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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.
Boris Johnson Refuses to Discuss Royal Family Drama
On Monday, Prime Minister Boris Johnson of Britain was questioned about the recent claims made by Queen Elizabeth’s grandson Prince Harry and his wife, Meghan.
Perhaps the best thing I can say is that I’ve always had the highest admiration for the queen, and the unifying role that she plays in our country and across the Commonwealth. And as for the rest, all other matters to do with the royal family, I’ve spent a long time now not commenting on royal family matters, and I don’t intend to depart from that today. I congratulate you on your very determined attempt to involve me in this story more than I’ve said all already. But I really think that when it comes to matters to do with the royal family, the right thing for prime ministers to say is, is nothing. And nothing is the thing that I propose to say today about that, about that particular matter.
On Monday, Prime Minister Boris Johnson of Britain was questioned about the recent claims made by Queen Elizabeth’s grandson Prince Harry and his wife, Meghan.CreditCredit…Hannah Mckay/Reuters
Prime Minister Boris Johnson of Britain on Monday refused to discuss the drama engulfing the royal family, praising the contribution of Queen Elizabeth while declining to comment on damaging claims made by her grandson Prince Harry and his wife, Meghan.
“I have always had the highest admiration for the Queen and the unifying role she plays in our country and across the Commonwealth,” Mr. Johnson said at a news conference in London.
“As for all other matters to do with the royal family I have spent a long time now not commenting on royal family matters and I don’t intend to depart from that today,” Mr. Johnson added.
Pressed to say whether he believed the royal family, aside from the Queen, is racist, Mr. Johnson again stonewalled, saying that “when it comes to matters to do with the royal family the right thing for the prime ministers to say is nothing, and nothing is the thing that I propose to say today about that particular matter.”
Earlier on Monday Vicky Ford, minister for children, also refused to comment on the contents of the interview but added in an interview with LBC Radio: “there is no room for racism in our society.”
But at least one member of Mr. Johnson’s Conservative government spoke out against Meghan and Harry. “Harry is blowing up his family,” Zac Goldsmith, a mid-level minister of environmental and foreign affairs, wrote on Twitter. “What Meghan wants, Meghan gets.”
The issues raised are sensitive for Mr. Johnson who, during his career as a journalist, used racist language on some occasions, and the claims made in the interview reverberated around British politics.
On Monday Keir Starmer, leader of the opposition Labour Party, said that the allegations that had surfaced in the interview “need to be taken very, very seriously” because they are “allegations in relation to race and mental health.”
“For too many years we have been too dismissive and too willing to put these issues to one side,” he added.
Nadia Whittome, a Labour Party lawmaker, was more directly critical of the monarchy. “When Meghan Markle was accused of bullying, Buckingham Palace immediately announced an investigation,” she wrote on Twitter. “Now that Meghan has revealed comments about her child’s skin color, will they investigate racism in the Palace? I won’t be holding my breath.”
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.
Here’s what those who have watched it have learned.
Black Britons Empathize With Meghan After TV Interview
For many Black Britons, Prince Harry and Meghan’s television interview with Oprah Winfrey on Sunday reaffirmed their belief that racism played a role in the couple’s decision to leave the country.
“As a black woman, she didn’t get it very easy within the royal family, and the newspapers weren’t exactly friendly about it either. So, for example, when Kate was pregnant, it was, ‘Oh Kate’s cradling her baby bump, it’s so lovely. And then when it was Meghan, it was like, ‘Why don’t Meghan stop touching her belly?’ Do you know what I mean? She got a lot of negative press over here, so I can see why they decided to denounce themself from the royal family because it’s just not worth the hassle, is it?” “So many things that are kept hidden that we don’t know about. I think it’s a good thing. As Harry said something like, I saw a bit where he said, history repeating itself and it could have been a situation like that. I think they done a good thing.” “But talking about how they were talking about their son, about how the skin color was, was like really hurtful to a lot of people, to be honest, especially because I’m black as well.” “She’s clever to get out of it while it’s still early because it could have built up into the same story as Princess Diana. So it is good for her. Save your family like anybody would do.” “Let’s, let us also be clear that when we talk about this issue, particularly the issue of members of the royal family having conversations about the color of Archie’s skin, that is racist. It is, for those who would like to see that as, oh, it’s just family having a conversation. No, it’s not. And that, that kind of thinking normalizes racism.”
