In a Triumphant Oprah Interview, Meghan and Harry Finally Speak Out
Oprah Winfrey is one of TV’s legendary interviewers. She made that abundantly clear again in her interview with Meghan Markle and Prince Harry, otherwise known as the Duke and Duchess of Sussex. Nearly 17.5 million people tuned in to CBS on Sunday night, one of the biggest network audiences of the entire season. Following the couple’s shocking decision to step back as working royals and live outside the U.K., first in Canada, now in Santa Barbara, California, the two decided it was finally time to speak out and tell their side of the story.
Oprah charted a clear path through their complicated tale full of outlandish rumors, tricky topics, and a lot of long-standing secrecy. She provoked genuine responses, asked the necessary and sometimes awkward follow-up questions, and elicited genuinely surprising revelations that actually lived up to the pre-show hype.
Even though their distancing themselves from the royal family was unexpected, it wasn’t altogether surprising. After the former Suits star married Prince Harry, and became the first mixed-race member of the royal family, it wasn’t exactly happily ever after as Meghan was maligned and mobbed by the British press.
The UK tabloids are notorious, but they have been a special brand of terrible to Meghan, which Oprah discussed with her in the first half of this interview (Oprah interviewed Meghan alone and then also with Harry). Going through some of the absurd headlines, some of which Meghan had heard of and some of which she says she hadn’t, they covered the infamous avocado incident (Meghan was criticized for eating an avocado, as some say well-off people eating avocados means less local food security for those growing them), and the rumors that she made Kate Middleton cry prior to the royal wedding; Meghan says that it was the other way around, but that they’re fine now. Meghan also proves that she may be a princess, but she is queen of the puns, witness her response to the avocado story: “That’s a loaded piece of toast.”
As interview subjects, Meghan is a lot more eloquent than her husband, and Oprah seemed to be kinder to her than to Harry. Oprah’s several indignant questions about how Harry could possibly feel trapped in an ancient and stuffy institution, being that he grew up in the lap of luxury, were a little off-putting. For his part though, Harry effectively conveyed what it feels like to be in a place where you aren’t allowed to discuss your feelings or bring up problems because you’re expected to just suck it up.
It was this realization — that no one was willing to help them — that they say finally pushed them to leave. As terrible as the tabloids were, waging their undeniably racist war against Meghan, when Oprah asked if there’s a way they would have stayed, the couple says that they would never have left had they felt supported. Meghan talks about how the palace would go out of its way to contradict the most ridiculous story for any other royal, even if they had to lie, but would not tell the truth about what was happening to protect her.
Harry and Meghan were careful to only say positive things about their relationship with the Queen, a topic that Oprah kept coming back to, explaining that she has never been anything but warm to both of them, and that they speak to her regularly. But they listed a number of alarming decisions made by the Firm (what the institution of the royal family is often called) that are impossible to believe that the Queen didn’t sign off on. This includes deciding not to give Harry and Meghan’s son Archie the traditional royal title, and the security that comes with it, and also cutting the couple off from all financial support and security after they left the U.K. Unfortunately though, while Oprah was very good about asking follow-up questions and pushing for answers, she declined to have them elaborate, and it leaves a pretty big hole in the story.
These are just a couple of the bombshells the couple dropped, to which Oprah delivered immensely satisfying outraged reactions. Also mentioned is that a family member brought up to Harry concerns about how dark his baby’s skin color might be, though both Meghan and Harry refused to say who it was — whatever you want to say about them, that’s a classy move. Harry also dropped that his father, Prince Charles, stopped taking his calls after he and Meghan left royal family life. He presented it as a throwaway line, but Oprah, correctly, was quick to seize upon it.
The biggest revelation turned out to be the saddest one. When Oprah asked what specifically Meghan means by saying that the situation didn’t feel survivable, Meghan revealed that she was suicidal while she was pregnant with Archie. The tabloids seemed to want to attack her just for existing, she said, and at some point she just didn’t want to live anymore. When she and Harry asked if they could get her help, they were told that there was absolutely nothing to be done, triggering the conversations that would eventually cause the two to realize that they needed to leave and start a new life somewhere else.
Even if you don’t find any of this shocking — we always knew the royal family was cold and racist — it’s still incredibly tragic, especially when Harry starts pointing out parallels with his mother Princess Diana, and her own struggles with mental health and untimely end. (For a really good review of Diana’s life, check out the podcast You’re Wrong About.) “I think she saw this coming,” said Harry in response to Oprah’s questions about what Diana would think about all of this. He also explained that he and Meghan are mostly living on the inheritance that Diana left him.
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So, who comes out of this looking OK? The Queen seems to come up smelling like a rose, but we’re not so sure. Princess Diana, forever in our hearts, protects her children even from the grave. The love Harry and Meghan have for each other shines through, although Harry saying he had no idea implicit bias existed before he started dating Meghan is a little dubious.
The British royal family is what we always suspected— a place of repressed emotions, and outdated racist notions. Ditto for the British tabloids. The importance of mental health cannot be overstated.
Oprah is a master interviewer who knows how to navigate a large and thorny subject, even if we still have some questions at the end. Harry and Meghan are thankfully living a better, happier life in California, and they’re expecting a girl!