For years, as tabloid headlines veered more and more dramatic leading up to Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s exit from the Royal Family in 2020, many royal watchers wondered if we would ever actually find out what was going on behind closed doors.
On Sunday, we did. A little more than a year after they decided they would step back, and just a few weeks after the announcement that they won’t be returning as working members, the couple sat down with Oprah Winfrey for a highly anticipated two-hour primetime interview. And boy, did they drop some bombshells.
Here are the most shocking revelations from the interview.
They secretly got married three days before their big wedding
On May 19, 2018, Harry and Meghan’s wedding was broadcast live to 29 million people across the world.
But it turns out they were actually already married.
“Three days before our wedding, we got married,” Meghan told Oprah. “No one knows that.”
“We called the Archbishop and we just said, look, this thing — this spectacle — is for the world. We want our union between us. So the vows that we have framed in our room are just the two of us in our backyard with the Archbishop of Canterbury,” Meghan said. “Just the three of us.”
It was Kate who made Meghan cry, not the other way around
One of the prominent tabloid narratives is that Meghan and Kate hate each other, because Meghan is pushy and domineering, and Meghan once made her sister-in-law cry.
In fact, Meghan said, the reverse is true: Kate who made her cry, a few days before the wedding. It had something to do with the bridesmaids dresses.
Kate later owned up to being wrong, and apologized and brought flowers, Meghan said.
But the false report that Meghan had wronged Kate came out in the press months later, and it persisted. “That was the beginning of a real character assassination, and they knew it wasn’t true,” Meghan said. “And I thought, if they’re not going to kill things like that, then what are we going to do?”
Archie wasn’t given a royal title or offered security
While Meghan was pregnant, she was told the Royal Family didn’t want the baby to have a prince/princess title. That meant he wouldn’t receive any of the security that’s usually afforded to royal children.
The logic given to her was that because he wasn’t being made a prince, he wouldn’t need security — something that struck her as nonsensical.
“He needs to be safe,” she told Oprah. “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. You’ve [The Firm] allowed that to happen, which means our son needs to be safe.”
Meghan didn’t elaborate on who in the Royal Family was making these decisions.
A Royal Family member expressed “concerns” about how dark Archie’s skin would be
Archie’s title in itself wasn’t particularly important to the couple, Meghan said. “All the grandeur surrounding this stuff is an attachment that I don’t really have.”
But, in addition to learning that their baby wouldn’t be protected, it also appeared to them that the rules were being changed in a way that would negatively affect their child.
There was the “idea of our son not being safe, and also the idea of the first member member of colour in this family not being titled in the same way that other grandchildren would be.”
It was hard not to consider Meghan’s mixed-race background, and the baby’s, she said, due to other conversations she knew were going on behind the scenes.
While she was pregnant, there were “concerns and conversations” that Harry heard and passed on to her about “how dark [Archie’s] skin might be when he’s born.”
Did that mean, Oprah asked, if the baby were “to be too brown, that would be a problem?”
“I wasn’t able to follow up with why, but if that’s the assumption you’re making, I think that feels like a pretty safe one,” Meghan said. “Which is really hard to understand.”
She wouldn’t say who it was who expressed that concern to Harry. “I think that would be very damaging to them,” she said.
Later, Oprah brought up the same issue to Harry, who said that he was “shocked,” but that he was “never going to share” who said it.
Meghan thought about suicide
Meghan has previously called the hateful scrutiny she’s been subjected to “almost unsurvivable.” On Sunday, she opened up about just how bad it got.
“You were having suicidal thoughts?” Oprah asked.
“Yes. It was very clear and very scary,” Meghan replied. “I just didn’t see a solution ... This isn’t some abstract idea. This is methodical. And this is not who I am.”
It was hard to tell anyone — even her husband.
“I was really ashamed to have to say it at the time, and ashamed to have to admit it to Harry especially, because I know how much loss he’s suffered,” Meghan said. “But I knew that if I didn’t say that I would do it ... and I just didn’t ― I just didn’t want to be alive anymore. And that was a very clear and real and frightening constant thought.”
“I remember how [Harry] just cradled me. I went to the institution. And I said that I needed to go somewhere to get help. And I said that I’d never felt this way before. I need to go somewhere. And I was told that I couldn’t, because it wouldn’t be good for the institution.”
“When I joined this family, that was the last time until we came here I saw my passport, my driver’s licence, my keys. All that gets turned over.””
The “institution,” she explained, referred to a few people in or connected to the royals. At one of her lowest points, she approached a senior royal, she said. She was hoping for help, but she didn’t get it.
“They said, ‘My heart goes out to you because I see how bad it is. But there’s nothing we can do to protect you because you’re not a paid employee.’”
When Oprah asked Meghan if she considered going to a hospital, she responded that that’s what she had been asking the “institution” to do. When they didn’t offer help, she said, she felt lost.
