Let's be honest: No one has really got the 2021 they wanted have they?
And that includes Harry and Meghan, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex. Scratch the surface and this year has been a bust for the now California-based duo.
Ignore the family feuding that has dominated this year's Sussex-related news and, aside from the joyful arrival of the couple's second child Lilibet Diana Mountbatten-Windsor, even Sherlock Holmes would find it tough to unearth a major win for the royal defectors.
In February, Harry decided to break his silence and undertake his first TV interview since absconding from royal life. An intelligent sit-down to coolly answer questions? Sorry. For some head-scratching reason someone on the duke and duchess' payroll had the nifty idea that the best way to really launch the sixth-in-line to the throne onto the US market was to shove him on top of a sightseeing bus in LA with TV host James Corden for a dignity-defying outing. At least it made history. As far as I'm aware never before has there been recorded footage of a member of the house of Windsor asking if he could pop into a stranger's house and use their loo.
Come March and, while their Oprah-mediated offensive might have shaken the palace's foundations and rattled the Queen's fillings, that barrage only led to the royal family's approval rating shooting up. Since then, public support in the UK has only seemed to coalesce behind Her Majesty and the monarchy in the face of Harry and Meghan's new-found predilection for prime time venting.
In April, when Prince Philip finally went off to join his raffish Thursday Club chums at the big bar in the sky, Harry's return to Britain seemed to resemble a live-action version of Frozen, only a tad icier. The ongoing feud between him and brother Prince William was such that their cousin Peter Phillips was reportedly strategically deployed to walk between them as part of the funeral procession.
Meghan, by this point heavily pregnant, was unable to attend the service on medical grounds. However, an updated version of the Sussex biography Finding Freedom has claimed that the several members of the royal family were "understood to have been 'quietly pleased'" that Meghan could not join her husband at the funeral because they "didn't want a circus" or, as one senior royal source said, "the Duchess creating a spectacle".
With a family like this, who needs enemies?
May saw Harry remain firmly lodged in the headlines as he continued to paint the most dire of portraits of his royal upbringing, accusing the royal family of "total neglect" and declared he would "never be bullied into silence again". While in some quarters these revelations earned him sympathy, others pointed out that denouncing the royal family only a month after Philip's death was a lowly move.
Even in June when the Sussexes' welcomed their little girl Lilibet, her controversial choice of name led to a week's worth of front page news in the UK and saw the litigious duo call in the lawyers to try and push back against claims made by the BBC that they had not asked the Queen about using her childhood nickname for their daughter.
The bad news just kept coming when, in August, the great and good gathered in Martha's Vineyard to celebrate President Barack Obama's 60th birthday. Not there? Montecito's most famous new residents.
At the beginning of this month, the British media regulator Ofcom cleared controversial TV host Piers Morgan over negative comments he had made about Meghan in the wake of the Oprah interview. A record 58,000 Brits had complained about Morgan's criticism of the royal. The BBC reports the duchess herself filed complaints with both Ofcom and the TV network.
Despite their rumoured $100 million-plus Netflix deal hitting the one-year mark next week, the couple have not released a single piece of content. The only shows they have announced – a documentary about Harry's charity Invictus and an animated series called Pearl, which according to the Telegraph has been in the pipeline since 2018 – sound about as exciting as a gluten-free bran muffin.
And what of their charity work? In May the charity concert they co-chaired to help with global access to the Covid vaccine drew a very meagre audience of only 1.3 million. Meanwhile, most people would be hard-pressed to name one major undertaking their Archewell Foundation has embarked upon.
Today they are far from the global leaders, rightfully taking their place on the world stage, that we all thought they would be when they sashayed off into the Californian sunset. (To be fair, that might still eventuate – the rampant global march of the Delta variant has put paid to even the entire world's optimistic notions about this year.)
While the UK might have huffily turned on the couple post-Megxit, what is curious is that they have not exactly set the United States on fire. Polling released last week found the majority of Americans surveyed (52.3 per cent) – the very market they are seemingly intent on cracking – agreed that "the Duke and Duchess of Sussex should stay out of publicly commenting on world affairs".
It wasn't meant to be this way. This year promised to be the biggest and brightest yet for Harry and Meghan.
Unshackled from the palace, unfettered from all that pesky hierarchy, protocol and the ludicrous demand to own nude hose, they seemed poised for 12 months of world conquering. Having notched up a rumoured $180 million in deals, they could now guarantee they could keep the lights on and would get their annual invitations to the Oscars.
But all of that promise has not panned out.
Instead, what has defined this year (so far at least) is the couple solidifying their status as palace pariahs while failing to make much of any sort of mark on the philanthropic landscape.
Let's be generous here and work on the assumption that part of it comes down to the fact that Meghan was pregnant for the first six months of 2021. Fine. But we have passed the 18-month mark since Megxit and the window for the Sussexes to truly capitalise on the positive momentum and public support, especially in the US, which followed their daring exit from royal life is closing. They are still two of the most famous and talked about people on the planet but they have yet to truly establish themselves as consequential players on the global stage.
This may very well still come to pass, and, after all, the Delta variant has played havoc with all of our plans. But how many chances will they get to really establish themselves as consequential figures rather than just as tabloid stalwarts?