It’s been two years since the Duke and Duchess of Sussex announced their engagement – and this throwback couldn’t have come at a better time.
A lot has happened since then: a royal wedding, a royal baby and a heartbreaking interview revealing the toll of the intense pressures of a life in the spotlight was taking on the couple behind the scenes.
Since meeting in 2016, the couple have faced a barrage of criticism, much of it racist and sexist, from the British press. In fact, the abuse has been so bad that the couple has felt compelled to take action in the form of public statements from the palace and, more recently, lawsuits.
Prince Harry released a statement in October announcing his wife was suing a tabloid over its treatment of the duchess. He even drew parallels between the cruel treatment of his wife to that of his mother, Princess Diana, who died in a car crash involving paparazzi after years of being hounded by the press.
That same month, an ITV documentary unmasked just how much the media treatment was affecting the couple behind the scenes. When asked by broadcaster Tom Bradby about how she was coping, Meghan Markle said: “Look, any woman, especially when they are pregnant, you’re really vulnerable and so that was made really challenging, and then when you have a newborn – you know… and especially as a woman, it’s a lot. So, you add this on top of just trying to be a new mom or trying to be a newlywed…”
Meghan added: “And, also thank you for asking, because not many people have asked if I’m OK. But it’s a very real thing to be going through behind the scenes.”
Bradby then asked her: “And the answer is, would it be fair to say, not really OK, as in it’s really been a struggle?”. Evidently emotional, Meghan nodded and simply replied: “Yes”.
Since then, the palace confirmed the royal couple would be taking six weeks off from royal duties for some “much-needed family time”, and would be skipping Christmas at Sandringham this year to spend the holiday with Meghan’s mother, Doria.
So, while the last two years have been filled with wonderful milestones, they have also brought intense changes and pressures, which have understandably taken their toll on the couple.
This is why this particular photo is so powerful.
To mark the anniversary of their engagement announcement on Wednesday, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex shared three photos on their official Instagram to make the occasion, including a never-before-seen photo of the couple at their wedding. The black-and-white image, taken by photographer Alexi Lubomirski at St George’s Chapel in Windsor Castle, shows Meghan, wearing her Givenchy wedding gown and Queen Mary’s diamond bandeau tiara, laughing and standing next to her new husband in his military uniform. The couple look joyous, smitten and happy in the behind the scenes photo.
This photo is accompanied by two others: one of the couple on the day they announced their engagement, and another black-and-white photo of the couple with baby Archie.
The post is captioned: “On this day, two years ago: 27th of November 2017, Prince Harry and Meghan Markle announced the news of their engagement, later becoming Their Royal Highnesses The Duke and Duchess of Sussex! They have since celebrated their wedding anniversary and welcomed their son, Archie, into the world.”
What’s significant about these beautiful photos is that, just as was with Archie’s christening pictures, it feels like Meghan and Harry have shared just as much information about their lives as they are comfortable doing.
There has always been much debate over how much people think the royals “owe” the public, but we only need to look at the tragic story of Princess Diana to understand how dangerous this thirst for knowledge about their personal lives can be.
And whether it was their intention or not, the candid moment captured in this photo is proof that there is more to the royal couple than their public personas; more than royal duties and titles; more than tabloid scrutiny and salacious headlines.
At the end of the day, this is a couple who fell in love and wanted to spend their lives together.
They have faced a lot of challenges since that photo was taken, perhaps more than they anticipated, and no doubt there will be more hurdles to come.
However, maybe this photo will serve as the timely lesson in humanity that the press and part of the public all appear to need going forward. If only we could just let them be that couple in love.