A Raw Look Behind Palace Doors as Meghan and Harry Meet With Oprah: Highlights (Published 2021) (2024)

March 8, 2021, 2:17 a.m. ET

March 8, 2021, 2:17 a.m. ET

Mark Landler

Explosive revelations as Meghan and Harry accuse the British royal family of failing to protect them.

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A year after Meghan Markle married Prince Harry in a fairy-tale wedding, she said in an extraordinary interview broadcast on Sunday night, her life as a member of the British royal family had become so emotionally desolate that she contemplated suicide.

At another point, members of the family told Harry and Meghan, a biracial former actress from the United States, that they did not want the couple’s unborn child, Archie, to be a prince or princess, and expressed concerns about how dark the color of the baby’s skin would be.

An emotional but self-possessed Meghan said of her suicidal thoughts: “I was ashamed to have to admit it to Harry. I knew that if I didn’t say it, I would do it. I just didn’t want to be alive anymore.”

Meghan, 39, made the disclosures in an eagerly anticipated, and at times incendiary, interview on CBS with Oprah Winfrey that aired in the United States in prime time. The interview was broadcast at 9 p.m. Monday on ITV in Britain.

In describing a royal life that began as a fairy tale but quickly turned suffocating and cruel, Meghan’s blunt answers raised the combustible issues of race and privilege in the most rarefied echelon of British society.

Here are the main takeaways from the interview.

This briefing has ended.

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March 8, 2021, 12:08 a.m. ET

March 8, 2021, 12:08 a.m. ET

Tariro Mzezewa

‘Without question she saved me’: Harry shares his side.

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Among the tabloid narratives about Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s relationship, she has at times been depicted as a villain who changed him, created a rift between him and his family and, most recently, took him away from them.

On Sunday, viewers were able to hear Harry’s perspective directly. The prince said that although he believed he would not have stepped back from royal life if he had not met Meghan, he also could not have done it without her. Despite his life of privilege, Harry said, he felt trapped and “didn’t see a way out.”

“Without question she saved me,” he said.

Harry alluded to strained relations with his father, Prince Charles, and his older brother, Prince William, both of whom he also described as “trapped” in their roles. Earlier in the interview, Harry said his father had stopped taking his calls while he and Meghan were discussing how to step back from royal life. Harry later said 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.

William was not often mentioned in the interview, and Harry did not say much about where he and his brother stand.

“The relationship is space, at the moment,” he said.

As for his grandmother, Queen Elizabeth II, Harry said they have a “really good relationship” and have spoken more in the past year than they have in a long time.

March 7, 2021, 10:59 p.m. ET

March 7, 2021, 10:59 p.m. ET

Choire Sicha

Oprah reminded us how interviews should be done.

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For viewers to come together in this age and in this economy for television at an appointed time — interrupted by commercials even! — requires a high bar.

Last night’s interview drew in a bit more than 17 million people.

Watchers were reminded of the skill, empathy and just all-around mastery of communication and focus of Oprah Winfrey as interviewer. Even if it was all showbiz, even it was all an act, for viewers it felt engrossing and moving.

This is when a generation that didn’t grow up watching Oprah now realizes how she has a unique gift.

— deray (@deray) March 8, 2021

Ms. Winfrey, of course, was one of the creators of interview television when she wasn’t busy winning Tonys, Peabodys and getting Oscar nominations. “The Oprah Winfrey Show” began in 1986 and concluded, 25 seasons later, with more than 5,000 episodes, in 2011. She has said she has interviewed 37,000 people.

oprah's "what" is so powerful

— hunter harris (@hunteryharris) March 8, 2021

The “big get” interview is a TV genre unto itself, in which a famous anchor or host elbows out rivals to land an exclusive sit-down with a newsworthy subject. It is also a genre past its heyday. Along with Diane Sawyer and Barbara Walters, Ms. Winfrey, an interviewer extraordinaire who started her TV career in the 1970s, was a major player when the competition for such shows was at its height.

It was 1993 when she interviewed Michael Jackson in an event that stopped people in their tracks. (Prince Harry was not yet a teenager.) It was at the time the most-watched televised interview in history, with tens of millions of people tuning in. (The New York Times reported 62 million viewers; Ms. Winfrey claimed 90 million worldwide.)

