Concerns about baby Archie's skin tone, Royal family trapped, security and finances cut, suicidal thoughts, "invisible contract" with tabloids, and their truth behind some of the nastiest rumors -- plus, the gender of their new baby!
It was only two hours long, but Oprah Winfrey's sit-down with Prince Harry and Meghan Markle unpacked so much of the last four years of their lives, creating a wholly different narrative of their story than what the tabloids have been presenting.
They even touched on the latest tabloid narrative about Meghan bullying staff during her time in the Royal family, even though this was filmed before those stories broke wide. Perhaps Meghan would have answered more fully had she been in the middle of the current maelstrom. Perhaps not.
When Oprah suggested she was considered "Hurricane Meghan," she replied, "I hadn't heard that." Oprah went on, "... for the departure of several high-profile staff members. Meghan's only response to that was, "Interesting."
She did, however, address allegations that she orchestrated her family's "Megxit" from the Royal family with a laugh, and apparent unawareness of that nickname for it.
"Can you imagine how little sense that makes? I left my career, my life, I left everything because I love him," she said. "And our plan was to do this forever. Our plan for me -- I mean, I wrote letters to his family when I got there saying, ‘I am dedicated to this. I am here for you. Use me as you’d like.’"
When asked if he would have stepped away from the family without Meghan's influence, he admitted he wouldn't, though he said that's because he "was trapped but I didn't know I was trapped ... trapped within the system like the rest of my family are. My father and my brother, they are trapped. They don’t get to leave, and I have huge compassion for that."
The couple also dropped the big reveal of the gender of Archie's baby ... sister! Harry said he couldn't be happier to have his new family, a wife, a son, a daughter and their dogs. The baby is due sometime this summer.
The special even went so far as to allege that threats to remove all remaining titles and vestiges from Harry as a result of this interview were already in the works before the Palace had any idea they'd agreed to be interviewed.
It was, according to the couple, just the last step of severing all official ties with them after having already removed the family's security and cutting them off financially. Harry told Oprah that the only reason they were able to survive that until deals with Spotify and Netflix solidified their financial standing was due to money his mother had left him, and a huge assist from Tyler Perry.
Oprah had earlier asked him what he thinks his mother, Princess Diana, would have thought of all of this, with him responding that she'd be "very angry with how this has panned out and very sad."
He also added, "I think she saw it coming," thus the nest egg she left for him. For Harry, there are so many startling parallels between his mother's tragic story coming into the Royal family, and her struggles to be accepted, and his wife's.
"I can’t begin to imagine what it must have been like for her 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," he said.
While he didn't delve deeper into what that means about Diana's husband, Prince Charles, during those years, Harry did say that his own relationship with his father has been strained, and he's been surprised that his father wasn't more understanding of the challenges he and Meghan were facing.
"I feel really let down, because he’s been through something similar, he knows what pain feels like," Harry said of his father. "And Archie’s his grandson. But at the same time, of course, I will always love him. But there’s a lot of hurt that’s happened. I will continue to make it one of my priorities to try and heal that relationship."
He also suggested that his current relationship with his brother, Prince William, is equally strained, without coming right out and saying so. When Oprah asked what that relationship looked like today, he said, "The relationship is space at the moment, and time heals all things, hopefully."
But it's not all strained relationships for Harry and Meghan, as both suggested that they are enjoying a very rosy relationship with the head of the Royal family, Queen Elizabeth II. Meghan talked about calling the palace to talk to her, while Harry said he's spoken more with her this past year than in several years before.
"My grandmother and I have a really good relationship and an understanding, and I have a deep respect for her," said Harry. It was a sentiment echoed over and over, and even when talking about the removal of his patronages and everything else, he said he understands.
He quickly denied tabloid reports that their decision to step back "blindsided" his grandmother, saying that he's never done it, again due to the respect he has for her. "I have a guess that it probably could have come from within the institution," he said of the rumor.
But he and Meghan were both adamant to make it clear that this decision is not in response to this interview. "The decision is, as of last week or whatever it was. is that they will be removing everything," said Harry.
