Phillip Schofield leaves This Morning: The timeline of events

London, UK.   Holly Willoughby and Philip Schofield   at the photocall for the set of Dancing on Ice. ITV Studios. 11th January 2023. Ref:LMK11-SLIVE120122-001.  Steve Bealing/Landmark Media WWW.LMKMEDIA.COM.
Rumours of a bitter divide between Phillip Schofield and Holly Willoughby had been circulating for months. (Steve Bealing/LMK)

Phillip Schofield has left ITV's This Morning after hosting the flagship morning show for 21 years.

His dramatic exit follows rumours of a bitter rift with co-presenter Holly Willoughby, with the pair reportedly "barely speaking" when the cameras aren't rolling.

Driven by reports in the tabloids, the story has gripped the nation, with people keen to find out what drove a wedge between the golden duo, who have had many happy moments since teaming in 2006 for Dancing on Ice.

The previously close friends had tried to hide their feud from viewers, but it became impossible as stories emerged of Schofield, 61, hiring lawyers to deal with the dispute, the exact nature of which is still unclear.

Read more: Holly Willoughby and Phillip Schofield: Their on-screen history together

Rumours range from Willoughby, 42, being upset that Schofield did not tell her about his brother being charged with child sex offences, to annoyance over the way Schofield interrupts her during interviews.

Phillip Schofield and Holly Willougby arrive at the Daily Mirror Pride of Britain Awards 2018, at the Grosvenor Hotel, London.  Picture date: Monday 29th October 2018.  Photo credit should read:  David Jensen
The pair had been best friends for 17 years, but tensions have reportedly mounted for a number of reasons. (David Jensen)

Some say things haven't been the same since the pair were accused of queue-jumping at Elizabeth II’s lying in state, while others say changes in Schofield's personal life have made him more insecure and "needy" on set.

Here, Yahoo UK sets out a timeline of what went wrong for the nation's sweethearts.

'Queue jumping' for Queen's lying in state

The first cracks in Schofield and Willoughby's relationship arguably started to show in September 2022 after they became the centre of the so-called "queue gate" scandal.

Many viewers were outraged after the pair were pictured in what appeared to be a fast-track queue to view Queen Elizabeth II lying in state at Westminster Hall.

Addressing the fierce public backlash at the time, Willoughby said they would never jump the queue, insisting they were given access "strictly for the purpose of reporting on the event".

Watch: ITV's Phil and Holly pay respects at Queen's Lying in State

She added: "None of the broadcasters and journalists there took anyone's place in the queue and no one filed past the Queen."

It was one of Willoughby's first exposures to bad publicity and she was reportedly shaken by the level of public anger. She said she "has never had to deal with anger and vitriol like this in her life" and came off social media for several weeks until tensions died down.

Willoughby 'kept in the dark' over court case

Civilian police worker Timothy Schofield, the brother of TV presenter Phillip Schofield, covers his head as he leaves Exeter Crown Court where he is on trial accused of sexual abuse of a teenager. Schofield, 54, is accused of 11 charges of interfering with a child which started when the victim was just a teenager. Picture date: Thursday March 30, 2023.
Civilian police worker Timothy Schofield covers his head as he leaves Exeter Crown Court. (PA)

Schofield insists he and Willoughby are still "best friends", having formed a close bond on and off screen over the past 17 years.

That could explain why Willoughby felt she'd been left in the dark as her co-presenter didn't tell her his brother Timothy had been charged with child sex offences.

“Holly had to find out from someone else, which must have been awful for her. She has been so loyal to him," a source told MailOnline.

This will have inevitably put more strain on the pair's relationship, as well as Schofield taking some time away from the show after his brother's conviction in April 2023.

'Holly is my rock', Schofield insists

This Morning hosts Holly Willoughby and Phillip Schofield are said to be at odds with each other (This Morning/Twitter)
Schofield's statement did little to quash rumours of his and Willoughby's strained relationship. (This Morning/Twitter)

By May this year, more and more stories began to emerge of Schofield and Willoughby drifting apart, with insiders telling the Sun their relationship had "cooled" as issues between them had “rumbled for some time”.

They added: “To those around them on set, it has become clear recently that Holly and Phil are not as close as they once were. Before there would be a lot of banter and camaraderie off camera but that has dwindled.”

Both presenters were said to be "barely speaking" off air, with Willoughby saying she'd be prepared to do the show without him if he left.

Watch: Phillip Schofield and Holly Willoughby's funniest moments on This Morning

Acknowledging their tensions in a statement, Schofield told the Sun: "As I have said before, Holly is my rock. We’re the best of friends — as always, she is an incredible support on screen, behind the scenes and on the phone.

"Holly has always been there for me, through thick and thin. And I’ve been there for her. The last few weeks haven’t been easy for either of us.”

This may have done even more damage however, as Willoughby reportedly felt "blindsided" by the statement as she had no idea her co-host was going to make it.

Awkward headlines

Schofield and Willoughby had an awkward moment as they opened Monday, 15 May's show with a review of the newspaper headlines.

The front page of the Sun that day had declared “Furious Phil calls in lawyers”, while other papers mentioned "crisis talks" between the pair and ITV.

