A Timeline Of Prince Harry And Meghan Markle's Legal Drama

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle have been leading a relaxed, low-key (for royals) life in California ever since they left their lives as senior royals behind in March 2020. Although they were initially quiet about their reasoning for moving to the United States, they soon confirmed that issues with the royal family drove them to leave the United Kingdom. In their now-infamous interview with Oprah Winfrey, Harry characterized his relationship with his brother as "distance."

This "distance" between Harry and the royal family has remained vast — barring the few times he's returned to the U.K. solo. Perhaps due to the COVID-19 pandemic, whenever he's made the transatlantic trip, Meghan and their children always remained behind in their new Montecito mansion.

With air travel restrictions now lessening, and the royal family having a few high-profile events coming up, the question on every royal commentator's mind has been whether the Sussexes as a family will return to the U.K. for the late Prince Philip's memorial in March and the Queen's Platinum Jubilee, a celebration her 70th year on the throne, in early June. However, a few things seem to be needing to fall into place first, namely, an agreement needs to be forged between the Sussexes and the U.K.'s Home Office regarding their security in country. If no resolution can be made, it looks like Harry may never bring Meghan, Archie Mountbatten-Windsor, and Lilibet Mountbatten-Windsor to the U.K. again.

Meghan Markle hasn't been to the U.K. since early 2020

Meghan Markle, Prince Harry, and Archie Mountbatten-Windsor haven't set foot on British soil as a family since November 2019, per Page Six. When the family took a six-week vacation in Canada for the holiday season in 2019, they never returned to the United Kingdom. While Meghan and Harry came back to the U.K. in January, they left baby Archie behind with a nanny.  

It was during this trip that The Sun published a rumor that the Sussexes planned to move to Canada. Looking to get in front of the story, they confirmed the news on their official Instagram, saying they'd seek a "half-in, half-out" approach to their royal lives and planned to split their time between Canada and the U.K. Ten days later, they came to an agreement with the royal family that would allow them to step down from being working royals, but would allow them to retain their titles, per a royal statement. Harry and Meghan had an unofficial royal farewell tour in March 2020 (baby Archie was left with Meghan's friend Jessica Mulroney and a nanny, the Times reported), before returning to Canada. However, later that month, they moved to Los Angeles, according to The Sun.

March 2022 will mark the second anniversary of Meghan's last time in the U.K. While Archie hasn't been there since November 2019, his new little sister, Lilibet Diana Mountbatten-Windsor, has never been there, as far as the general public knows.

The couple were expected to return for the 2022 Jubilee

If Prince Harry and Meghan Markle needed a reason not to return to the United Kingdom while they and the royal family cooled off from the drama of January 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic was the perfect excuse. The Duke and Duchess of Sussex had just moved to Los Angeles in March 2020 when lockdowns took effect across the globe, per The Sun

Harry returned to London for the funeral of his grandfather, Prince Philip, in April 2021, nearly 18 months after he and Meghan had fled to Canada, Us Weekly reported. On the advice of her doctors, Meghan remained in the United States with Archie. Harry returned to London once more in July 2021 to unveil a statue of his mother, Diana, Princess of Wales, at Kensington Palace, The Guardian reported, though the trip was once again a solo one.

In 2022, many expect the Sussexes to attend two high-profile events in the U.K. The first is a "special service of thanksgiving" for the late Prince Philip on March 29, the Evening Standard reported, and the second is the queen's Platinum Jubilee, a landmark four-day celebration of Queen Elizabeth's 70 years on the throne in early June. The day is considered so important and historic, Britons have been granted an extra day off work to celebrate, per The Telegraph. But the issue of whether the Sussexes will attend — not to mention Harry's disgraced uncle, Prince Andrew — threatens to upstage the celebrations.

Their security first became an issue when they decamped to Canada

The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and familial tensions weren't the only reasons Prince Harry and Meghan Markle were wary about attending events in the United Kingdom. They were also concerned about security for their young family, an issue that has plagued them since they left for Canada in November 2019.

When the Sussexes first arrived in Vancouver, many Canucks applauded their presence in their country, which counts Queen Elizabeth II as its head of state. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau tweeted a warm welcome to the family in December 2019, writing, "Prince Harry, Meghan, and Archie, we're all wishing you a quiet and blessed stay in Canada. You're among friends, and always welcome here."

But soon, things went south for the family. When it looked like the Sussexes would remain in Canada for a lengthier stay, Canadians balked, The Independent reported. When they'd landed in Canada, the family was considered to be Internationally Protected Persons, since they were senior members of the British royal family. This meant the Royal Canadian Mounted Police were required to assist them with their security, according to the CBC. The estimated cost to Canadian taxpayers was C$10 million per year, The Independent wrote. After Harry and Meghan stepped down from their working royal duties, they were no longer considered Internationally Protected Persons. Per the CBC, the RCMP jumped at the chance to cut this "deeply unpopular" multimillion dollar cost, leading the Sussexes' to enlist private security.