Meghan quickly added in response to Oprah saying rumors were it was because of this chat, "I think it’s important for you and everyone to know that this decision that was made about patronages, all of that, was before anyone knew that we were sitting down with you. Those letters, those conversations, that was finalized before anyone knew that we were going to sit down, so that’s just not true."
Meghan was evasive when asked about her relationship with Kate Middleton. When Oprah asked about the picture of them together at Wimbledon and asked if it was as it appeared, two sisters-in-law enjoying some time together, Meghan did not answer the question directly at all.
"When you say, 'Was it what it looked like?' My understanding and my experience of the past four years is nothing like what it looks like. It’s nothing like what it looks like."
But perhaps the biggest tabloid story to ever emerge about the two was when a story came six months or so after Harry and Meghan's wedding claiming that Meghan had reduced Kate to tears over flower girl dresses.
Meghan completely flipped the script on this one, saying instead that it was Kate who had reduced her to tears. "The reverse happened," she said. "And I don’t say that to be disparaging to anyone because it was a really hard week at the wedding. She was upset about something, but she owned it and she apologized. She brought me flowers and a note apologizing. She did what I would do if I knew that I’d hurt someone, right, to just take accountability for it."
As such, Meghan refused to go into details about the situation, telling Oprah, "I don’t think it’s fair to get into the details of that because she apologized and I’ve forgiven her." It was the aftermath that proved so problematic.
"What was hard to get over was being blamed for something that not only I didn’t do, but that happened to me. And the people who were part of our wedding going to our comms team and saying, ‘I know this didn’t happen. I don’t have to tell them what actually happened, but I can at least go on the record and say she didn’t make her cry.'"
Further, she suggested that she believes Kate would have wanted it corrected as well, "because she's a good person." But she believes "the same way that the palace wouldn’t let anybody negate it, they wouldn’t let her [take ownership]."
Oprah also brought up how differently the tabloids appeared to treat the same situations when it came to Kate and Meghan, specifically referring to images of the women cradling baby bumps or eating avocados.
Kate was a doting, expectant mother for cradling her bump, Meghan was showing evidence of "pride" and "vanity." Kate ate avocados to help battle morning sickness, Meghan doing it created a bizarre link to water shortages and environmental devastation.
"That's a loaded piece of toast," Meghan laughed, despite herself. "You have to laugh at a certain point because it's just ridiculous."
On a more serious note, though, Meghan contemplated, "I can see now what layers were at play there. And again, they really seemed to want a narrative of a hero and a villain." And yet, no one was apparently allowed to respond.
In fact, according to Meghan, "the institution" or "the firm," as she referred to the business of the family, had complete and total control of what was and wasn't said publicly.
In fact, she said they have even more control than that, sharing that she had to turn over her keys, driver's license and passport upon joining the Royal family and moving in. Not only did they control the narrative, but they had control of your physicality as well.
She explained that everyone in her world were directed to always say "no comment" to the media about Meghan and Harry, and she was told multiple times, "We'll protect you." Her biggest regret is believing that, because she says it quickly became clear that they weren't doing that at all.
"I think that was really hard to reconcile, because it was only once we were married and everything started to really worsen that 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, but they weren’t willing to tell the truth to protect me and my husband," she told Oprah.
She spoke of being advised by "the firm" that she shouldn't go out to lunch with friends because she was "everywhere" at the moment, referring to tabloid stories. Meghan said several times she did not follow them herself, but heard about them through friends and family.
"I said, ‘I’ve left the house twice in four months. I’m everywhere but I am nowhere. And from that standpoint, I continued to say to people, ‘I know there’s this obsession with how things look, but has anyone talked about how it feels? Because right now, I could not feel lonelier.’"
When asked how that was possible, Meghan said, "Of course there’s loneliness when you’ve come from such a full life, or when you’ve come from freedom."
It was in this part of their chat that Meghan lamented, "I’ve always been outspoken, especially about womens’ rights. That’s the sad irony of the last years is I’ve advocated for so long for women to use their voice, and then I was silent."
