Joe Pugliese / CBS
When British Prince Harry married in May 2018 to American actress Meghan Markle – who had enjoyed success as a regular on the core cable series Suit – they became the Duke and Duchess of Sussex. For a short time, they lived their lives as members of the royal family. They were doing events, they were affiliated with charities, and they were – she was, in particular – endlessly, often brutally, covered by the British press. Her clothes, the way she seated, the personality she supposed to have and her general qualities were constantly monitored. And, of course, there was both the press and the public a stream of racism that was sometimes less “under” and more simply “current”. Black women have spoken and written about it over and over, until now, and Harry himself denounced it in a public statement long before their marriage.
In the spring of 2020, they moved away from this life. They’re still officially the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, but you don’t call them “Her Royal Highness” anymore. The couple moved to Southern California, where they now have deals with Netflix and Spotify and a production company called Archewell. They lead a very different, unusual life. And they don’t ask permission to do or say things.
That brings us to the two hour Sunday interview that single Meghan, and then the couple together, did with Oprah Winfrey, which aired on CBS in prime time. In the days leading up to it, the couple and perhaps others as well seemed to be preparing people to receive him in opposing ways. Harry did a jovial segment with James Corden for late night TV, in which he FaceTimed with Meghan and spoke warmly about Zoom calls with his grandparents, and how his grandmother – the Queen – sent a waffle iron over Christmas for their son, Archie. (Meghan is currently pregnant with their second child.) At the same time, a new wave of negativity about Meghan has surfaced in the UK press, mainly an accusation of ‘intimidating’ staff.
What wasn’t clear on Sunday evening was how much there would be in this interview that the Royal Family – or more specifically the biggest commercial enterprise around them, often referred to as The Firm – wouldn’t want ‘she says. Based on Corden’s interview, Harry wasn’t spoiling at least one argument with his grandmother. But once the tide of dirt started to flow over Meghan, it was easy to wonder if anyone out there was nervous about what to say and was trying to get ahead.
And in the end, it was painful and personal and bluntly about the cost of it all for Meghan in particular, and it wasn’t something the Royal Family would be happy people to hear. It ended up being a more deeply sad than juicy discussion.
Oprah was quite willing to insist on details when an answer was a bit … artificially diplomatic. It was a sunny conversation in the carefully managed backyard, where two expectant parents faced an interviewer who was persevering but also deeply empathetic towards them, and where they had two straight hours to do. part of their history. It remains to be seen whether other sides emerge.
Here are the main points to remember.
1. Meghan says she had serious and scary suicidal thoughts during her pregnancy with Archie as she began to understand what the life that awaited her would really mean, but the institution around the royal family told her that she couldn’t get the help she wanted. The most revealing conversation may have been about mental health. Meghan described having serious suicidal thoughts. She approached an elderly person working for the royal family, who she said forbade her to seek treatment as she requested. (A friend of Diana, Harry’s mother, offered to support.)
2. They have a daughter. You need at least a straightforward title, right? The headline that doesn’t require a lot of detail is Baby Meghan due to give birth this summer is, they think, a girl.
3. Meghan says the royals have refused to make her baby, Archie, a prince or offer him the protection that would come with that title – and has expressed concern about his skin color before he was born. Meghan told Oprah that when she was pregnant, the family informed her that they would not make her first child (who turned out to be Archie) a prince or a princess, and that the child would would not get the protection that comes with that title. She says she was not given any clear reason and stopped, barely, to say it was because she was black. But she says there were also discussions (with Harry, not her) in which family members expressed concerns about the color of the baby’s skin. She did not say which family members, even when being pushed, saying she thought revealing this would be “damaging” to them. Harry, too, later admitted that at least one such discussion had taken place, but he wouldn’t offer any details. Not sharing who was behind these discussions about the baby’s skin color was the firmest line the couple drew.
4. They both cite security concerns as having played a huge role in their choices. Harry and Meghan said their hands were forced to move to California because after initially moving to Canada (a Commonwealth country) they were told by the cabinet that their safety was taken away from them. This left them exposed at a time when, Harry says, the Daily mail had revealed where they lived. They moved to the United States and enjoyed the hospitality of Tyler Perry, who was able to provide them with refuge until they settled. Harry also says he was cut financially by the royal family in early 2020, and that he and Meghan were able to get by because of what his mother left him – he even speculated that in a way , she “saw it coming”. And he added that the deals he and Meghan now have with Netflix and Spotify are in part to meet their ongoing security needs.
5. Harry described what he called the “invisible contract” between the royal family and the tabloid press, in which currying favor with certain journalists leads to a more favorable press. Although it might seem obvious, Harry used it to explain what he called “how scared they were. [in the family] are tabloids that turn on them, ”and said he believed that was part of the reason why family and the cabinet had failed to support him in the event of bad press. On several occasions, they both said that the biggest issue leading to their departure was this same lack of support from family and the institution. No one would stand up for them, they said – which Harry found irritating, especially when Meghan suffered from racist harassment that won her the public support of more than 70 members. of Parliament – but not the royal family. Meghan summed it up clearly: “‘They were willing to lie to protect other family members” – she didn’t say who – “but they weren’t willing to speak the truth to protect Me and my husband . “
6. Meghan says the story she made her sister-in-law, Kate Middleton, cry was just the opposite. The closest thing to a rebuttal of specific tabloid tales – as well as the only real revelation about the behavior of other members of the Royal Family – came when Oprah and Meghan opened up reports that just before her wedding, Meghan had made Kate (her sister in law, wife of Prince William) cry during an argument over the bridesmaid dresses. According to Meghan, the truth was quite the opposite, but the palace refused to let anyone refute it. She says Kate did her cry – even though she says the idea that they were bridesmaids’ dresses is actually accurate – and that Kate later apologized and even sent her flowers.
7. Harry’s relationship with his father and brother seems … complicated. It wasn’t long before Harry spoke warmly about his relationship with his grandmother, even now. But long pauses when asked to talk about his relationship with his father and brother William suggested more tension. Of his father’s lack of support when he and Meghan were feeling so miserable, he said: “I feel really disappointed. Because he’s been through something similar, he knows what the pain feels like, and Archie is his grandson. ” At one point, he says, Prince Charles even stopped taking his calls.
8. They both say they haven’t blinded the family and never planned to quit their roles altogether; they just wanted to take a step back. Harry and Meghan have said they never intended to quit their roles with the Royal Family entirely. They say they didn’t want to be Senior members, but to play smaller roles, many other less important royals play. They told Oprah that they didn’t get the support they needed to make this possible.
9. Harry says he was “trapped” in the royal family system – and that his relatives are too. Oprah asked him about stories that present Meghan as a manipulator who forced him to leave the family. Would he have left without her? she asked. He turned this question in precisely the opposite direction. He probably wouldn’t have left without Meghan, he admits. He says he was trapped. He says he didn’t realize how trapped he was, and it was his meeting that finally made him realize he wanted something different.
ten. They got married before they got married. It may have been an early sign of what was to come that Harry and Meghan, seemingly overwhelmed by the public spectacle of their wedding, ended up getting married three days earlier in what Meghan said was a ceremony in the yard, although who knows what that looks like to these people? She says these are the wishes they keep framed. It seems that for them it was not only their legal marriage, but also their real marriage.