For her third birthday since she married Prince Harry, the former Meghan Markle is celebrating the start of her 39th year on Wednesday back in her home state of California and as far away in space and spirit from the royal family she married into and then bolted four months ago.
What can fans of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex expect? A new picture? A new charity engagement via video conference?
Meghan's royal family took to social media to send her birthday wishes.
On The Royal Family's Twitter account, a photo of the queen and the duchess at a 2018 joint visit to Chester was shared along with a message.
"Wishing The Duchess of Sussex a very happy birthday!" the post read.
🎂🎈Wishing The Duchess of Sussex a very happy birthday!
📸 The Queen and The Duchess are pictured during a joint visit to Chester in 2018. pic.twitter.com/jTv8NmISYo
— The Royal Family (@RoyalFamily) August 4, 2020
Prince William and Duchess Kate also shared a photo of Meghan on their Kensington Palace Twitter account.
"Wishing a very happy birthday to The Duchess of Sussex today!" the post read.
Wishing a very happy birthday to The Duchess of Sussex today! 🎂🎈 pic.twitter.com/42VD8c8q69
— The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge (@KensingtonRoyal) August 4, 2020
Otherwise, the Sussex media team in Los Angeles and London hasn’t released any details so far.
But there is reason for fans to hope for a few morsels. When 15-month-old baby Archie turned 1 in May, the Sussexes released a video of Meghan reading to him, to help promote a Save the Children UK campaign.
And when Harry turns 36 in September, there may be pictures of him released, just as pictures were released by Kensington Palace of brother Prince William when he turned 38 in June.
Harry and Meghan may have abandoned the trappings of their former royal life, including the palace aides whipping out press releases and statements. But they are just as focused on their privacy as they were when they lived in a royal palace instead of a borrowed palatial estate overlooking Beverly Hills and Los Angeles.
Meanwhile, they are dealing with increased attention in the response to a sympathetic book purporting to be an "insider" account of the reasons and logistics behind their flight from royal life. The pair have issued a statement declaring they did not cooperate with "Finding Freedom: Harry and Meghan and the Making of a Modern Royal Family," which has been extensively covered and excerpted in the British media for two weeks. The book will be published on Aug. 11.
Few would have predicted three years ago that Meghan, Harry and Archie would be spending her 39th birthday in Southern California, quarantined like everyone else during the COVID-19 pandemic – only in more luxurious surroundings than most people.
It's the couple's second landing zone since they made their shocking announcement in January that they were stepping back from their roles as senior royals and moving to North America to seek more freedom, privacy and financial independence.
After weeks of tense negotiations and public exchanges of anonymous recriminations, the first biracial, divorced American royal duchess in British history was getting out of Dodge and taking one of Queen Elizabeth II's beloved grandsons and an eighth great-grandchild with her.
The couple went first to their rented estate on Vancouver Island, Canada, where they had been living in the final months of 2019. But they soon departed for the United States just before the border with Canada shut down due to the pandemic.
Since they arrived in March, they have been rarely seen in person, emerging occasionally for socially distanced and masked charity appearances made public after they were over, or when paparazzi snapped them during unannounced charity food deliveries for quarantine shut-ins.
The pandemic has helped to make Harry, Meghan and Archie largely inaccessible to photographers hoping for a quick, lucrative photo on a street or at a restaurant. But they remain the "most famous and fascinating couple" in the world, says Lainey Lui, a Canadian TV personality and founder of Toronto-based Laineygossip.com, who closely follows royal news.
No matter where they go, people want to know what they're up to – and they want to see pictures. Thus, the couple's just-filed lawsuit against unnamed photographers to stop the "disgusting and wrong" sale of a photograph taken of Archie in the backyard by a drone allegedly operated paparazzi.
Resorting to "dronerazzi," as they are known in L.A., is an extreme and produces photos of poor quality, making them less valuable, says Lui, who looks at celebrity photographs every day as part of her job. But even without a pandemic, celebrities who want to be unseen can avoid the camera lenses in Los Angeles, capital of the paparazzi.
"Some celebrities, like Meghan and Harry, are staying locked down, and some of them do want to be seen," says Lui, pointing to regular photos of celebrities she sees eating at Nobu in Malibu.
"It is very possible for celebrities to live in L.A. and not ever be paparazzied.Beyoncé is a great example," Lui says. "There's no one bigger than Beyoncé and she is very rarely (snapped) because she has the resources and means to move around undetected by paparazzi."
For now, Harry and Meghan have been communicating mostly via video conferences with their charity patronages in Los Angeles and in London, with friends and relatives and with the outside world.
Do they have friends over for barbecues? Who are their friends, new or old? These are questions we don't know and they are not going to answer. But we can guess that at least one pal might be off their guest list: Canadian Jessica Mulroney, Meghan's fashion stylist and one of her best friends who was a key member of her wedding team.
Mulroney has been lying low at her Toronto home after a racism row with a Black fashion blogger upended her career, resulting in the cancellation of her show on Canadian TV, her regular appearances on "Good Morning America," and her thriving styling business.
And what about family? Harry has no relatives living in L.A. (his distant cousin, Lord Frederick Windsor, and his family lived there for a time but has since moved back to London).
Meghan's mother, Doria Ragland, 63, lives in Los Angeles and may be living with Harry and Meghan, or is at least a regular visitor. She was the only member of Meghan's ifamily who was at their May 2018 wedding at Windsor Castle.
Meghan's estranged father, Thomas Markle, is about four hours drive south in Mexico, where he retired in a town down the coast from Tijuana. Given their falling out dating to just before the wedding (he did not attend because he was in the hospital with heart problems, he said), they are unlikely to exchange texts, let alone meet.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Meghan Markle birthday: Duchess turns 39, royal family celebrates