In 2019, she revisited the Jackson situation, interviewing the two subjects of the documentary “Leaving Neverland,” who accused the singer of sexually abusing them when they were children.

I didn’t actually quite understand Oprah’s singular genius as a broadcaster and interviewer until I became one but she’s legit on another level.

— Chris Hayes (@chrislhayes) March 8, 2021

Journalists on Twitter paid tribute to the techniques Ms. Winfrey used in the interview, which was simultaneously intimate and charged, kind but firm. The power of her attention is riveting.

If Oprah ever interviewed me, I too would dime out my whole family.

— Karen Tumulty (@ktumulty) March 8, 2021

It’s Oprah’s follow up questions for me. A journalism interviewing masterclass.

— Nneka M. Okona 🇳🇬 (@afrosypaella) March 8, 2021

Behind the scenes, nearly every interview ends the same way, Ms. Winfrey said in a recent interview herself. The participant, no matter how wealthy or famous, asks: “Was that OK? How was that? How did I do?”

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March 7, 2021, 10:48 p.m. ET

March 7, 2021, 10:48 p.m. ET

Choire Sicha

How to watch the Meghan and Harry Oprah interview in the U.K.

The two-hour interview conducted by Oprah Winfrey with Prince Harry and Meghan Markle aired on Sunday in the United States — first on the East Coast, with a repeat for the West Coast. On the main network that aired it, more than 17 million people watched.

Now, the royal mess is coming home. For once, England is getting the royal news last. The interview will be broadcast at 9 p.m. Monday on ITV in Britain.

If you missed it and want to enjoy the beautiful Santa-Barbara-adjacent setting and two hours of frank and exceedingly well-conducted conversation, here’s how you can watch:

  • Viewers in the U.K. who use a VPN, including YouTubeTV subscribers, can likely watch it on demand, if they have those levels of technical sophistication.

  • Those in the U.S. who missed it can stream all the revelations on CBS.com. Winfrey’s two-hour interview will only be available to stream for 30 days.

Here’s what those who have watched it have learned.

March 7, 2021, 10:16 p.m. ET

March 7, 2021, 10:16 p.m. ET

Sarah Lyall

Both Meghan and Kate Middleton had a rough time with the tabloids. Kate found a path out.

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Early on, Oprah dived straight into the vexing question of Meghan’s relationship with Kate Middleton, her sister-in-law, the current darling of the British news media.

But it was not always that way. Kate, who is the duch*ess of Cambridge, had a rough time with the tabloids when she was dating Prince William.

They derided her mother for having worked as a flight attendant; sneered at her family for being “in trade”; and mocked her as “Waity Katey” for hanging around the prince for years, hoping (as they positioned it) to get engaged.

But once she and William were married in 2011 — and especially after Meghan arrived on the scene and could be cast as the villain to Kate’s heroine — Kate could not seem to do any wrong in the eyes of the tabloid-reading British public.

Kate has avoided criticism in part by following the classic model of the royal wife: She has mostly kept silent and “done her duty,” while refraining from showing signs of fatigue or annoyance, no matter how wearying or stifling her role might be.

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A Raw Look Behind Palace Doors as Meghan and Harry Meet With Oprah: Highlights (Published 2021) (6)

Meeta Agrawal

We’re ending the interview by returning to the tropes — she saved him, he saved her, their fairy tale has a happy ending. The next chapter in this story for the royal family, however, is likely to be very different. Tonight’s revelations will reverberate in the British tabloids for days, weeks, eons to come. It seems hard to imagine that the palace will be able to stay silent.

A Raw Look Behind Palace Doors as Meghan and Harry Meet With Oprah: Highlights (Published 2021) (7)

Tariro Mzezewa

We’ve heard and read so much over the past couple of years about how Meghan was this villain who took Harry from his life. So it’s quite touching to hear both of them say that she “saved” him.

A Raw Look Behind Palace Doors as Meghan and Harry Meet With Oprah: Highlights (Published 2021) (8)

Sarah Lyall

Harry says “I’m proud of us”; Meghan says their story is bigger than any fairy tale.

March 7, 2021, 9:58 p.m. ET

March 7, 2021, 9:58 p.m. ET

Ellen Barry

For Black Britons, Prince Harry’s marriage was a living connection to the monarchy.