However, the pair made no mention of these front page stories during the segment - their first appearance on the show together since Schofield's unexpected statement, the Guardian reports.

A 'broken' friendship

That same day, former This Morning host Eamonn Holmes seized on rumours of Willoughby and Schofield's strained relationship and suggested it was time for them both to step down.

Remarking on their absence from the TV Baftas during his show on GB News, Holmes, 63, said "I think there should have been a special award for Phillip Schofield and Holly Willoughby for best actors.

Watch: Eamonn Holmes suggests there's 'no chemistry' between Phillip Schofield and Holly Willoughby

"They may or may not be together on the telly today. He's brought in lawyers, she's brought in a PR team. The public surely will suss that there's no chemistry, that it's a broken fit between the two of them and that This Morning does not depend on who presents it.

"It's an institution, it will carry on no matter who presents it and anyone can check the viewing figures, there's no difference between whether they present it or anyone else."

'Phil has become needy'

When Schofield came out as gay in early 2020, he thanked his best friend Willoughby for being “so kind and wise” adding that she “has hugged me as I sobbed on her shoulder”.

“Never been more proud of my friend than I am today,” Willoughby said, as she praised her colleague's bravery.

Read more: Joe Lycett makes Holly Willoughby joke at TV Baftas

This was a huge change for Schofield, who moved out of the home he'd shared with his two daughters and wife of 27 years, Stephanie. He bought a £2 million house in Chiswick and said that he was “not rushing” to find a new partner.

Gok Wan (L) and Phillip Schofield attend the Pride Parade. Thousands of people have gathered across London to take part in this year's Pride celebrations - which marks 50 years since the first march for LGBTQ+ rights in the capital. (Photo by Pietro Recchia / SOPA Images/Sipa USA)
Gok Wan and Phillip Schofield attend last year's Pride Parade in London. (Pietro Recchia/SOPA Images/Sipa USA)

But three years on, with no significant other, This Morning insiders said he had become an increasingly lonely figure and has been more insecure and demanding of Willoughby's attention, the Telegraph reports.

One source said: “Phil has become needy. There has been a role reversal - where once Holly was a young presenter who looked up to Phil, she is now the grown-up in the partnership."

Prince's Trust ambassador Schofield swerves awards

Both Willoughby and Schofield are ambassadors for the Prince's Trust, but the latter was nowhere to be seen at the charity's awards on Tuesday, 16 May.

Plagued by persistent coverage on his frayed relationship and crisis at ITV, he instead opted to attend the London Wine Fair to support a brand he collaborates with, When in Rome Wine, MailOnline reported.

Willoughby makes early exit from This Morning

LONDON, ENGLAND - MAY 17: King Charles III meets Holly Willoughby and Stanley Tucci and he hosts the winners of the Prince's Trust awards and celebrity ambassadors at Buckingham Palace on May 17, 2023 in London, England. (Photo by Geoff Pugh-WPA Pool/Getty Images)
King Charles III meets Holly Willoughby and Stanley Tucci and he hosts the winners of the Prince's Trust awards and celebrity ambassadors at Buckingham Palace. (Geoff Pugh-WPA Pool/Getty Images)

Schofield was left to host part of This Morning alone on Wednesday, 17 May, as his co-host made an early exit from the studio.

While this may not have helped quash rumours of their divide, Willoughby did have a valid excuse for skipping work.

She had an appointment at Buckingham Palace as King Charles hosted a reception for winners of the Prince's Trust awards the previous night.

Keeping up appearances on the air, the pair embraced as Willoughby headed out, telling Schofield: "Be good, don’t be naughty … and save me a piece of cake.”

Exit Schofield

LONDON, ENGLAND - JANUARY 11: Phillip Schofield attends the
Phillip Schofield attends the Dancing On Ice Series 15 Photocall in January, 2023. (Mike Marsland/WireImage)

On 20 May, it was announced that Phillip Schofield would step down from This Morning with “immediate effect” after more than 20 years on the ITV programme.

The 61-year-old TV presenter will not return to co-host the morning talk show with Holly Willoughby.

ITV has said Willoughby will remain on the show and will “co-present with members of the This Morning family”.

In the immediate future however, This Morning will be presented by Alison Hammond and Dermot O'Leary.

Read more: Alison Hammond and Dermot O’Leary step in at post-Schofield This Morning (Guardian, 3 min read)

Read more: Phillip Schofield ‘hung out to dry’ as recriminations fester over This Morning exit (Telegraph, 5 min read)

Schofield, who also shared the news in a post to his Instagram story, said: “I have always been proud to cover fascinating stories on This Morning. But recently, This Morning itself has become the story.

“Throughout my career in TV – including the very difficult last few days – I have always done my best to be honourable and kind. I understand that ITV has decided the current situation can’t go on, and I want to do what I can to protect the show that I love.

“So I have agreed to step down from This Morning with immediate effect, in the hope that the show can move forward to a bright future.

“I’d like to thank everyone who has supported me – especially This Morning’s amazing viewers – and I’ll see you all for the Soap Awards next month.”

Watch: Phillip Schofield quits This Morning