For many Black Britons, Prince Harry and Meghan’s television interview with Oprah Winfrey on Sunday reaffirmed their belief that racism played a role in the couple’s decision to leave the country.CreditCredit…Jim Clarke/Agence France-Presse, via Pool/Afp Via Getty Images
On the heels of the interview, many Black Britons felt a measure of vindication, after Meghan and Harry made it abundantly clear that racist abuse played a role in their decision to leave the country, but also frustration that some in Britain were still skirting the issue.
For years, Black people have been calling out the problematic portrayals of Meghan in the British press, and the failures by swathes of the British establishment to recognize the issue.
Shola Mos-Shogbamimu, a lawyer and activist, has frequently spoken out about the racism directed at Meghan. In a heated back-and-forth on “Good Morning Britain,” she took Piers Morgan, the journalist and a staunch critic of Meghan and Harry, to task.
He asked for a reaction to what he called the couple “spray-gunning his family on global television” while Prince Philip, Harry’s grandfather, is hospitalized with a heart ailment.
“You want to deny that the royal family has any racist undertones or actions against the first biracial person, simply because you are in love with the queen?” Dr. Mos-Shogbamimu, who is Black, responded, as Mr. Morgan accused her of “race-baiting.”
“You can love the queen and be able to call out the actions done by the royal family when they have got it wrong,” she added.
Nadine Batchelor-Hunt, a British political correspondent, said that Meghan’s treatment — from the British media and also in her allegations of questions about her son’s potential skin color — embodied deep-rooted racism experienced by Black people in Britain. Ms. Batcheor-Hunt applauded Meghan’s “fearlessness,” and said that as a mixed-race woman, Meghan’s comments resonated deeply.
“In my family, we don’t really care about the monarchy,” Ms. Batchelor-Hunt said. “A lot of our ancestors were enslaved under the banner of the British Empire in the name of the crown.”
But allegations of racism from within the royal family, both from Meghan and Harry, had given the royals new relevance, she said.
“Seeing her speak so openly about it is really liberating,” she said, “which is why I think a lot of young people, particularly a lot of Black people, care so much.”
Many noted that the allegations made by Meghan during the interview also highlighted a blind spot in much of the British news media when it comes to race, with the ranks of royal correspondents nearly all white.
“This is a story which is predicated on race,” said Marcus Ryder, a visiting professor of media diversity at Birmingham City University. “And what we have is that we have a British media that has so far been slow to recognize that this is actually a racial story.”
Mr. Ryder also said the allegations illustrate the incongruity of a hereditary white royalty and British leaders’ stated commitment to diversity.
“We keep talking about issues of diversity, and how well does diversity sit with the hereditary principle?” he asked. “What she’s saying is that there seems to be a conflict.”
Credit…Frank Augstein/Associated Press
After Prince Harry and Meghan stepped down from their positions as senior members of the royal family, they were cut off financially and their royal security detail was revoked, the couple told Oprah Winfrey in their bombshell interview on Sunday night.
When the couple first announced plans to become financially independent, they said they would no longer receive money through the Sovereign Grant, a fund that the British government uses to pay the monarch to support the royal family. (For 2020-2021, the royal family received about $119 million from the grant.)
They had hoped to continue receiving money from Harry’s father, Prince Charles, who at one point funded 95 percent of the couple’s personal and professional expenses through his private estate, they said on their Sussex Royal website.
But Prince Harry revealed in the interview that he had been cut off financially from his family in early 2020, though it was not clear whether any support later resumed. He said that he and Meghan relied on inheritance from his mother, which Forbes estimated at $10 million, to pay for security.
“Without that,” he said, “we wouldn’t have been able to do this.”
When the couple moved to Canada in late 2019, they were given notice that their security would be removed because of their “change in status,” Prince Harry said. In March 2020 they moved temporarily to Tyler Perry’s home in Los Angeles, where he provided security.
