Prince Harry and Meghan Markle sat down for an exclusive interview with Oprah Winfrey last Sunday on CBS News. In a tape nearing an hour and a half’s worth of content, the couple opened up for the first time about their journey as senior figures in the royal institution and where they stand now.
“We were making it look like everything was fine,” said Meghan. “I can understand why people were so surprised that there was so much pain there.”
You can watch the full interview with CBS here. If you don’t have the time, just scroll down for a recap of its most notable revelations.
Both Harry and Meghan felt “trapped” within the royal institution.
Meghan first described being physically unable to leave the palace, citing a time prior to the appearance of COVID-19 when she had gone outside twice in four months due to excessive press.
She detailed a conversation she had held with the palace staff, who would not let her leave. “I said, […] ‘I know there’s an obsession with how things look [to the public], but has anyone talked about how it feels? Because right now, I could not feel lonelier’.”
She noted, “When I joined the family, that was the last time I saw my passport, my drivers license, my keys. All of that gets turned over.”
“It’s a very trapping environment that a lot of them are stuck in,” Harry said of his family members that remain in the institution. “They all had this mentality of ‘this is just how it is,’ ‘you can’t change it,’ ‘we’ve all been through it’.” He later specified his concerns for his father and brother, Princes Charles and William. “They don’t get to leave.”
Harry also mentioned that if he had never met Meghan, he would not have been able to leave. “I was trapped, but I didn’t see that I was trapped,” he explained. “But the moment that I met Meg, our worlds collided in the most amazing of ways, and then [I began] to see.”
UK tabloids searched for a “hero” and “villain” narrative between Meghan and Kate Middleton, Meghan suspects.
Oprah contrasted two tabloid headlines featuring Meghan and her sister-in-law Kate Middleton, Duchess of Cambridge. The two articles were written about each duchess eating an avocado. “Kate Eating Avocados to Help With Morning Sickness,” read the first, while the second was titled, “Meghan Wolfing Down a Fruit Linked to Water Shortages, Illegal Deforestation, and Environmental Devastation.”
“That’s a loaded piece of toast,” Meghan joked lightheartedly. “Sometimes you just have to laugh.”
On a more serious level, she revealed the truth behind a standing rumor that she had made Kate cry back in 2018. Meghan upheld that there was no truth behind the rumor – in fact, the reverse had happened. Meghan identified the situation as a “turning point” for her, and the beginning of a worsening storm of “character assassination” from the royal institution.
She described frustration over the fact that nobody was willing to negate the rumors despite “everyone in the institution” knowing that they were false. “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.”
After reassuring viewers that she and Kate had returned to speaking terms since the rift, she pointed out, “If you love me, you don’t have to hate her. And if you love her, you don’t need to hate me.”
Meghan opened up about having suicidal thoughts during her time in the palace.
Meghan described how harsh scrutiny from the UK tabloids, along with a notable lack of royal support, had pushed her to her “breaking point.”
“I just didn’t see a solution. I would sit up at night,” she remembered. When she would constantly see damaging headlines about herself, she said that she “realized that it was all happening just because I was breathing.”
“I just didn’t want to be alive anymore,” said Mehgan.
“It was a very clear, and real, and frightening, constant thought,” she continued somberly. “I thought it would have solved everything for everyone, right?”
When asked if she had ever harmed herself, she said that “the signs were very clear.”
Meghan recounted “begging” the institution to let her go to a hospital to receive help. “I was told that I couldn’t, that it wouldn’t be good for the institution,” she said. “Nothing was ever done.”
The hardest part of it all, she explained, was the constant need to hide the reality of her situation. She recalled a royal event she had attended with Harry, only for fear of what she might do to herself if she had stayed behind alone. She references a photo of her husband grasping her hand tightly as cameras flash in their faces.
“We are smiling and doing our job, but we were both just trying to hold on. Every time those lights went down in the royal box, I was just weeping, and he was gripping my hand, and then […] everyone’s looking at us again, and you just have to be on again.”
She discussed feelings of embarrassment and weakness regarding her mental health. She felt “ashamed at the time” when bringing up the topic with Harry, because she “knew that he had already suffered so many losses.”
“It takes so much courage to admit that you need help. It takes so much courage to voice that. I was ashamed – I’m supposed to be stronger than that.”
Now, three years later, she reminds her viewers “that there’s another side, and that life is worth living.”
“There’s a lot that’s been lost already,” she admits. “I lost my father, I lost a baby, I nearly lost my name. And then, there’s the loss of identity. But I’m still standing.”
Harry’s family “literally cut [him] off” and he believes that his late mother, Princess Diana, saw it coming.
According to Harry, the royal family cut off their funding and royal security shortly after they left the UK, despite him being a blood prince staying within the British Commonwealth Districts. In order to find safety and shelter quickly, Meghan and Harry briefly lived in the home of Tyler Perry, American actor and movie director, lasting about three months.