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One of the reasons this interview will be so damaging is that Prince Harry’s marriage to a biracial woman really meant something to Black and mixed-race Britons.

In 2018, I interviewed Tshego Lengolo, an 11-year-old Black girl from southeast London who looked at Meghan and saw a version of herself, trying to find a place for herself among its racial codes. She bristled at criticism of the new duch*ess. She took it very personally. And she was overjoyed at the notion of a mixed-race prince or princess. “There is nothing that racist people can do about it,” she told me happily. “They might as well get used to it.”

I hate to think of how Tshego will react to this interview.

That spring I remember walking around Black London neighborhoods that were tuning into the royal soap opera for the first time, with hope and a bit of apprehension.

“It’s a big deal that they’re allowing it,” an office manager told me. “Maybe they’re allowing it in the hope that it doesn’t work, so they can say, ‘well, we let it happen, and this is what came of it.”

Britain remains 87 percent white, but the number of Britons identifying themselves as mixed-race has been growing fast, and may already make up the largest single minority group in the country. In the 1990s, when many Britons were questioning the value of the monarchy, research showed that those doubts were strongest among the young and racial minority groups, parts of the population not represented by the institution.

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A Raw Look Behind Palace Doors as Meghan and Harry Meet With Oprah: Highlights (Published 2021) (10)

James Poniewozik

It strikes me that, on one level, Winfrey is really conducting an exit interview — beyond all the juicy details, this is a chance to get the story of two insiders who got away from one of the world’s most unusual, mysterious and controlling institutions.

A Raw Look Behind Palace Doors as Meghan and Harry Meet With Oprah: Highlights (Published 2021) (11)

Sarah Lyall

The Daily Mail website, which both drives and reflects opinion in Middle England, is already teeming with articles about the interview. The newspaper is no friend to the couple. Here is one headline: “Back to Basics at their $14.5 Million Mansion!”

A Raw Look Behind Palace Doors as Meghan and Harry Meet With Oprah: Highlights (Published 2021) (12)

James Poniewozik

Winfrey raises the question of the couple’s lucrative streaming deals, and whether they’re trading one form of unimaginable wealth for another. It’s another way in which she’s the one figure made to do this interview — she’s both the global celebrity who can speak to Meghan and Harry as peers, and the talk-show pro who can be a surrogate for a non-celebrity audience.

March 7, 2021, 9:52 p.m. ET

March 7, 2021, 9:52 p.m. ET

Natasha Frost

Meghan says she sought help from the palace for suicidal thoughts, but was rebuffed.

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In an emotional and arresting disclosure, Meghan Markle described approaching Prince Harry and the royal family and seeking help with persistent suicidal thoughts during her pregnancy, after months of bullying from the press and being barred from leaving the house.

“I just didn’t want to be alive anymore,” she said. “And that was a very clear and real and frightening constant thought. And I remember — I remember how he just cradled me.”

Meghan said she later 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.”

And that was that.

Meghan had surrendered her keys, driver’s license and passport upon joining the family. “I couldn’t, you know, call an Uber to the palace,” she said.

On one occasion in 2018, Meghan said, she attended an official event at the Royal Albert Hall against Harry’s advice because she feared what she might do to herself if she were left alone. She sobbed in the royal box of the concert hall, smiling and posing for photographs when the lights were turned on.

Meghan described being scared by thoughts “in the middle of the night that are very clear,” and said: “This isn’t some abstract idea. This is methodical, and this is not who I am.”

Harry has spoken out about his own struggles with mental health issues, describing years of panic attacks in a 2017 interview with a podcast made by The Telegraph. He came “very close to total breakdown on numerous occasions, when all sorts of grief and lies and misconceptions are coming to you from every angle,” he said.

In 2019, he and Oprah announced a documentary about “mental illness and mental wellness,” which is to air on Apple TV+ later this year.

Harry later said mental health had played a key role in his decision to redefine his role in the family.

“It’s really sad that it’s gotten to this point, but I’ve got to do something for my own mental health, my wife’s, and for Archie’s, as well, because I could see where this was headed,” he said.

If you are having thoughts of suicide, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 (TALK) or go to SpeakingOfSuicide.com/resources for a list of additional resources.