The notion of feeling trapped within that Royal world was one that was brought up multiple times throughout the interview, with Harry and Meghan suggesting that every member of the family is "trapped" in this world, which is also a bit of a bubble.
Harry admitted as much when he said that dating Meghan opened him up to a deeper understanding of racial relations than he'd ever had in his privileged upbringing. He went so far as to say that he feels bad for his father and brother that they're "trapped."
A part of that trap, according to Harry, is this idea of an "invisible contract" that exists between the Royal family and the British tabloids. It's to the point that he believes his family is "scared" of "the tabloids turning on them."
It was described as a symbiotic relationship that exists between the tabloids and the Royal family. The tabloids sell papers and, "The institution survives based on that perception" of them that is created in the tabloids.
It's a perception that is in many cases very different than the reality on the inside, according to both Harry and Meghan. But it also gives a great deal of power to the tabloids in creating the narrative. And in the case of Meghan, that narrative was at least in part racism.
"From the beginning of our relationship, they were so attacking and inciting so much racism, really -- I mean, it changed our risk level because it wasn’t just catty gossip, it was bringing out a part of people that was racist in how it was charged, and that changed the threat, that changed the level of death threat, it changed everything," said Meghan.
For Harry, a big turning point came for him in how his country and his family reacted to some of the nastiest stories that were being told about Meghan in the press.
"I guess one of the most telling parts, and saddest parts, was over 70 members of parliament, female members of Parliament, both conservative and labor, called out the colonial undertones and headlines written about Meghan, yet no one from my family ever said anything over those three years," he said. "That hurts."
According to Meghan, her race wasn't just a topic for tabloid fodder, as well. She said quite pointedly that a conversation was had with Harry while she was pregnant concerning "how dark his skin might be when he's born."
"I could never understand how it wouldn’t be seen as an added benefit and a reflection of the world today at all times, but especially right now," said Meghan. "To go, how inclusive is that that you can see someone who looks like you in this family, much less someone who’s born into it?"
But Harry confirmed that the conversation, or conversations, took place, though neither were willing to say anything more specific than that. "That conversation I am never going to share," said Harry. "But at the time, at the time it was awkward and I was a bit shocked."
Meghan also declined to divulge more, saying, "I think that would be very damaging to them."
All of this was happening around the same time that it was being decided that, against protocol, Harry and Meghan's as-yet-unborn child would not be given any titles, or a security retinue.
On the one hand, Meghan said she was definitely more concerned about the lack of security for her child than any titles, but the argument was that the security would not be made available because there would be no title.
"If you’re saying the title is what’s going to affect their protection, we haven’t created this monster machine around us in terms of clickbait and tabloid fodder," Meghan argued at the time. "You've allowed that to happen which means our son needs to be safe."
But she said she was never given an explanation. "The idea of the first member of color in this family not being titled in the same way that other grandchildren would be."
She even went on to describe Royal tradition that the grandchild of the monarch is always a Prince, and that as soon as Prince Charles would ascend to the throne, Archie would be his grandson. "it’s not their right to take it away," she said of the "firm." "While I was pregnant, they said they wanted to take that convention away, for Archie. Well, why?"
As far as she's concerned, that is Archie's birthright and only he should have the ability to ultimately accept or reject it.
The decision to start distancing themselves from the rigors of Royal life came when Meghan said she reached her lowest point, actually contemplating suicide approximately a year before it was first announced they'd be stepping back.
She remembered telling Harry where she was at on the same day they had a public even to go to, and him trying to insist she was in no condition to go. She countered, telling him, "I can't be left alone."
Meghan said that it was the very next day she went to "the institution" to try and find some help for herself only to be roundly denied. "I said I needed to go somewhere to get help, I’d never felt this way before and I needed to go somewhere and I was told that I couldn’t, that it wouldn’t be good for the institution," she said.
She then said she even went to HR, but they told her there was nothing they could do as she wasn't a paid employee. She said she actually found comfort in leaning on one of Diana's best friends during this dark period, "because who else could understand what it’s actually like on the inside."
