also noted that she believed the letter to be a PR move that “isn’t working.”
Following Thomas’ latest betrayal, Vanity Fair reported that Harry was both “angry” and “upset” that his father-in-law continued to run his mouth to the press, while Meghan was said to be “at her wit’s end.” “She cares for her dad, and has concerns for him and his mental health, which is one of the reasons she doesn’t want to comment on this,” the source told the publication. “It’s a very complex, very emotional situation, and let’s not forget she is seven months pregnant.”
By the time baby Archie Harrison arrived in early May, both Thomas and Samantha were clinging to hope that they might one day get to meet the little guy, however delusional that might seem after all they’ve put her through while she was pregnant with her first child.
“I’m delighted to hear that mother and child are doing well,” Thomas told The Sun in a statement. “I am proud that my new grandson is born into the British royal family and I am sure that he will grow up to serve the crown and the people of Britain with grace, dignity, and honor. God bless the child, and I wish him health and happiness, and my congratulations to my lovely daughter Duchess Meghan and Prince Harry, and God save the Queen.”
Meanwhile, Samantha expressed her hope that the Markles, including their brother Thomas Markle Jr., might be invited across the pond to meet Archie. “Family is family,” she told DailyMailTV. “What I think is incredible is that it’s a great moment historically and although the adults have a lot of water under the bridge, I would really like to see everyone reach out.”
Although, being who she is, she couldn’t resist returning to form. Telling The Mirror that it was she who alerted her father to the release of the photos capturing Archie’s first meeting with Queen Elizabeth II, she said, “It’s sad. He should have been involved. Being excluded is like a dagger through his heart.” She doubled down, asserting that Archie was the one who was missing out by “not getting to know a creative, loving person.” Naturally, she plans to send a gift for the christening: a Markle family photo album. “There’s a connection and we exist,” she insisted.
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While Meghan’s ghastly family drama has, without question, consumed much of this first year of marriage for the Duke and Duchess, it’s hardly the only thing they’ve had to face. Hell, it’s not even the only family drama that’s come their way. In recent months, it’s become clear that while Meghan was dealing with her family, estranged and Stateside, Prince Harry has weathered a fallout much closer to home, as he and older brother Prince William have been caught in feud of their own.
Allegedly dating back to the days of Harry and Meghan’s courtship, which was said to have been met with resistance by William, what’s appeared from the outside to merely be a forging of their separate paths now that the two princes are both heads of their own households has been characterized by the British press as something of a deep row between brothers. First blamed on the idea that perhaps Kate Middleton and Meghan don’t get along—there were the stories about Kate being reduced to tears during her daughter Princess Charlotte‘s fitting for the wedding, after all—because that’s just what the media loves to do, forcing the Palace to issue a rare denial of the reports, attention shifted to the supposed rift between brothers.
However, despite all the speculation, insiders have been quick to downplay any speculation, chalking up the distance between William and Harry to the natural course of events. “They are in their 30s and can’t be treated as young unmarried men any more,” a family friend told People. “Now, they are spreading their wings. William more than Harry as he has his three children—but Harry is now starting his own—and it is time to move on.”
While trying to keep family calm on both sides of the Atlantic while also, you know, growing a baby would be more than enough for one young marriage to deal with, that wasn’t all that faced Meghan and Harry. Not when the British tabloid press decided to turn on the new Duchess and stories about her supposed diva ways began to dominate conversation, buoyed by the apparent mass exodus of her staff throughout the past 12 months.
In the lead-up to the wedding, Harry’s longtime private secretary Edward Lane Fox, the man credited with rehabbing the prince’s image following the Las Vegas debacle, announced he was leaving after five years, but would remain on through the big day. From then, Samantha “The Panther” Cohen served as both the Duke and Duchess’ interim private secretary. Until, that is, she made it clear in December that she had no intention of making the job a permanent thing either. The Australian, who’d worked for the Royal family for 17 years prior to that, was said to simply be keen to return home after nearly two decades away. And prior to Cohen’s departure, it was revealed that Meghan’s personal assistant Melissa Touabti had quit suddenly after six months in the job.
After that, things seemed to have stabilized until March when the duchess’ assistant private secretary and “right hand woman,” Amy Pickerill handed in her notice of resignation as well. Pickerill, who is said to have helped acclimate Meghan to royal life, would remain in her post until Archie was born.
“Amy will be leaving but has agreed to stay on to help following the birth of the baby,” a source told NBC News. “She and Meghan are very close and it’s all very amicable. She has been with her since she moved from Canada and she will remain as a personal adviser to her in the long term.”
The departures all helped bolster reports that Meghan was a bit of a demanding boss, allegedly sending ideas and request to palace staff as early as 5 a.m. with a direct approach not common among the rest of the royal family. “Meghan needs someone with reserves of energy and patience to help her define her future role,” a source told The Daily Mail in November.
However, there are those who dispute all the negative press that Meghan has received regarding her behavior. “I’ve gotten to know the people who Meghan has in her work world, and I’ve never heard a bad word said about Meghan,” royal expert Omid Scobie told Us Weekly. “Whether it’s members of charities going into the palace for meetings to work with her or household staff, everyone has a pleasurable experience working with her. They’ve really enjoyed her energy and personality. When you hear reports that she’s demanding or a diva, it’s hard to see where any of that comes from.”
Meghan, meanwhile, has taken a refreshing approach to not letting all the chatter get to her: She ignores it all altogether. “She feels to a degree the British press is out to get her and while she’s aware of the news and what’s going on, she tries her best not to read all the stories about her,” an insider told Vanity Fair in November.
While the first year of marriage for Meghan and Prince Harry has been full of some truly trying moments, what we’ve seen is truly united couple able to weather just about anything arm-in-arm. And for these first 12 months to have culminated rather perfectly with the joyous birth of their first son—well, it doesn’t get much better than that.
“How any woman does what they do is beyond comprehension but we’re both absolutely thrilled and so grateful for all the love and support from everybody out there,” Harry told the press as he announced Archie’s birth in person. “It’s been amazing so we just wanted to share this with everybody.”
Two days later, while making her first postpartum appearance as she and Harry introduced little Archie to the world, Meghan added, “It’s magic. It’s pretty amazing,” Markle told the press. “I mean I have the two best guys in the world, so I’m really happy.”