The Duke and Duchess of Sussex have made their final official appearance as senior members of the British royal family.

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle attended a Commonwealth Service at Westminster Abbey in London this afternoon.

It follows a series of events in recent days, including Meghan's surprise visit to a school in Dagenham, east London, to celebrate International Women's Day.

The couple do not officially step down from their roles as working members of the royal family until 31 March, but the service was the symbolic end of their life supporting Queen Elizabeth.

In a change from last year's event the Sussexes were shown to their seats and did not wait at the abbey's great west door to meet the Prince of Wales, Duchess of Cornwall and the Queen before processing with the other royals at the start of the ceremony.

When Meghan and Harry first arrived they were greeted by the Dean of Westminster, the Very Reverend Dr David Hoyle, and met a group of dignitaries including British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and the Commonwealth's secretary-general Baroness Scotland.

The ceremony was a poignant milestone as they prepare to embark on their future away from the royal family.

From 31 March, the couple will no longer use their HRH styles as they pursue a new life of personal and financial freedom, mostly in North America.

On that date Meghan will bow out of royal life just one year, ten months and 12 days - or 682 days - after marrying into the family.

Harry and Meghan rocked the monarchy with their announcement in January that they wanted to break free from the constraints of royalty.

They complained about media intrusion, a long-running issue for Harry, who watched how photographers pursued his mother Diana until her death in a Paris car crash in 1997.

Prince Harry and Meghan seated behind his brother, Prince Wiliam, and sister-in-law Kate

Their decision to leave prompted anger and dismay among many royal fans in the UK, but both Harry and Meghan received a warm welcome in their final flurry of engagements.

The couple received a standing ovation as they took their seats at an evening of military band music at London's Royal Albert Hall on Saturday.

And Meghan drew shrieks of delight from school children in Dagenham when she made an unannounced visit on Friday.

"She really is beautiful, innit?" head boy Aker Okoye, 16, told the audience after the duchess asked him up on stage.

In a visit to mark International Women's Day, Meghan paid tribute to the women whose strike at the nearby Ford Motor Plant in 1968 helped pave the way for the 1970 Equal Pay Act.

Harry is the youngest son of the queen's heir, Prince Charles, and the 35-year-old will remain sixth in line to the throne.

But from the end of this month, he and his wife will no longer use the "Royal Highness" style or use public funds, except for their security.

The couple had previously spoken about their struggle with limelight since their fairytale wedding in May 2018, and the birth of their first child Archie the following year.

Harry has also complained about "racial undertones" in coverage of his wife, a US mixed-race actress, and the couple have launched several actions against British newspapers.

At one of his final events last week, with injured military veterans, the prince expressed his pride at serving the monarch.

"Once served, always serving!" Harry, a former soldier who served two tours in Afghanistan, told the audience at the Endeavour Fund.

He will no longer perform any duties associated with his military appointments, but said that he would always support the armed services.

"A lot of you tonight have told me you have my back, well I'm also here to tell you, I've always got yours," he said.

But both he and Meghan will keep their personal patronages, and his military posts will not be filled for a year.

The queen and the couple have agreed to renew the new arrangements in 12 months time, giving them a route back to royal life.

The monarch, 93, told Harry during lunch last week that they would always be welcome, The Sun reported.

Additional reporting AFP