The Duke and Duchess of Sussex have displayed various tell-tale signs over the past year that they have long been looking to quit as senior royals.

Rumours of a rift between Prince Harry and his brother William first emerged last March when he and Meghan split from Kensington Palace to form Sussex Royal.

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They also launched their own Instagram account in April, trademarked more than 100 products with their name in June and employed a new PR firm in September.

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Meghan also revealed her struggles with royal life in an ITV documentary filmed in Africa last October, and they spent Christmas in Canada away from the royals.

In addition, the couple decided not to announce their newborn child Archie's godparents after his christening last July in a break with royal tradition.

And last week, a portrait of the Queen with the next three heirs to the throne - Charles, William and George - was released, with no sign of Harry in the picture.

Baby Archie was born in London's Portland Hospital in a break from tradition. Photo / Getty
Baby Archie was born in London's Portland Hospital in a break from tradition. Photo / Getty

Here's a timeline of their past year as they said they will step back from royal duties and split their time between the UK and North America from now on:

February 2019
Meghan makes a surprise trip to New York where she enjoys a two-day baby shower with close friends including Serena Williams and Amal Clooney. The lavish $300,000 event was attended by her celebrity friends including Amal Clooney, Gayle King and Jessica Mulroney and took place in a $75,000-a-night penthouse at a top Manhattan hotel.

March 14
Rumours of a rift between Harry and William emerge after the Sussexes split from Kensington Palace to form their own royal household. It meant Harry and Meghan took on their own staff with offices in Buckingham Palace, and appointed their own new communications staff, reporting to the Queen's Communications Secretary, Donal McCabe.

April 2
Harry and Meghan launch their own Instagram account, saying it will be used for 'important announcements' and for sharing the work that "drives" them. The account - which began with a message saying "We thank you for your support, and welcome you to @SussexRoyal" - now has more than ten million followers.

April 4
The couple move into Frogmore Cottage following taxpayer-funded renovations that reportedly cost around £2.4million. The couple later said they left their previous residence of Nottingham Cottage in the grounds of Kensington Palace because it 'could not accommodate their growing family'.

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May 6
Archie Harrison Mountbatten-Windsor is born at the Portland Hospital in London after Meghan goes into labour in the early hours of the morning. It is a break from tradition with previous royals, including the Duchess of Cambridge, who have previously visited the Lindo Wing at St Mary's Hospital in London to give birth.

May 8
The duke and duchess present baby Archie to the world at a press briefing at St George's Hall at Windsor Castle. The couple later reveal they chose not to use the courtesy title Earl Dumbarton, which Archie was allowed to use, nor to style him Lord Archie Mountbatten-Windsor, opting for plain "Master" instead.

July 7
Archie is christened at an intimate ceremony attended by close family. Royal baptisms are traditionally private but Harry and Meghan went one step further by going against convention and deciding not to announce Archie's godparents, with the couple facing criticism from some quarters.

Meghan and Harry announced they were breaking away from the Royal Foundation charity with William and Kate last year. Photo / Getty
Meghan and Harry announced they were breaking away from the Royal Foundation charity with William and Kate last year. Photo / Getty

June 20

Harry and Meghan confirm they are splitting from the Royal Foundation charity with William and Kate to start their own initiative, Sussex Royal. It is later revealed it will officially launch in 2020. The split came 16 months after the "Fab Four" appeared on stage to launch their vision for a shared working future and joked that they were "stuck together for the rest of our lives".

June 21
Harry and Meghan issue a trademark application for their Sussex Royal brand on more than 100 items, from hats to T-shirts and newspapers to gloves, as they appear intent on turning their brand into a global empire. The news is first revealed by the Daily Mail in late December 2019.

July 28
It is announced Meghan is guest editing the September issue of British Vogue and she chooses to put the faces of 15 "changemakers" - including activists, politicians and artists - on the cover rather than herself. Prince Harry also interviewed anthropologist Dr Jane Goodall and tells her he will only have two children for the sake of the planet.

August
The couple are heavily criticised in the press for using private jets to go on holiday with Archie to the south of France, despite their environmental campaigning. They used four private jet flights in just 11 days, with their return visit to Nice seeing them hosted by Sir Elton John. In September, Harry defends the use of the transport and claims it was to "ensure their safety".

September 3
Meghan hires top crisis PR firm Sunshine Sachs which once represented Harvey Weinstein in a bid to improve her public image following a series of damaging controversies. Royal watchers pointed out that PR is traditionally handled by Palace staff, and said the move to work with an American company exposed the US focus of their ambitions.

September 23
Harry and Meghan take Archie on a two-week Royal Tour of South Africa, while the duke also visits Botswana, Malawi and Angola alone. In Angola, Harry visits a minefield where his mother was pictured walking through 22 years previously while on charity work to call for an end to landmines.

October 1
Prince Harry issues a statement criticising the press for its coverage of his wife and confirms they will take legal action against a newspaper over a story. Referring to the death of his mother Diana in 1997, he said: "My deepest fear is history repeating itself. I've seen what happens when someone I love is commoditised to the point that they are no longer treated or seen as a real person."

Harry and Meghan skipped Christmas with the Queen before announcing they were taking a six-week break. Photo / Getty
Harry and Meghan skipped Christmas with the Queen before announcing they were taking a six-week break. Photo / Getty

October 21

Meghan reveals her struggles with royal life in an ITV documentary filmed during the duke and duchess's trip to Africa and says "It's not enough to just survive something... You've got to thrive." In the same programme, Harry reveals he and brother William are on "different paths".

November 14
The duke and duchess confirm they will not spend Christmas at Sandringham with the Royal Family. It is later announced they are taking a six-week break and they spend the holidays in Canada. They decided to spend the period including Thanksgiving with Meghan's mother Doria Regland, and the Queen was thought to have backed the decision.

December
Prince Harry is said to ask Charles about spending more time in Canada and the US, but is told to come up with a more thorough plan.

December 31
Harry and Meghan share a picture of the Prince holding Archie while standing by a lake in what is thought to be their Canadian Christmas hideaway of Vancouver Island. They accompanied the post with a message saying: "Wishing you all a very Happy New Year and thanking you for your continued support!"

January 3, 2020
A portrait of the Queen with the next three heirs to the throne - Charles, William and George - is released by Buckingham Palace, with no sign of Prince Harry in the picture. It was only the second time such a portrait of the monarch and the next three in line to the throne has been released, with the first being in April 2016 to celebrate Her Majesty's 90th birthday.

Early January
Harry sends a draft proposal about his future role to Charles - but is told he still needs to think it through further, especially regarding funding, it has been claimed. Harry allegedly asks for a meeting with the Queen, but she says she will not discuss his proposals until he has gone over them in detail with Charles.

January 7
Harry and Meghan return from their break and visit Canada House in London to thank the country's High Commissioner for the hospitality they received. Their first official engagement of the new decade was to publicly thank the Commonwealth country for hosting them during an extended private break over Christmas.

January 8
The duke and duchess announce in a statement released by Buckingham Palace they are stepping back as "senior" members of the Royal Family and are "working to become financially independent". They also reveal they will split their time between the UK and North America.