Oprah Winfrey’s interview with Prince Harry and his wife, Meghan, the Duchess of Sussex, had been teased for days. So it was a shock to find when it aired Sunday night that it included a number of explosive revelations about the couple and their fraught relationship with the British royal family.
Here are the main takeaways:
Meghan said that life as a royal had made her suicidal.
Over the years, Harry has openly discussed mental health, grief and other issues that, in the past, were taboo coming from a royal. But audiences have rarely heard Meghan talk about her own mental health, with the exception of a 2020 article in The New York Times’s Opinion section about her miscarriage.
One of the most revelatory moments of the CBS interview broadcast on Sunday night came when Meghan talked about contemplating suicide while living and working as a member of the British royal family.
“I was ashamed to have to admit it to Harry,” she said of her suicidal thoughts. “I knew that if I didn’t say it, I would do it. I just didn’t want to be alive anymore.”
Meghan said that at one point she asked a senior royal about the possibility of seeking inpatient care, and was told that would not be possible because it “wouldn’t be good for the institution.”
The interview provided a reminder that Harry and Meghan weren’t afraid to talk about the mental health challenges they have dealt with, and their responses to Ms. Winfrey’s questions underscored a message they seemed keen to send to the world: In some capacity or another, they will continue doing work similar to what they were doing as members of the royal family.
Ultimately, hearing Meghan talk about navigating life in the palace with Harry as the sole source of support confirmed something that has seeped its way into news coverage of the couple over the past year: They say they did not receive adequate support from Harry’s family when they were struggling and seeking assistance.
She was subjected to relentless racist attacks.
From the beginning, the couple said, the tabloids were vicious to Meghan, making unabashedly racist comments about her. The question of her race also infused her relationship with the royal family, the couple said. They believed it might have been a factor in the family’s decision not to grant their son, Archie, a title or to provide security protection for him.
In one of the most shocking moments in the interview, Meghan mentioned a conversation Harry had with a member of the royal household while she was pregnant with their firstborn.
“We have in tandem the conversation of ‘He won’t be given security, he’s not going to be given a title’ and also concerns and conversations about how dark his skin might be when he’s born,” Meghan said.
Harry said that someone had expressed worry about, as he put it, “what will the kids look like?”
Of his father, Harry said, ‘I feel really let down.’
One of the most memorable moments of Harry and Meghan’s wedding is the image of Prince Charles, Harry’s father, walking Meghan down the aisle and Harry saying to his father, “Thank you, Pa.”
The moment earned Charles supporters around the globe for appearing to be a loving father and father-in-law who was taking in his new daughter-in-law at a moment when her own father wasn’t showing up for her.
How things have changed.
It was striking to hear Harry describe his father as not taking his phone calls and asking him to put things into writing when he and Meghan were weighing taking a step back from their roles as senior royals. Harry later said that Charles was now taking his calls again, but that “there’s a lot to work through there.”
“I feel really let down, because he’s been through something similar,” Harry said, referring to the way the news media had hounded his mother, Princess Diana.
Prince William was barely mentioned in the interview, but when he did come up, Harry said that their “relationship is space, at the moment.”
More than once, both Harry and Meghan drew distinctions between the queen and the rest of the royal family. They told stories of interacting with her during their time in London and after stepping back from their roles as senior royals. There was a decipherable shift in tone, however, when discussing others, particularly William; his wife, Kate Middleton; and Charles.
The royal family failed to correct the false narrative around her, Meghan said.
The tabloid stories came one after the other, Meghan said: About her diva-like behavior, about how she had bullied her staff, about her supposed rift with her sister-in-law, Kate, the Duchess of Cambridge.
Not only were they not true, Meghan said, but the royal family did nothing to correct them.
She came to understand, she said, that the royal family was “willing to lie to protect other members of the family, but they weren’t willing to tell the truth to protect me and my husband.”
In a particularly resonant example, she said, the tabloids reported, long after her wedding, that she had made Kate cry before the lavish event over the bridesmaid’s dress that Kate’s daughter was meant to wear. In fact, Meghan said, it was Kate who made her cry.
Kate apologized and sent her flowers, Meghan said. But when the tabloid reports came out, no member of the royal family made an effort to correct the record.
“I’m talking about things that are super artificial and inconsequential,” Meghan said. “But the narrative about, you know, making Kate cry, I think was the beginning of a real character assassination. And they knew it wasn’t true.”
She added, “I thought, well, if they’re not going to kill things like that, then what are we going to do?”
‘My family literally cut me off financially.’
Most members of the royal family receive money each year from the family coffers in exchange for carrying out official engagements. But when he introduced Meghan to the family, Harry said, that arrangement already seemed to be in jeopardy.
Members of his family suggested that she continue acting, “because there wasn’t enough money to pay for her,” Harry said. “There was some real obvious signs before we even got married that this was going to be really hard.”
He and Meghan said they pleaded with the royal family to pay for security for them and their son, only to be refused each time.
Then, when he and Meghan moved to the United States, Harry said, the royal family stopped giving them money.
“My family literally cut me off financially,” Harry said. When Oprah pressed him on the point, he amended it to “the first half, the first quarter of 2020,” leaving open the question of whether any money had arrived after that.
In any case, he said, speaking of his life in the United States, “I’ve got what my mum left me, and without that, we would not have been able to do this.”
At another point, Harry described feeling “trapped” in his life before being with Meghan and noted that, “without question, she saved me.”
If you are having thoughts of suicide, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline in the United States at 1-800-273-8255 (TALK). You can find a list of additional resources at SpeakingOfSuicide.com/resources.
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