They talked to Oprah about losing their protected status

The Sussexes' security concerns came up again in March 2021 when they gave a televised interview to Oprah Winfrey. First, Meghan Markle said the royal family decided not to give their son, Archie Mountbatten-Windsor, a royal title, which meant he wouldn't be afforded the same level of security as his parents. "I'm going, hold on a second ... he needs to be safe," she said, via The Independent. "We have created this monster machine, you've allowed this to happen, which means we need to be safe."

But great-grandchildren of the British monarch haven't been automatically given royal titles at birth since 1917, according to the Daily Mail. Queen Elizabeth II amended this rule to include the children of Prince William in 2012 because he was a direct heir to the throne. When Prince Charles becomes king, Archie should receive a title. However, this does not necessarily mean he will be entitled to taxpayer-funded security.

In the interview with Oprah, Harry and Meghan confirmed that they'd lost their governmental security. Harry said he "never thought" he'd lose this perk, via The Independent. But not all members of the British royal family receive taxpayer-funded security around the clock. Only members who are considered Internationally Protected Persons — the queen, Charles, William, and their spouses — receive this perk, Express reported. Working royals like Princess Anne and Prince Edward only get it when they're on royal engagements. Prince Andrew has also lost his taxpayer-funded security.

The Sussexes have asked for police protection in the U.K.

As Prince Harry and Meghan Markle have been gearing up for a year of potential transatlantic travel, they have approached the government of the United Kingdom regarding their International Protected Persons status. According to the BBC, the Sussexes have asked the government to reinstate their status. 

The Mail on Sunday — a newspaper Meghan faced off against in a separate lengthy legal battle — broke the news that the Sussexes had asked for their taxpayer-funded security to be returned to them, the Daily Mail reported. After the Royal and VIP Executive Committee — a section of the U.K.'s government that makes decisions about International Protected Persons' statuses — rejected the Sussexes' request in September 2021, Harry launched a lawsuit against the government, per the Daily Mail. After the initial rejection became public, the Sussexes released a statement via their "legal spokesperson."

"The Duke and Duchess of Sussex personally fund a private security team for their family, yet that security cannot replicate the necessary police protection needed whilst in the UK," the statement read, in part. "In the absence of such protection, Prince Harry and his family are unable to return to his home." Members of a private security team wouldn't be able to access the same classified information the police would be able to, Harper's Bazaar explained, nor would they be allowed to carry firearms, two considerations that are most likely affecting the Sussexes' petition.

Critics say allowing Prince Harry to pay for police intelligence would set a bad precedent

If Prince Harry is able to hire London's Metropolitan Police for his security when in country, then everyone with enough money will be able to do the same thing, critics argue, per The Times, setting a bad precedent. 

They also argue that Harry shouldn't need more security than he already has, because he isn't at great risk in the United Kingdom. "It's been decided ... that they won't provide him with protection because the risk at this stage has been low," former Metropolitan Police Royal Protection Unit Lead Dai Davies told Good Morning Britain. He added that the only time an ex-royal received security was Edward VIII after he abdicated the throne, "because [the U.K. government] wanted to spy on him" due to his Nazi ties.

Commentators have also pointed out that the U.K.'s relative lack of firearms makes it a safer place. "If you look, as I have, at the history of attacks over the last 300 years of the royal family, it is so rare that anyone requires a firearm," Davies told Good Morning Britain. "It is so rare that it simply hasn't happened." Royal biographer Ingrid Seward also mentioned the rules for paparazzi in the U.K., per the BBC. "They haven't been [photographed by the paparazzi] once since their marriage. ... Those rules don't apply in Canada. The paps can come from all over the world and lie in wait for them."

Advocates for the Sussexes say the family is clearly in danger

Even though Prince Harry is no longer a working member of the British royal family, many feel he still deserves active police protection when in the United Kingdom, as the royal family has been the focus of a few different attacks over the years. For example, his aunt, Princess Anne, was almost kidnapped in 1974, Tatler reported, and the queen's residence, Buckingham Palace, has been broken into multiple times over the decades, according to Express.

Additionally, the racism against Meghan Markle and the couple's children has been well documented, adding to fears that the family could be targeted. "The UK will always be Prince Harry's home and a country he wants his wife and children to be safe in. With the lack of police protection, comes too great a personal risk," Harry's statement said, in part, per the BBC.

Some commentators agree. "The threats against Harry, Meghan and Lilibet and Archie are really quite real," journalist Afua Adom told Good Morning Britain. "[There have] been threats made against Harry including by right-wing neo-Nazi groups who called Harry a 'race traitor.'"

Prince Harry faced security concerns the last time he was in the U.K.

