With Prince Harry and Meghan Markle stepping away from the family, it’s been no tea party over at the royal palace lately. As news reports continue to speculate the Duke and Duchess of Sussex's next move, Buckingham palace also announced that the pair would no longer use their royal titles (His/Her Royal Highnesses) in a massive break from traditional royal duties. But, they’re certainly not the first royals to step down and away from the British royal family. Perhaps one of the most notable trailblazers was Princess Diana: Harry’s late mother.
Like Harry, his mother also stepped down from royalty at the height of her recognition. During her time, she was known for being a humanitarian and wildly reshaping the monarchy in a positive way, forcing the royals to break from tradition. She was also the subject of constant monitoring — a beloved international icon, Princess Diana had all eyes on her, all the time. And, in so many ways, it seems that what is happening to both Harry and Meghan now truly mirrors Princess Diana's experiences (and maybe even her legacy).
On Sunday, Harry spoke out publicly for the first time since he and Meghan announced their decision to retract from the spotlight as working members of the royal family. In a speech at a London fundraiser, Harry said, "The decision that I have made for my wife and I to step back is not one I made lightly. It was so many months of talks after so many years of challenges.” Harry’s recent statements about this tough decision certainly mirrors Diana’s desire to have a relatively normal life. He’s said he’s felt he had “no other option” than to step away. This decision also came after months of speculation that the couple continued to break royal traditions.
But, Prince Harry was royal by blood, unlike his wife or his mother, who married into the royal family. In that sense, Meghan's experience warding off intrusive paparazzi has turned into on of the couple's greatest battles, and perhaps what drove them out of royal life most. Meghan might have only spent two years in the royal family compared to Diana's decade prior to relinquishing her title, but their experiences in the public eye are quite similar. Meghan is subjected to a ton of harassment, so much so that she and Harry are currently suing two publications. And, let's not forget that the harassment Diana received back then was incomparable at the time, too — she quite literally died trying to escape paparazzi.
Diana was also under intense and constant scrutiny for breaking tradition and straying from royal expectations, much like Meghan and Harry have been the last several years. Inspired by Diana who chose to omit the promise to “obey” her husband during her wedding vows, Meghan did the same. Diana also always put her family, and herself, before her royal duties, and that seems to be emulated in her son more than ever.
There are, of course, key differences between Princess Diana and the Duke and Duchess of Sussex's experiences in and out of the royal family. The major difference between the Sussex duo and Diana stepping back is that Diana was stripped of her title after divorcing her husband, Prince Charles. Harry and Meghan have made it clear this is their choice.
After stepping down, Diana kept her title of Princess of Wales and continued her humanitarian and philanthropy, working on issues surrounding homelessness as well as HIV and AIDs. According to Harry's speech, it sounds like he wishes to continue his work for his country the same way his mother did--he and Meghan simply wish to do it on their own terms. Harry and Meghan hope stepping away will result in a “more peaceful life,” which is exactly the peace of mind that Diana, too, was trying to find when she stepped away from the spotlight.