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A Raw Look Behind Palace Doors as Meghan and Harry Meet With Oprah: Highlights (Published 2021) (14)

Tariro Mzezewa

One of the most perplexing things over the past couple of years has been why Prince Charles never said anything in defense of Meghan and Harry. He got so much praise for walking Meghan down the aisle at the wedding, and yet when the couple seemed to be struggling he was silent. This interview, even without specifics, is showing some of the dynamics there.

A Raw Look Behind Palace Doors as Meghan and Harry Meet With Oprah: Highlights (Published 2021) (15)

Ellen Barry

Prince Harry speaks with obvious warmth about his grandmother, but the pain surfaces immediately when he’s asked about his father — the future king. Prince Charles’s public image was so damaged by the split from Diana, and it’s been the work of decades to rebuild it. This will hurt.

A Raw Look Behind Palace Doors as Meghan and Harry Meet With Oprah: Highlights (Published 2021) (16)

Meeta Agrawal

The couple shared that Harry’s family cut them off financially, and they lived solely on his inheritance from his mother, Diana. (And, presumably, “Suits” residuals.)

A Raw Look Behind Palace Doors as Meghan and Harry Meet With Oprah: Highlights (Published 2021) (17)

Tariro Mzezewa

I’m glad Winfrey is asking these follow-up questions. Are we really meant to feel bad for Harry, a literal prince, being “trapped”? Maybe! But it’s good to have him speaking on this.

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A Raw Look Behind Palace Doors as Meghan and Harry Meet With Oprah: Highlights (Published 2021) (18)

James Poniewozik

Winfrey — like many of the rest of us watching — has now made the comparison to the latest season of Netflix’s “The Crown.” That season deals in part with Harry’s mother, Diana, an outsider who married into the royal family, felt trapped and was an object of suspicion in the family because of her celebrity in the larger world.

A Raw Look Behind Palace Doors as Meghan and Harry Meet With Oprah: Highlights (Published 2021) (19)

Sarah Lyall

Harry describes his father, Prince Charles, and his brother, Prince William, as “trapped” in their roles, unable to leave, and says he feels sorry for them.

A Raw Look Behind Palace Doors as Meghan and Harry Meet With Oprah: Highlights (Published 2021) (20)

James Poniewozik

Harry’s description of his family being driven by fear of the British tabloids is so fascinating. And it’s ironic, given that in his telling, this fear helped impel the family’s actions that brought it to this moment — in which it is now facing an absolute media disaster.

A Raw Look Behind Palace Doors as Meghan and Harry Meet With Oprah: Highlights (Published 2021) (21)

March 7, 2021, 9:35 p.m. ET

March 7, 2021, 9:35 p.m. ET

Madeleine Ngo

Queen Elizabeth offered a unifying message in a speech before another royal TV appearance.

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Queen Elizabeth II praised people throughout the Commonwealth for uniting during the pandemic in upbeat televised remarks on Sunday.

“We have all continued to appreciate the support, breadth of experiences and knowledge that working together brings, and I hope we shall maintain this renewed sense of closeness and community,” the queen said.

Calling the pandemic “a time like no other,” she also commended “remarkable advances in developing new vaccines and treatments” and frontline health care workers for their “selfless dedication to duty,” Reuters reported.

The speech was broadcast on Sunday for Commonwealth Day, a celebration of countries largely from the former British Empire that continue to maintain ties with Britain.

The queen’s remarks came just hours before a highly anticipated televised appearance of her grandson Prince Harry and his wife, Meghan Markle, the duch*ess of Sussex, with Oprah Winfrey on Sunday night. Relations between the couple and the royal family have been strained since the duke and duch*ess announced they would step back from their official duties and move to North America.

The annual Commonwealth Day service at Westminster Abbey in London, which the royal family typically attends, was canceled this year because of the pandemic.

After a highly contagious variant ravaged Britain over the winter and the country tightened restrictions, confirmed cases in Britain have steadily ticked down, according to a New York Times database.

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A Raw Look Behind Palace Doors as Meghan and Harry Meet With Oprah: Highlights (Published 2021) (22)

Sarah Lyall

Both Harry and Meghan say they pleaded with the royal family to continue to provide physical security for them, and that the royal family flatly refused.