Another narrative that existed was that Harry and Meghan (with Meghan being called the orchestrator of everything) were trying to carve out a new role for themselves on their own terms. But the couple insists that wasn't the case. They were seeking the same type of non-senior role that already exists.
"We weren’t reinventing the wheel here," she explained. "We were saying, okay, if this isn’t working for everyone. We’re in a lot of pain, you can’t provide us with the help we need, we can just take a step back, we can do it in a Commonwealth country." The couple wound up in Canada for a time, before relocating to America just before the pandemic hit hard.
For Harry, this was something he felt he needed to do for his family, considering Meghan's mental struggles and the lack of support they say they were getting from "the firm."
"Biggest concern was history repeating itself," he said referring to the death of his mother, who was also brutalized in the tabloids. "What I was seeing was history repeating itself, but perhaps or definitely far more dangerous because then you add race in, and you add social media in."
"When you can see something happening in the same kind of way, anybody would ask for help, ask the system of which you are part of, especially when you know there’s a relationship there that could help share some truth or call the dogs off, whatever you want to call it," he said.
But instead, he said they received "no help at all" and were instead "told continuously just, 'This is how it is, this is how it is, we’ve all been through it.'"
It was his decision to not just power through it and endure it because everyone else had that led to the strains in his relationships, and particularly his father. "By that point, I took matters into my own hand. I needed to do this for my family," he said. "This is not a surprise to anybody. It’s really sad that it’s gotten to this point, but I’ve 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 headed."
To people thinking the couple moved to Los Angeles in early 2020 to cash in and score those lucrative Netflix and Spotify deals, the reality was starkly different. They'd had no notion of moving to Los Angeles until they felt their hands were forced.
Harry said that he was told, "short notice, that security was going to be removed." By this point, he said the tabloids had already told the world their exact location, making for some serious safety concerns.
With the borders likely to be closed soon in these beginning days of COVID-19, and their safety now possibly at risk with no security retinue, they took Tyler Perry up on an offer of security and a house to stay in Los Angeles until they could land on their feet.
"I never thought that I would have my security removed because I was born into this position, I inherited the risk," he said. "So that was a shock to me. That was what completely changed the whole plan, for what we have planned."
Meghan fought for him on this, telling Oprah, "I even wrote letters to his family saying, 'Please, it is clear the protection of me or Archie is not a priority. I accept that, that is fine. Please keep my husband safe. I see the death threats. I see the racist propaganda. Please keep him safe. Please don’t pull his security and announce to the world when he and we are most vulnerable. And they said, ‘It’s just not possible.’"
So now, they have this new life in Los Angeles away from the Royal family. Does that mean they had no worries about possible backlash or retaliation for this interview? "I’m not going to live my life in fear," said Meghan. "I don't know how they could expect that after all of this time we would still just be silent if there is an active role that the firm is playing in perpetuating falsehoods about us. At a certain point, you’re going to go, ‘You guys, someone just tell the truth.’"
"That comes with risk of losing things," she continued. "I mean, I’ve lost-- there’s a lot that’s been lost already, and I grieve a lot. I’ve lost my father, I lost a baby, I nearly lost my name. There’s a loss of identity, but I’m still standing, And my hope for people in the takeaway from this is to know that there’s another side. To know that life is worth living."
When asked what she's most excited about in their new life, she said, "I think just being able to live authentically. Like this kind of stuff [animal rescue], it’s so basic but it’s really fulfilling. It’s like, just getting back down to basics."
But they also both conceded that their future could have looked very different had they found the type of support they needed from "the institution." When asked if they'd still be there had that support been offered, Harry said, "Without question."
"I’m sad what’s happened has happened, but I know and I'm comfortable knowing that we did everything we could to make it work, and we did everything on the exit process the way that it should have been done."
Meghan, added, "With as much respect -- Oh my God, we did everything we could to protect them."
If you or someone you know is struggling with depression or has had thoughts of harming themselves or taking their own life, get help. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (1-800-273-8255) provides 24/7, free, confidential support for people in distress.