Former British royals Harry and Meghan recently sat down for an explosive interview with Oprah Winfrey, which aired on Sunday in the U.S. and is sure to take Queen Elizabeth II's palace by storm. Meghan, who is biracial, revealed for the first time the mentality of the royal family as she said they were concerned about how dark her son's skin would be and that they turned their backs on her when she was battling with suicidal thoughts.
The interview with Oprah Winfrey was the couple’s first since they stepped down from royal duties and the two-hour special included numerous revelations likely to reverberate on both sides of the Atlantic, reported The Associated Press (AP).
Harry told Winfrey that he felt trapped by royal life and was surprised that he was cut off financially and lost his security last year. He also said he felt his family did not support Meghan, who acknowledged her naivete about royal life before marrying Harry, as she endured tabloid attacks and false stories.
Meghan, who is biracial, said that when she was first pregnant with their son Archie, there were "concerns and conversations about how dark his skin might be when he’s born.” The statement led Winfrey to incredulously ask "What?”
While Winfrey sat in silence, Meghan said she struggled to understand why there were concerns within the royal family about her son’s skin color. She said it was hard for her to "compartmentalize” those conversations.
Meghan, the actor formerly known as Meghan Markle who starred in the TV drama "Suits,” said she grew concerned about her son not having a royal title because it meant he wouldn’t be provided with security. Meghan said processing everything during her pregnancy was "very hard."
"He needs to be safe,” a teary-eyed Meghan recalled. "We’re not saying don’t make him a prince or princess, whatever it’s going to be. But if you’re saying the title is going to affect their protection, we haven’t created this monster machine around us in terms of clickbait and tabloid fodder. You’ve allowed that to happen, which means our son needs to be safe.”
The interview was broadcast in the United States a full day before it will air in Britain. The revelations aren’t over either, Winfrey teased that unaired bits of the interview would be shown Monday morning on CBS. In a rare positive moment in the interview, Harry and Meghan revealed their second child would be a girl.
The interview opened with Winfrey gushing over Meghan’s pregnancy and lamenting that COVID-19 protocols kept them from hugging. Winfrey at various points in the interview ran through headlines about Meghan and at one point asked about the mental health impact. Meghan responded that she experienced suicidal thoughts and had sought help through the palace’s human resources department but was told there was nothing they could do.
"I was really ashamed to say it at the time and ashamed to have to admit it to Harry, especially because I know how much loss he suffered,” she said. "But I knew that if I didn’t say it that I would do it. And I just didn’t, I just didn’t want to be alive anymore.”
Harry, too, said there are lasting impacts from Meghan’s treatment and his relationship with his family. "There is a lot to work through there,” Harry said about his relationship with his father. "I feel really let down. He’s been through something similar. He knows what pain feels like. And Archie is his grandson. I will always love him, but there is a lot of hurt that has happened.”
Harry said the royal family cut him off financially at the start of 2020 after announcing plans to step back from his roles. However, he was able to afford security for his family because of the money his mother, Princess Diana, left behind. In response to a question from Winfrey, Harry said he wouldn’t have left royal life if not for his wife.
He said their relationship revealed the strictures of royal life. "I wouldn’t have been able to, because I myself was trapped,” Harry said. "I didn’t see a way out. I was trapped, but I didn’t know I was trapped,” Harry stated, before adding, "My father and my brother, they are trapped.”
Harry acknowledged that he does not have a close relationship presently with his brother William, who is heir to the throne after their father, Prince Charles. Harry disputed rumors that he intentionally blindsided his grandmother, Queen Elizabeth II, with his decision to split. He suspects the rumors came from the institution. "I’ve never blindsided my grandmother,” he said and added, "I have too much respect for her.”
Meghan, too, was complimentary toward the queen, despite saying at one point she realized some in the palace were willing to lie to protect other members of the family. "The queen has always been wonderful to me,” Meghan said.
Sunday's interview special opened with Meghan describing how naive she was about the ground rules of royal life before she married her husband, Harry, nearly three years ago.
"I didn’t fully understand what the job was,” she said. She also noted that she did not know how to curtsy before meeting Queen Elizabeth II for the first time, and didn't realize it would be necessary. "I will say I went into it naively because I didn’t grow up knowing much about the royal family,” Meghan said. "It wasn’t something that was part of conversation at home. It wasn’t something that we followed.”
Meghan said she and Harry were aligned during their courtship because of their "cause-driven” work. However, she did not fully comprehend the pressure of being linked to the prestigious royal family. "There was no way to understand what the day-to-day was going to be like,” she said. "And it’s so different because I didn’t romanticize any element of it.”
The couple married at Windsor Castle in May 2018, and their son, Archie, was born a year later. Harry and Meghan’s departure from royal duties began in March of 2020 over what they described as the intrusions and racist attitudes of the British media toward the duchess.