A Raw Look Behind Palace Doors as Meghan and Harry Meet With Oprah: Highlights (Published 2021) (23)

Caity Weaver

Harry is heavily implying that his immediate family members, initially welcoming to Meghan, soured on her after witnessing her popularity on the couple’s tour of the South Pacific.

A Raw Look Behind Palace Doors as Meghan and Harry Meet With Oprah: Highlights (Published 2021) (24)

Ellen Barry

Stig Abell, who worked as a tabloid editor and a press regulator, called the relationship between the royal family and the tabs “a hug that always threatened to become an assault.”

A Raw Look Behind Palace Doors as Meghan and Harry Meet With Oprah: Highlights (Published 2021) (25)

Sarah Lyall

For those not familiar with royal-adjacent terminology, “The Firm” refers to the royal family. It’s what Princess Diana used to call it, derisively.

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March 7, 2021, 9:30 p.m. ET

March 7, 2021, 9:30 p.m. ET

Ellen Barry

The Sussexes’ rebellion comes at a wobbly moment for the British monarchy.

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Even before Prince Harry broke away from the royal family, there were pressing questions about what awaits the British monarchy in the coming years.

For 68 years, the institution’s most valuable asset has been Queen Elizabeth, whose bedrock popularity has seen the monarchy through an age of social turmoil and declining British power. She has pleased palace traditionalists by sticking close to the family’s conservative traditions, like emotional distance and political neutrality.

When she dies, the sense of loss will be profound — and questions of the monarchy’s relevance to a younger generation will re-emerge.

Public support dipped in the 1990s, after the bitter public divorce of her heir, Prince Charles, from Diana, Princess of Wales. Ordinary Britons felt increasingly alienated from a “privileged, inward-looking, inbred royal family that was obviously dysfunctional,” the political scientist Mark Leonard once told me.

New energy came in the form of the two princes — charismatic, emotionally open young men who seemed more closely connected to the lives of ordinary Britons.

Prince Harry, in particular, expressed a clear desire to live more like Scandinavian royals, who hold jobs and do their own shopping. His marriage to a biracial American woman engaged a new population — younger, more urban and more diverse — in the future of the monarchy.

But conservative monarchists recoiled against these modernizing impulses long before Prince Harry’s ambivalence reached a crisis point. They may have won this round, with his public estrangement from the family, but a long-term problem emerges: How can the royals win back young Britain?

A Raw Look Behind Palace Doors as Meghan and Harry Meet With Oprah: Highlights (Published 2021) (27)

Ellen Barry

Prince Harry is talking about the “invisible contract” between the royals and the tabloids. An exchange of access for favorable coverage. “A level of control by fear,” he calls it. A protection racket.

A Raw Look Behind Palace Doors as Meghan and Harry Meet With Oprah: Highlights (Published 2021) (28)

Caity Weaver

It’s worth noting that Meghan opened the interview by telling Oprah Winfrey she hadn’t researched the royal family at all prior to joining it. By about 40 minutes into the program, she was casually referring to the letters patent of George V.

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A Raw Look Behind Palace Doors as Meghan and Harry Meet With Oprah: Highlights (Published 2021) (29)

Tariro Mzezewa

It feels as though Meghan came into Harry’s life at a moment when he might have been trying to find a way out of “The Firm.” One thing I’m curious to see is how this interview changes things for Meghan and Harry — or doesn’t. We know that Diana’s 1995 interview ended up being quite regrettable and the source of many challenges to come.

March 7, 2021, 9:27 p.m. ET

March 7, 2021, 9:27 p.m. ET

Sarah Lyall

Meghan reveals there was a secret wedding.

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In an unexpected development, Meghan revealed that before their official wedding, she and Harry had gotten secretly married, courtesy of the Archbishop of Canterbury, in a backyard ceremony.

“We just said, ‘Look, this thing, this spectacle is for the world, but we want our union between us,’” Meghan said. “So, like, the vows that we have framed in our room are just the two of us in our backyard with the Archbishop of Canterbury.”

At this point in the interview, Prince Harry joined his wife and Oprah in their new backyard, in California.

“Really?” Oprah asked.

“Just the three of us,” Harry said.

“Just the three of us,” Meghan added.

A Raw Look Behind Palace Doors as Meghan and Harry Meet With Oprah: Highlights (Published 2021) (2024)

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