It was in a South African shanty town when Prince Harry decided he'd had a gut full.

On the outskirts of Johannesburg on the final day of his royal tour last year, the Duke's Range Rover rolled over the gravel and he slid out.

He guided his wife past a media pack that was authorised by the palace to cover the occasion and he glared ahead. Meanwhile, a pleasant look was plastered on Meghan's face – the look of a woman silently willing her husband not to throw a tantrum in public.

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There were no public tantrums, but Harry had thrown in the towel and wasn't playing ball anymore.

Just 12 hours earlier, the Prince had made the first of what would become a series of life-changing decisions that broke royal protocol. He was flying back to meet his wife and son in Johannesburg (only hours after snapping at a reporter outside a health clinic in Malawi) when news broke he had unleashed on the British press and launched legal action.

In the unprecedented statement he personally condemned a "ruthless" media campaign against his wife and expressed his "deepest fear" that she could suffer the same fate as his late mother. He announced the couple was taking legal action against British tabloid the Daily Mail over its publication of a private letter by Meghan, which the pair allege was published illegally and selectively edited to hide "lies" reported about her.

It was a bombshell that stunned even some palace advisers, who were reportedly kept in the dark. The abrupt move cast a pall on what was supposed to be a positive tour through South Africa – a sentimental place for the Prince. The tour was also a strategic play to reverse months of negative headlines that the couple had been dogged by. But Harry didn't care about optics anymore. He was done and he wanted out.

The hasty turn in behaviour was a stark contrast to the Harry and Meghan Australia met about a year prior when they toured Down Under.

The couple enjoy happier times, at Bondi in Sydney during their tour Downunder. Photo / AP
The couple enjoy happier times, at Bondi in Sydney during their tour Downunder. Photo / AP

Hours after announcing they were expecting their first baby, the couple stood on the steps of the Sydney Opera House forecourt underneath the iconic white sails and basked in their role as senior royals. It was a crash course for Meghan, the royal's newest member, in How To Be A Royal 101. Turns out, she studied for nothing.

In that South African shanty town on the final morning of their tour, there was an eerie silence as all the reporters in the media pen wondered how Meghan and Harry's first appearance since throwing the grenade would go down. Forecasts of a royal crap-storm and a grumpy prince were more than accurate.

That day, Harry began removing himself from the rules and restrictions he has been governed by his entire life. And when he broke protocol again this month and announced he and Meghan would be stepping back from their roles as senior royals and moving to Canada, the move was dramatic but it shouldn't have come as a shock. He had washed his hands long ago.