Taking aim squarely at senior royals, Meghan flatly denied reports, feasted on by the gossip press, that she made Prince William's wife Kate, the Duchess of Cambridge, cry before her wedding to Harry, saying the reality was the opposite.
"Everyone in the institution knew it wasn't true," Meghan told Winfrey. "The reverse happened," Meghan added, saying that Kate "was upset about something, but she owned it, and she apologized."
"A few days before the wedding, she was upset about something pertaining, yes, the issue was correct, about flower girl dresses, and it made me cry, and it really hurt my feelings."
Meghan called the claims "the beginning of a real character assassination" and "a turning point" in her relations with the royal family. "I came to understand that not only was I not being protected but that they were willing to lie to protect other members of the family," she said.
Ahead of Sunday's broadcast, it emerged Meghan was facing an investigation into claims that she bullied royal household staff, a revelation seen as a counter-offensive in a bitter battle for public support.
Last month, when Buckingham Palace confirmed the couple would not return to their senior roles, it said they would not "continue with the responsibilities and duties that come with a life of public service."
At the start of the interview, Winfrey said no topic was off-limits and that Meghan and Harry were not being paid for the special. Harry said the pair, who have secured lucrative deals with Netflix and other streaming services, had to find a way to make money as "my family literally cut me off financially."
According to Agence France-Presse (AFP), Winfrey reportedly sold the interview to U.S. broadcaster CBS for between $7 million to $9 million and retained international rights to the footage, which will feed an appetite for interest in Britain's centuries-old monarchy and their troubles, across the globe.
Reactions to the interview have been varied around the world. American tennis player Serena Williams, a close friend of Meghan, expressed sympathy for the couple, reported Reuters. "Meghan Markle, my selfless friend, lives her life, and leads by example, with empathy and compassion. She teaches me every day what it means to be truly noble. Her words illustrate the pain and cruelty she's experienced."
Meanwhile, British broadcaster Piers Morgan had a different take on the interview. "This interview is an absolutely disgraceful betrayal of the Queen and the Royal Family,” he said and added, “I expect all this vile destructive self-serving nonsense from Meghan Markle, but for Harry to let her take down his family and the Monarchy like this is shameful."
Prime Minister of New Zealand, which is part of the Commonwealth of Nations and where Queen Elizabeth II serves as the monarch, said in response to the interview that the country is unlikely to become a republic anytime soon or otherwise break from observing Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II as head of state, reported AP.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern was asked by a reporter whether the unflattering picture of the British royal family painted by Harry and Meghan had given her pause for thought about New Zealand’s constitutional ties to Britain.
"I’ve said before that I’ve not sensed an appetite from New Zealanders for significant change in our constitutional arrangements, and I don’t expect that’s likely to change quickly,” she said.
Asked whether Harry and Meghan had ever inquired about living in New Zealand, Ardern said they hadn’t in any official capacity, as far as she was aware, and asked about her personal friendship with Meghan since the couple toured the country in 2018, Ardern said she had kept in touch.
"It is fair to say in the past I’ve had contact here and there,” she said. "But ultimately, the matters that are being canvassed here I see as for Meghan and Harry to respond to directly. These are matters about their personal lives and their personal decisions, and I don’t think it deserves a commentary from anyone else.”
Perhaps the best response came from actor George Takei, who is known for his famous role in the TV series “Star Trek,” as the former star offered a unique solution. “Maybe they should just make Oprah queen and call it a day," he said.
In Britain, the interview is seen as poorly timed. It will air while Harry’s 99-year-old grandfather Prince Philip remains hospitalized in London after undergoing a heart procedure.
The response from the British media has been split, to say the least. The Duke and Duchess of Sussex delivered "enough bombshells to sink a flotilla," reported The Daily Telegraph. "And possibly, some might fear, do similar damage to the British monarchy," it added.
Chris Ship, the royal editor of ITV, which is to air the interview in Britain on Monday night, said he was "momentarily paralyzed" by the sheer volume of revelations. "The couple had effectively loaded up a B-52 bomber, flew it over Buckingham Palace and then unloaded their arsenal right above it, bomb by heavily loaded bomb," he added.
The Daily Mail tabloid, on the other hand, which has been highly critical of Meghan, quoted royal expert Robert Jobson as saying that the couple was "self-obsessed." He called their interview at times "terribly self-indulgent."
According to AFP, several media outlets questioned the specifics, including Meghan's suggestion that the royal family changed their rules to refuse their son Archie the title of "prince" because of his skin color.
"This is a complex area, there are rules laid down that Archie would not be a prince at birth, but would be a prince when Charles (Harry's father) becomes king," wrote The Times. Archie could have taken a title, the Earl of Dumbarton, but his parents chose not to, royal expert Robert Hardman told BBC radio.
It is unclear what public reaction, if any, the queen and other royal family members will have to Sunday’s interview. The U.K.'s The Sunday Times newspaper, citing an anonymous source, reported that the queen would not watch it.
The family's "position will be to take it on the chin and you get on," said Hardman.
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