In what’s been called a surprise appearance for CNN’s annual TV special, “Heroes: An All-Star Tribute,” Meghan Markle acknowledged “the universally challenging” year we’ve all had in 2020, while thanking volunteers who have helped feed people during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The pre-taped CNN tribute is the first time the Duchess of Sussex has been seen in public since she disclosed suffering a miscarriage over the summer in a widely read New York Times op-ed, but sources close to her and her husband, Prince Harry , the couple plan to be even more visible in 2021.
“We will see more of them and in a different way to how we saw them as working royals,” a source said for a new report in Vanity Fair. “It will be more in line with who they are and the way they want to operate from now on.”
“We… saw the power of the human spirit and the remarkable ways that communities respond in challenging times.”
Meghan, The Duchess of Sussex, honors the people working to feed those in need during the pandemic on CNN Heroes. https://t.co/L4qRkb5KAx
– CNN (@CNN) December 14, 2020
For Meghan and Harry, 2020 was indeed “a roller-coaster year,” as another friend told Vanity Fair.
After stunning the world by announcing they were stepping down as working royals, they first moved to Canada, then suddenly arrived in Meghan’s home state of California at the onset of the pandemic in March. As the couple tried to settle in the United States and find a way to earn their own living, the fall-out of their departure dominated headlines, with almost daily reports about Harry’s supposed rift with Prince William, their legal fights with different media outlets and best-selling books that claimed to reveal the dysfunction and cruelty at the heart of the royal family.
Meghan and Harry denied cooperating with one of those books, “Finding Freedom” but authors Omid Scobie and Carolyn Durand managed to offer up intimate details from the Sussexes’ point of view about why it was necessary to flee royal life.
Meanwhile, there were some missteps, including with their since-abandoned attempt to launch their Sussex Royal Foundation. Royal watchers also have engaged in plenty of hand-wringing over the appropriateness of the couple being more outspoken on sensitive social and political topics, including racial inequality, the death of George Floyd and the US presidential election. The couple moreover faced questions over their decision to sign a multimillion-deal with Netflix, which latest season of “The Crown” took dramatic license in portraying the unhappy marriage of Harry’s parents, Prince Charles and Princess Diana.
Meghan and Harry remain “optimistic” about 2021, Scobie told Vanity Fair. They’ve found a home – a $ 14 million mansion in Montecito, Santa Barbara County – for themselves and their son, Archie. They’ve also signed with a new public relations team and are preparing to make announcements about their new foundation, Archewell, and the content they are working on with Netflix, the Daily Mail reported.
“Every step of the way there have been unexpected challenges,” Scobie added. “They have had to go up against a lot – the press, their legal battles and even the institution of the monarchy – but they’ve remained positive and it’s the support they each other and their focus on what’s important that gets them through. ”
The pandemic slowed down their plans somewhat, in that they weren’t able to meet people in person and “be on the ground,” a friend told Vanity Fair. Still, Meghan and Harry haven’t been hiding away in Montecito, even though they said that a major reason they were leaving the royal family was so that they could have more privacy.
However, more accurately, the Sussexes wanted more control over how the media covers them. To that end, they have attempted to be strategic in how they release news about themselves and have been more visible throughout the summer and fall, according to Vanity Fair. One or both have popped up fairly regularly on social media or in video clips, promoting a favorite cause.
For example, they were seen delivering meals to people in need in Los Angeles, which is relevant to Meghan’s CNN tribute. In the video clip, Meghan praised “the good in people, in our neighbors and in entire communities coming together to say they would not stand by while our neighbors went hungry.”
In August, Meghan hosted a “back yard chat” with Gloria Steinem about feminism and the importance of voting. Last month, they were criticized for appearing to stage a photo-op at a Los Angeles cemetery, laying wreaths and flowers for war veterans, to mirror the Remembrance Day tributes of the royal family in Britain. Harry more recently addressed the need to fight climate change – though he drew amused headlines over his “woke” and whimsical comparison to human beings as “raindrops” who, one by one, can relieve a parched earth.
“The pandemic has affected their plans but it hasn’t changed things as dramatically as one might think,” Scobie added to Vanity Fair. “I was told that the best part of the year was going to be a listening period for them and a chance to get to know key players in the philanthropic sphere in the US, research social issues and to then make smart decisions for what will be their life long legacy. ”
Friends also told Vanity Fair that the relationship between the Sussexes and the royal family has improved in recent months, despite all the turmoil of “Megxit.”
In particular, Harry’s relationship with William is said to be “much better than it was,” and the brothers are in regular contact, Vanity Fair reported. “I have no doubt they will be video calling each other over Christmas,” a friend said.
Harry also isn’t missing life in England as much as people assume. While he was sad to be away from Charles and William when they were diagnosed with COVID earlier this year, he doesn’t regret moving to the United States, the friend said.
“He’s found a kindred spirit in Meghan, they are creating a new life,” the friend said. “That’s so very exciting for them both.”