SARAH VINE: Whatever happened to the enchanting couple we all fell in love ...

Well, that was about as much of a surprise as a drunk uncle at a . For months now, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex have had the look of two people who would rather suck lemons than continue to be an active part of the Royal Family.

Frankly, it’s a surprise they’ve lasted this long.

That said, I’m very sad to see them go. And so soon. It feels like they’ve barely got stuck in, hardly had a chance to understand what the job really entails before handing in their resignation.

Prince Harry and Meghan (pictured, official engagement photo in 2017) announced they are 'stepping back' from Royal duties, this evening. It is surprising they have lasted this long with a look of two people who would rather suck lemons than continue to be an active part of the Royal Family

Prince Harry and Meghan (pictured, official engagement photo in 2017) announced they are 'stepping back' from Royal duties, this evening. It is surprising they have lasted this long with a look of two people who would rather suck lemons than continue to be an active part of the Royal Family

It’s almost as though they never really had any intention of trying to stick it out at all, as though right from the start the notion was always there in the back of their minds that if life as Duke and Duchess didn’t live up to expectation, they would simply leave.

Being a part of the Royal Family is not easy. It may carry with it all the trappings of privilege, but there is a hefty price to pay. It takes determination and a deep-rooted sense of duty to withstand both the scrutiny and expectations of the British public and press. A strong backbone and a thick skin are just as vital as a graceful carriage and an elegant wave.

A strong backbone and a thick skin are just as vital as a graceful carriage and an elegant wave for being part of the Royal family. The couple's announcement is indicative of how little they cannot look past their own immediate happiness and gratification

A strong backbone and a thick skin are just as vital as a graceful carriage and an elegant wave for being part of the Royal family. The couple's announcement is indicative of how little they cannot look past their own immediate happiness and gratification

Their recent news comes as Prince Philip has only just been let out of hospital (pictured) and the family are still weathering a storm of Prince Andrew's 'car-crash' Newsnight interview

Their recent news comes as Prince Philip has only just been let out of hospital (pictured) and the family are still weathering a storm of Prince Andrew's 'car-crash' Newsnight interview

Successive generations of royals have had to learn these lessons in their own way. None – not even the Queen herself – have been immune to the great pressures that come with such a rarefied existence. The personal sacrifices that have to be made can be hard to bear, all the more so because they have to be borne in private.

And yet, for those who endure, the rewards are great. Not just the undying love and respect of the British people, but also a chance to pursue one’s passions and really make a difference where it matters.

Both Prince Charles and Prince William have battled their own demons, and risen finally to the challenge. Which is why it’s all the more unsettling to see Harry, once the rumbustious soldier, never afraid of getting stuck in among the lads, flying the white flag so early on in the struggle.

There takes a certain degree of personal sacrifice to join the Royal family. But with the announcement of leaving their senior royal positions, people are left wondering whether their million-pound wedding (pictured) or Frogmore Cottage was not enough

There takes a certain degree of personal sacrifice to join the Royal family. But with the announcement of leaving their senior royal positions, people are left wondering whether their million-pound (pictured) or Frogmore Cottage was not enough

I suppose there is a kind of courage in knowing when you’ve had enough, and in that respect Harry has been clear enough. But in truth it’s not entirely obvious what has driven him to such a conclusion: was the £2.4 million taxpayer-funded refurbishment of Frogmore Cottage not lavish enough? The outpouring of affection at their multi-million-pound insufficiently fawning? The Queen’s repeated invitations to stay - rebuffed more than once - not hospitable enough?

It’s almost as though nothing matters to this couple apart from their own immediate happiness and gratification, as though they are incapable of seeing beyond their own little bubble of privilege. It has often been speculated as to whether they might end up walking away from Britain. But the timing of this announcement could hardly be more insensitive, or more indicative of the how little either seems to understand the true nature of their roles as Royals.

Meghan turned down the Queen's invitation to join her at the Highland Games in Scotland. Her Majesty was left 'disappointed' by the Duchess of Sussex's rejection and choosing to watch her friend Serena Williams play tennis instead

Meghan turned down the Queen's invitation to join her at the Highland Games in Scotland. Her Majesty was left 'disappointed' by the Duchess of Sussex's rejection and choosing to watch her friend Serena Williams play tennis instead

Prince Philip has only just come out of hospital. The Yorks are still weathering a storm of scandal. In the wider world, Britain’s forces stand in peril in the Middle East. Yet this is the moment they choose to walk away - and without telling the Queen.

Yet for all that, my reaction to this story is

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