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Harry, Meghan speak out about royal split

March 8, 2021

Prince Harry and Meghan, the Duchess of Sussex, have opened up about life in the British royal family in a tell-all interview with US television personality Oprah Winfrey.

 Britain's Prince Harry and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex are interviewed by Oprah Winfrey
Meghan and Harry spoke out about the lack of support and intense pressure from the royal familyImage: Harpo Productions/Joe Pugliese/REUTERS

Prince Harry and Meghan, the Duchess of Sussex, have spoken about the struggles of living in the royal family in a highly-anticipated interview with US television personality Oprah Winfrey, which aired at 8 p.m. EST (0100 GMT) on Sunday.

It was the couple's first major interview since announcing their split from the royal family earlier this year. The bombshell interview is set to intensify an already fraught row between the couple and the British monarchy.

What did they say in the interview?

On relations with the royal family:

  • Meghan said the family and the people who run the institution are separate. She said Queen Elizabeth has always been "wonderful" to her, always making her feel welcome.
  • Oprah asked whether Meghan chose to be "silent" or was "silenced," to which Meghan responded with "the latter." She added that while the palace was ready to lie to protect other members of the family, "they weren't willing to tell the truth to protect me and my husband."
  • Harry said his father, Prince Charles, stopped taking his calls over his plans to step back from royal life.
  • He said his father and brother, Prince William, were "trapped" in their roles and couldn't leave. He added that he feels sorry for them.
  • Harry said his late mother, Princess Diana, would be "very angry and sad" at the way he and Meghan had been treated. He said she would want them to be happy.
  • The prince revealed that he was cut off financially in the first quarter of 2020, but he received his mother's inheritance. 
  • Harry said he has a strong relationship with the queen. While his father is taking his calls again, it is his priority to heal that relationship.
  • "My regret is believing them when they said I would be protected," Meghan said.

On racism:

  • Meghan, who identifies as biracial, said there were concerns about how "dark" her son, Archie, would be. She said that Archie would not be eligible for palace security as he was not a prince.
  • Neither revealed who had voiced concerns over Archie's skin color, except to imply it was a family member.
  • Harry said that not one member of his family had said anything about the racist articles targeting Meghan. "That hurts," he added.

On mental health:

  • Meghan revealed that the intense pressure she faced led her to contemplate suicide.
  • She said she had told the palace that she needed help for mental health concerns, but received no support.
  • "I just didn't want to be alive anymore. And that was a very clear and real and frightening constant thought," she said.

On the British press:

  • Meghan denied British reports that she made her sister-in-law Kate, the Duchess of Cambridge, cry during Meghan's wedding preparations.
  • Oprah read headlines that showed a double standard in reporting between Kate and Meghan.

On their personal lives:

  • The couple is expecting a second child, a girl, due in the summer.
  • Harry said he "wouldn't have been able to" take a step back from the royal family without Meghan. She was his way out.
  • "We've actually not just survived but are thriving," said Meghan. "It's greater than any fairy tale you've read."

'They either have to be private citizens or royals'

Why is this a big deal?

Public interviews like these are not common for the British royals, who have remained tight-lipped on numerous issues through the years. With Harry and Meghan indulging in this "tell-all" conversation, there is a lingering fear that the royal family's image may be tarnished.

How has the royal family reacted?

Hours before the interview was aired, Queen Elizabeth II, Harry's grandmother, gave a televised address on Sunday. In an address to mark Commonwealth Day, the British monarch talked about the importance of "dedication to duty."

"Whilst experiences of the last year have been different across the commonwealth, stirring examples of courage, commitment and selfless dedication to duty have been demonstrated in every commonwealth nation and territory," she said.

Service and duty have been much talked about after Meghan and Harry stepped back from their roles as senior royals. In a statement last month, they said, "We can all live a life of service. Service is universal."

Reports have suggested that the palace will only respond if individual members of the family are attacked in the interview.

Harry and Meghan's split from royal life

The couple stepped away from royal duties in March 2020, complaining about the British tabloids' treatment of Meghan. They cited what they described as bullying and racist attitudes toward the duchess, who is biracial.

They now live in Montecito, California, where they are neighbors of Winfrey.

Buckingham Palace late last month announced that the couple had finalized their separation from the royal family and will no longer be working members of the British monarchy. 

Last week, Buckingham Palace announced that it is investigating allegations that the duchess had bullied members of her staff — back in 2018 — forcing two of them to quit. However, critics have accused the British royals of keeping double standards over Meghan and Prince Andrew, whose serious allegations of interactions with underage girls were not addressed in public. 

If you are suffering from serious emotional strain or suicidal thoughts, do not hesitate to seek professional help. You can find information on where to find such help, no matter where you live in the world, at this website: https://www.befrienders.org/

see/rs (AFP, Reuters, AP)

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