Harry reported that they used the money Diana left him to afford relocation to California as well as paying for their own security. “Without that [inheritance], we would not have been able to do all of this,” he said.
“Touching back on what [Oprah] asked on what my mum would think of this,” Harry continued, “I think she saw it coming. I certainly felt her presence throughout this whole process.”
Mentioning the couple’s Australia tour, Harry proudly mentioned Meghan’s exceptional performance there, and described similarities between her and Diana’s hands-on leadership and genuinity. He proposed that the royal institution may have felt threatened by her resemblance to Diana and what they represented to the common people.
He noted that tour as the time the institution started to twist Meghan’s narrative from hero to villain, and it was also marked when her experience with suicidal thought began.
“I’m just really relieved and happy to be sitting here talking to you with my wife by my side,” said Harry. “I can’t begin to imagine what it would have been like for [my mother, Princess Diana,] going through this process by herself all those years ago, because it has been unbelievably tough for the two of us, but at least we have each other.”
When the family received the news that Harry’s security was going to be taken away, Meghan wrote countless letters to the family asking them to please reconsider the order. She continued to reinforce the importance of security to his family. Although Harry’s status may have declined, his danger had not, she argued. Her letters were ignored.
“I was scared of history repeating itself,” Harry said in reference to Diana’s fate.
The royal family changed traditional convention just to prevent the couple’s son from being given the title of ‘Prince.’
“All the grandeur surrounding [royal titles] is an attachment I don’t personally have,” said Meghan upon being asked whether the title itself was part of the issue for her. “I’ve been a waitress, an actress, a princess, a duchess. I’ve always been clear on who I am independent of that stuff, and the most important title I’ll ever have is ‘mom’.”
Although Meghan made it clear that titles were never extremely important to her, security always has been. Unfortunately, security is only given to princes and princesses, meaning that the title of ‘Prince’ may hold more meaning than meets the eye.
Meghan referenced a traditional royal convention stating that all grandchildren of the monarch are automatically given the title of ‘Prince’ or ‘Princess.’ “When Harry’s dad becomes king,” she explained, “automatically, [our son] Archie and our next baby would become ‘Prince’ or ‘Princess,’ or whatever they’re going to be.”
However, the convention didn’t stay that way for long. “While I was pregnant, they said that they wanted to change the convention, [specifically] for Archie. Why?” Meghan demanded. “It’s not their right to take it away.”
There were several “concerns and conversations” about the darkness of Archie’s skin, and “what that would mean or look like” for the institution.
Archie was born two years ago in the midst of the drama surrounding their exit from the royal institution. With around a 25% Black heritage, he is the first person of color to be born into England’s royal family.
According to Meghan and Harry, “several conversations” were held between Harry and his older family members about the potential darkness of Archie’s skin. These reportedly took place during the latter months of Meghan’s pregnancy, and shocked both parents.
“So, if you were too brown, that would be a problem? Are you saying that?” Oprah asked to clarify, stunned.
Meghan responded that it “would be a safe assumption.” She and Harry refused to share names and details, on the basis that the information would be too “damaging” to the royals.
“What was different for me was the race element,” said Harry, “because now […] it doesn’t just affect my wife, it affects so many other people as well. That was the trigger for me to really engage in those conversations [about race] with senior palace staff and with my family.”
Meghan, as the first biracial member to marry into family, brought up the importance of racial representation in government, and acknowledged how she had wanted to be that person for future generations. However, after learning of these conversations, she decided the role was too much for her to handle.
Meghan felt abandoned by the royal family.
Throughout the sit-down, a recurring topic of discussion seemed to be the royal family’s failure and unwillingness to “protect” Meghan, Harry, and their young son Archie.
“My regret is believing them when they said I would be protected,” Meghan admitted. “Had I [known better], I would have been able to do more, but I think I wasn’t supposed to see it. I wasn’t supposed to know.”
Shortly after, she added mournfully, “I’ve always been outspoken, especially about women’s rights. I mean, that’s the sad irony of the last four years. […] I’d advocated for so long for women to use their voice, and then…” She pauses. “I was silent.”
“Were you silent? Or were you silenced?” Oprah prompted, to which Meghan admitted: “the latter.”
They are speaking up now to clear up “falsehoods” about their departure from the institution.
“I don’t know how they could expect that after all of this time we would still just be silent if there was an active role that the firm is playing in perpetuating falsehoods about us,” she said.
Oprah brought to their attention that many believed Meghan had orchestrated the event of leaving the royal family, dubbing the incident ‘Megxit.’
Meghan laughed, “It’s amazing how they can use Meg for everything.” She then talked about her experience early on in the palace, and how her intention had always been to stay. “I left my career, my life. I left everything because I love him.”
