Meghan Markle's devastating words during her final solo engagement ahead of "Megxit" have been revealed.
The Duchess of Sussex gave a tearful speech to staff last March as she prepared to wave goodbye to life as a senior member of the Royal Family.
The 39-year-old hugged her aides and was visibly emotional as she spent her last hours in the UK following her and Prince Harry's bombshell "Megxit" decision, which they announced a year ago today.
The former Suits actress then hopped on a commercial flight to fly back to the couple's new home in Canada before son Archie woke up the next morning.
Royal journalist Omid Scobie was among those invited to Meghan's final engagement – a private meeting with Association of Commonwealth Universities scholars – during which she spoke to students about their work on subjects including climate change.
Mr Scobie later wrote in the book Finding Freedom – which he co-authored with Carolyn Durand – about how Meghan used that meeting to bid a final farewell to her team at Buckingham Palace.
And he revealed Meghan hugged him before saying the tear-jerking seven words: "It didn't have to be this way."
Mr Scobie wrote: “Staff who had been with the couple from day one were mourning the end of what was supposed to be a happy story: two people fall in love, get married, have a baby, serve the Queen, the end. Instead, they were leaving the country.
“As Meghan gave me a final hug goodbye, she said, ‘It didn’t have to be this way’.”
The Duchess was said to be sad that things hadn't gone differently as she and Harry prepared to start a new life together in Canada, and later in the USA.
Mr Scobie, writing for Harper's Bazaar, added that "tears that the duchess had been bravely holding back (were) free to flow among familiar faces".
He added: "The Duchess of Sussex emotionally (bid) much-loved aides farewell, with her flight 'home' to Canada leaving in a matter of hours.
"Meghan would fly back to Canada on the last commercial flight of the day, eager to be back in Vancouver Island by the morning before Archie wakes up."
Meghan is also said to have "tearfully" told a pal "I gave up my entire life for this family" after she was blamed for her and Harry's decision to step back.
She reportedly said she "was willing to do whatever it takes."
Meanwhile, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex are in a "very good place" one year on from sparking a major royal crisis when they dropped their bombshell that they wanted to quit as senior royals.
Harry and Meghan released their shock statement on January 8, 2020, saying they intended to step down and become financially independent, but still support the Queen – a dual role which in the end was unworkable.
Amid the first anniversary on Friday of the announcement, the Sussexes have settled into a new life in the US away from the monarchy, secured lucrative multimillion-pound deals with both Netflix and Spotify and established their Archewell foundation.
But the couple have also experienced heartache, with Meghan revealing in a newspaper article in November that she had suffered a miscarriage in the summer, writing: "I knew, as I clutched my firstborn child, that I was losing my second."
A source said: "After a very turbulent 12 months for everyone in the world and massive changes of moving country and all the rest of it, they have also been very vocal about what they have gone through in their own personal life.
"They have a house. They have created the financial independence that they were after.
"They have launched their organisation and their organisation is under way doing amazing things already.
"And so I think that they are in a very good place."