In 1995, the BBC documentary program Panorama aired a sensational interview with Diana, Princess of Wales, in which she uttered the immortal line, “Well, there were three of us in this marriage, so it was a bit crowded.” The fallout for the monarchy and Diana herself was immense. That interview now looks like a friendly round of Carpool Karaoke with James Corden in comparison to the primetime special event that was Oprah Winfrey’s interview with Harry and Meghan, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex.
In the course of the two-hour program, Meghan and Harry lodged bombshell after bombshell, guided all the while by an absolutely legendary interviewer at the very top of her game. The interview was just getting started when Meghan replied to longstanding rumors that she and Kate had had a blowup over the bridesmaids’ dresses in the runup to Meghan’s wedding—by confirming that it had indeed happened and saying that, contrary to the stories circulating, Kate had actually made Meghan cry. She insisted that she didn’t want to share the details because Kate had apologized and she’d forgiven her, but said it was an important turning point in their relationship with the institution, which didn’t refute the story.
This was a theme Meghan returned to over and over again: the lack of support from the institution. “Not only was I not being protected,” she said, “but that they were 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.” And she was still just getting warmed up.
One of the most shocking moments came when Meghan talked about the depths of the depression she was suffering while pregnant with Archie, under intense media scrutiny and facing a barrage of criticism. She said she was struggling to the point of having suicidal thoughts: “I just didn’t want to be alive anymore. And that was a very clear and real and frightening constant thought.” Even worse, she added that she approached a senior member of the family about getting care for her depression, and was told it “wouldn’t be good for the institution.” She didn’t have her car keys or her passport, at that point, and—as she pointed out—couldn’t exactly call an Uber. It’s worth noting, here, that “mental health” is supposed to be a big philanthropic cause for the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, who recently did a virtual appearance to promote a mental health hotline.
She said she then went to HR—“in my old job there was a union,” she noted—but they couldn’t help her because she wasn’t on staff, she said. (Sounds like the only thing everybody can agree on inside the Palace is that their HR department isn’t much use at all!)
Some of the most radioactive allegations were—unsurprisingly—about race. Meghan said that a family member at one point raised the issue to Harry of just how dark their child’s skin would be; when Harry joined the interview, he refused to divulge just who, exactly, had said it. Meghan also suggested that their children’s race was a factor in their not receiving titles (which aren’t automatic for the monarch’s great-grandchildren and have to be granted); her main concern, she said, was that Archie—the first royal with a biracial mother, at the center of a publicity storm—therefore wouldn’t automatically have security protection. Not a great series of revelations for a royal family that would like to continue their connection with the very diverse Commonwealth.
Elsewhere in the interview, Harry said that his father at one point stopped taking his calls during the negotiations over their potentially leaving the ranks of working royals. He was surprisingly frank about his family, in fact: “I’m acutely aware of where my family stand and how scared they are of the tabloids turning on them,” Harry said, adding that he had been “trapped within the institution like the rest of my family are,” specifically his father and his brother, and that he has compassion for them. He said that currently he and William are giving each other “space,” and that there’s a lot of healing to be done in his relationship with Charles. He also revealed that his family cut him off financially, including his security. Apparently, Tyler Perry stepped in and offered them not just a place to stay in the U.S. while they figured out their housing situation, but also covered their security.
The couple also revealed that they were actually married three days before their highly public wedding in a private ceremony with the Archbishop of Canterbury; that they’re having a daughter; and that they’ve started keeping chickens.
The interview generally did a good job of shredding the princess mythos; Meghan painted a picture of being cooped up inside her home, unable to leave because she was already “overexposed,” basically living on lockdown before anybody had ever heard of covid. At one point, she compared it to The Little Mermaid, in which Ariel literally gives up her voice upon falling in love with the prince. But she closed out the interview by saying their story was “greater than any fairy tale.”