Prince Harry's mother's death in a car crash involving paparazzi seems to have haunted him throughout his life and possibly has led to his increased security concerns. Diana, Princess of Wales, declined police protection after her divorce from Harry's father, Prince Charles, over fears they'd spy on her, Express reported. It is possible, then, that if she had police protection, her death could have been prevented. 

It's understandable that Harry would want to avoid paparazzi, especially while in a car, as that situation most likely reminds him of his mother's death. When he was most recently in the United Kingdom, he was reportedly chased by paparazzi while driving away from Kensington Palace, per Express, a situation that could have potentially been "triggering" for the prince and would make him double-down on his security request for his family. 

But some argue paparazzi photographers don't constitute a safety threat. "[Princess Diana's former bodyguard] Ken Wharfe famously said the press are a pain in the backside but they don't kill you, and that's absolutely true," former Metropolitan Police Royal Protection Unit Lead Dai Davies told Good Morning Britain.

Prince Harry's case against the U.K. government is going to court

Prince Harry decided to sue the United Kingdom's Home Office over the Royal and VIP Executive Committee's decision not to grant him and his family International Protected Persons status, Newsweek reported. The government hit back via court filing, saying Harry might be hindering security efforts for the entire royal family by taking the matter to court.

​​​"Ultimately, the more information in the public domain about which individuals receive protective security and to what level, the greater the prospect of a successful attack against those individuals, or to others not in receipt of protective security," the statement read in part, per Newsweek. Richard Palmer, a Home Office representative, didn't mince words in statements about the case. He said Harry's action against the government would result in an "unprecedented expenditure of time and resources."

Palmer also called Harry's offer to pay for police protection "irrelevant," according to Sky News, adding, "Personal protective security by the police is not available on a privately financed basis, and RAVEC does not make decisions on the provision of such security on the basis that any financial contribution could be sought or obtained to pay for it."

Experts say staying away from the U.K. could hurt the Sussexes' brand

Since they stepped down as working members of the British royal family in 2020, Prince Harry and Meghan Markle have been hard at work building their brand, including signing lucrative deals with Netflix and Spotify. But some experts think that if they don't return to the United Kingdom, they'll lose their royal connections and their brand will be in jeopardy.

"I think it would be very good for the Sussex brand as well as they really need to maintain those sort of royal connections to really validate their brand, otherwise what are they?" Pauline Maclaran, a professor of marketing and consumer research in the School of Management at Royal Holloway, told Express. "So because it might benefit them more than the actual Royal Family brand, that might in fact encourage them to make a visit to top up their brand as it were with a little bit of royal shimmer and glimmer."

Harry and Meghan seem to realize this, too: They've continued to use their royal titles since moving to California. Meghan signed letters to members of the United State Congress, "Meghan, The Duchess of Sussex," the Daily Mail reported. And before Harry appeared on Dax Shepard's podcast, his aides told Shepard to make sure he referred to Harry by his royal title, not his name, until Harry told him otherwise.

Princess Diana's former bodyguard thinks Prince Harry is 'desperate' to go back

Ken Wharfe served as a bodyguard for Diana, Princess of Wales, before she left the British royal family. He often comments on royal news stories and he was close to Prince Harry and Prince William in their youth. As such, Wharfe told MailPlus's Palace Confidential that Harry must be "desperate" to go back to the United Kingdom. Daily Mail Diary Editor Richard Eden agreed, speculating that Harry might want to hold a christening for his daughter, Lilibet Diana Mountbatten-Windsor, in his home country.

"What was very interesting is that the legal letter talked about his children," Eden added on Palace Confidential. "He was worried that there wouldn't be protection for his children, which makes me think he might come back on his own, because he may not be given the protection he needs for his children."

In Harry's own statement, his camp insisted that the U.K. remains "his home." "The goal for Prince Harry has been simple — to ensure the safety of himself and his family while in the UK so his children can know his home country," the statement read in part, The Guardian reported.

It's still unclear whether the Sussexes will attend the Queen's Jubilee

As the early June Jubilee approaches — and Prince Philip's March memorial comes even sooner — it's unclear whether Prince Harry and his family will return to the United Kingdom. Daily Mail Diary Editor Richard Eden speculated on MailPlus's Palace Confidential that Harry may return to the U.K. without his family, like he did twice in 2021, if his security requests aren't met.

For their part, the royal family has stayed tight-lipped about the security issue, not commenting publicly despite the court, the Home Office, and Harry's various statements.

While it appears as if Harry is at odds with many members of the royal family, he is at least publicly keeping in touch with one family member, his cousin, Princess Eugenie. Eugenie, one of Prince Andrew's daughters, and Harry had always been close, and he quarantined with her and her husband, Jack Brooksbank, when he returned to the U.K. for Prince Philip's funeral, per Marie Claire. More recently, the two attended the Super Bowl together in February, and, a few days later, Harry, Meghan Markle, Eugenie, and Jack were spotted dining out together in Santa Barbara, TMZ reported.