“It’s been so spun in the wrong direction, like ‘we quit’ or ‘we walked away’,” Meghan said.
Harry explained further. “It was a lack of support. A lack of understanding,” he said. “I had got to do something for my own mental health, for my wife’s, and for Archie’s as well, because I could see where this was going.”
“The perception and the reality are two very different things,” Meghan added. “You’re being judged on the perception, but you’re living the reality of it.”
The couple actually married three days prior to their royal wedding.
About the royal event, Meghan said, “We were both really aware [that] this wasn’t our day. This was the day that was planned for the world.”
She revealed that they had actually gotten married three days before the public wedding happened, with only each other and the Archbishop present. “This spectacle is for the world,” she said, “but we want this union between us.”
“Just the three of us,” Harry agreed, humming to the tune of “Just the Two of Us” by Grover Washington Jr.
The royal family’s actions are limited by the press, Harry said.
According to Harry, it is not uncommon for the tabloids to manipulate the royal family into docility via the threat of negative press. For example, giving the press more notable and exclusive content would likely ensure better press coverage for your name.
Harry brought up a time where over seventy members of Parliament acknowledged racist connotations in headlines and articles written about Meghan. “Yet,” he said, “no one from my family ever said anything [about it] over those three years. That hurts.”
He suggested that the reason for this hesitation was likely the tabloids, although it is unclear where the entirety of the family stands on the topic. “I am acutely aware of how scared my family is of the tabloids turning on them.”
Harry is no longer on good terms with his father, Prince Charles, and his relationship with his brother, Prince William, appears strained.
When asked about his relationship with his father, Harry paused. “There’s a lot to work through there,” he settled on.
“I feel really let down,” Harry said after several more seconds of deliberation. “He’s been through something similar. He knows what pain feels like, and Archie is his grandson. […] Of course, I will always love him, but there’s a lot of hurt that’s happened.”
He also revealed that Charles stopped taking his phone calls in the weeks following the couple’s announcement to leave the royal institution. He implied that they had been speaking more frequently in recent months, but he remained vague about the topic or attitude of their discussions.
About Prince William, his brother, Harry acknowledged the “space” between them. While not in close contact, Harry maintained that he “loves William to bits.”
Weeks after the interview tape was recorded, William was questioned by pushy interviewers on March 11 while touring an elementary school with his wife, Kate Middleton, Duchess of Cambridge. When asked about Harry, William stated that they had not spoken since the interview, but that he intended to do so. He then asserted, “We are very much not a racist family.”
Meghan and Harry remain on good terms with the Queen.
“There’s the family, and then there’s the people that are running the institution. Those are two separate things,” Meghan said. “The queen, for example, has always been wonderful to me.” Meghan went so far as to compare the Queen to her own grandmother, saying, “She’s always been warm and inviting, and really welcoming.”
“I have too much respect for her,” Harry said about his grandmother, addressing a widespread rumor that he had “blindsided the Queen” with the couple’s decision to leave the institution. Harry suggested that the rumor “could have come from inside the institution.”
The Queen announced in February that the couple’s royal patronages were to be removed, as well as Harry’s honorary military titles. While Harry said he felt “hurt” by her decision, he said he “completely respects” it.
In the week following the couple’s interview with Oprah, Buckingham Palace responded on behalf of the Queen with the following statement:
“The whole family is saddened to learn the full extent of how challenging the last few years have been for Harry and Meghan. The issues raised, particularly that of race, are concerning. While some recollections may vary, they are taken very seriously and will be addressed by the family privately. Harry, Meghan, and Archie will always be much loved family members.”
A Happy Ending?
Meghan drew a parallel between the life of Ariel from The Little Mermaid and her own. “She falls in love with the prince, and because of that, she has to lose her voice,” she explains. “But by the end, she gets her voice back.”
“And that’s what’s happening here, you’re getting your voice back,” Oprah said, to which Meghan nodded. “It’s better than any fairy tale.”
“I’m really proud of us,” Harry told Oprah. “I’m so proud of my wife. She safely delivered Archie during a period that was so cruel and so mean. […] We did what we had to do, and now we have another little one on the way.”
The family now resides in Santa Barbara, consisting of the couple and their son Archie, a daughter expected to arrive in the summertime, two dogs, and several rescue chickens. “What are you most excited for?” Oprah asked the couple, regarding their new lifestyle.
“I think just being able to live authentically,” Meghan responded. “It’s so basic, but it’s really fulfilling.”
“Without question, she saved us,” Harry continued, regarding Meghan.
“That’s lovely,” she replied, “but I would disagree. I think [Harry] saved all of us. He ultimately called it.” Turning to her husband, she smiled, “You made a decision that certainly saved my life, and saved all of us. But, you know-” she turned back to Oprah – “you need to want to be saved.”