“You couldn’t call an Uber to the palace. You couldn’t just go,” she said. “You have to understand, when I joined this family, that was the last time until we came here I saw my passport, my driver’s licence, my keys. All that gets turned over.”
She talked about a series of press photos from that time that “still haunts me,” she said. It’s from November 2019, when she was pregnant with Archie, and she attended an event at the Royal Albert Hall with Harry.
“If you zoom in, what I see is how tightly his knuckles are gripped around mine. I see the whites of our knuckles,” she said. “Because we are smiling and doing our job. But we’re both just trying to hold on. And every time those lights went down in that royal box, I was just weeping.”
She opened up about it to Oprah because she knows how hard it is to ask for help, she said. But she wants to show that “there’s another side. Life is worth living.”
Harry was worried about “history repeating itself”
“What I was seeing was history repeating itself — more perhaps, or far more dangerously, because then you add race in, and social media in,” Harry told Oprah. “And when I’m talking about history repeating itself, I’m talking about my mother.”
His mother, Princess Diana, was hounded and harassed by the press on a regular basis. The night she died, she was in a car being driven by someone who was drunk, while the paparazzi chased her.
“When you can see something happening in the same kind of way [as my mother’s story], anybody would ask for help, ask the system of which you are a part of, especially when you know there’s a relationship there.” Harry said. “They can share some truth or call the dogs off or whatever you want to call it. So to receive no help at all and to be told continuously, ‘This is how it is, this is just how it is, we’ve all been through it.’”
It hurts that the Royal Family hasn’t acknowledged how badly Meghan’s been treated
“There have been many opportunities for my family to show some kind of support,” Harry said. “Female members of parliament, Conservative and Labour, called out the colonial undertones of article and headlines written about Meghan. And yet no one from my family ever said anything over those two years.”
He thinks the reason they haven’t stepped in, he said, is because “they’re scared of the tabloids turning on them.”
They’re having a girl!
Harry and Meghan announced last month that they have a second child on the way. On Sunday, they told the world they’re having a girl, who’s due this summer.
Things changed for Harry and Meghan after their tour of Australia
Harry said the family was great about welcoming Meghan at the beginning — “a lot better than I expected,” he said. “But it really changed after the Australia tour, after our South Pacific tour.” They visited Australia, New Zealand, Fiji and Tonga in October 2019, and announced they were expecting their first child the same month.
That tour was “the first time the family got to see how incredible [Meghan] was at the job. And that brought back memories,” Harry said.
Oprah mentioned the last season of “The Crown,” which showed Prince Charles and Princess Diana’s 1983 tour of Australia. On the show, as in real life, Charles was shocked by just how popular Diana was, and felt slighted by the disparity between his number of fans and hers.
“Are you saying there were hints of jealousy?” Oprah asked.
“I wish that we would all learn from the past,” Harry responded. “But to see how effortless it was for Meghan ... just being able to connect with people.”
“Why wouldn’t everybody love that?” Oprah asked, incredulous.
Harry agreed, calling Meghan “one of the greatest assets to the Commonwealth that the family could have ever wished for.”
Harry wouldn’t have left the Royal Family without Meghan — even if he wanted to
Both Harry and Meghan pushed back against the narrative that he only left his role with the Royal Family because of her influence. But when Oprah asked if he would have left without her, he said no.
“No. I wouldn’t be able to, because I myself was trapped,” he said. Oprah was skeptical and asked him how he could be trapped, given that he grew up privileged beyond belief.
“Trapped within the system,” he replied. But he added that as the heir’s second child, he has wiggle room others in his family don’t have.
“My father and my brother, they are trapped. They don’t get to leave,” he said. “And I have huge compassion for that.”
The family cut them off after they stepped down
They lost access to any royal money when they made their decision, Harry said. He’s relying on the money that’s been left to him by his mother.
“I’ve got what my mum left me, and without that we wouldn’t be able to do this.”
Harry feels let down by his dad
When Oprah asked Harry about his relationship with his dad, there was a long pause that wasn’t broken until she amended her question to whether or not Charles is taking Harry’s calls again. Yes, he said — but “there’s a lot to work thorough there.”
“I feel really let down, because he’s been through something similar,” Harry continued. “He knows what pain feels like. And Archie’s his grandson. At the same time, of course I will always love him, but there’s a lot of hurt that’s happened. And I will continue to make it one of my priorities to try and heal that relationship.”
Harry and Meghan feel they saved each other
Addressing Harry, Oprah said, “What you’ve described to you today, being trapped and not even being aware of it and all the things that have transpired, and then she comes into your life and then you’re doing therapy. Do you think in some way she saved you?”
“Yeah, without question,” he replied.
“I would disagree,” Meghan said. “I think you saved all of us.”