“I never thought that I would have my security removed, because I was born into this position,” Prince Harry said. “I inherited the risk so that was a shock to me. That was what completely changed the whole plan.”
The exact protocol by which royal family members receive security is unclear. In 2011, security was revoked for Prince Andrew’s daughters Beatrice and Eugenie, partly because of an estimated £500,000 annual cost, Vanity Fair reported.
Meghan said there was “no explanation” why her son, Archie, would not be provided with security.
In a statement issued in January 2020 in response to news that Prince Harry and Meghan were stepping down from their royal duties, Buckingham Palace said that it “does not comment on the details of security arrangements. There are well established independent processes to determine the need for publicly-funded security.”
A transition plan detailed on the duke and duchess’s official website in Spring 2020 said that Meghan and Harry would continue to “require effective security to protect them and their son.”
“This is based on The Duke’s public profile by virtue of being born into The Royal Family, his military service, the Duchess’ own independent profile, and the shared threat and risk level documented specifically over the last few years,” the statement said. “No further details can be shared as this is classified information for safety reasons.”
It’s unclear what security costs for a member of the royal family. Security at Prince Harry and Meghan’s wedding, which was paid for by British taxpayers, cost an estimated £30 million, or more than $40 million.
It is estimated that each member of the royal family costs each British taxpayer around £1 per year. In return the royal family generates an estimated £1.8 billion a year in tourism revenues for the United Kingdom.
Before they stepped down, Prince Harry and Meghan had already generated a significant amount of revenue for the monarchy. Brand Finance, a brand valuation consultancy, calculated that their wedding generated £1 billion for the British economy in 2018 alone, including £300 million in travel and accommodation spent by foreign tourists and £50 million spent on merchandise such as coins, dish cloths and clothing.
Since stepping down from their royal positions, Prince Harry and Meghan have signed multimillion-dollar deals with Netflix and Spotify.
Credit…Kirsty Wigglesworth/Associated Press
Hours after the interview was broadcast in the United States on Sunday, Britain was grappling with the shock wave rippling across the Atlantic, exposing a deep royal rift.
For some, the interview was a moment to reflect on the decidedly different public personas of Prince Harry and Meghan, as they broke with the dutiful silence expected of the royal family and brought a more American approach. But for many Black Britons, the interview offered a scathing assessment of the royal family and resurfaced barely submerged tensions over entrenched racism in the country at large.
“It’s very hard listening to the interview not to focus on some of the salacious details and the family drama,” said Marcus Ryder, a visiting professor of media diversity at Birmingham City University. “But what we’re talking about is a major part of the British state, it’s a major institution.”
The racism allegations made during the interview could have major implications for the monarchy, he said, where payments to family members and household expenses come in part with public funds.
“Once you realize that, and divorce it from the idea of the personal family drama, what you have is a Black woman who was the first, in the modern era anyway, to enter that British institution,” Mr. Ryder said, “and makes allegations of racism at the very top.”
Meghan’s statement that someone in the royal household had questioned whether her son would be “too dark to represent the U.K.” was a major problem, he said. (On Monday, Ms. Winfrey said that Harry had asked her to clarify that neither Queen Elizabeth II nor Prince Philip was the source of the comment on skin color.)
The Daily Mail, a British tabloid that lost a privacy case against Meghan last month, led on Monday morning with the all-caps headline: “I wanted to kill myself.” While it trumpeted Meghan’s comments about her mental health, it called the discussions about race “a sensational claim.”
Other major news outlets published biting commentary, while some social media users denounced the couple’s infidelity to the family and others firmly defended them. The reaction illustrated divisions between those who view Harry and Meghan as victims and those who disapprove of their behavior and of their willingness to criticize the monarchy publicly.
The palace has said nothing in the aftermath of the interview. It remains to be seen whether the palace will investigate Harry and Meghan’s claims as enthusiastically as it pledged to look into the claims that Meghan had bullied royal staff.
But many agreed that the interview could have wide-ranging implications for the House of Windsor.
“I’ve always said that the royal family would come out at best looking out of date, out of touch, perhaps unwelcoming,” Katie Nicholls, the royals editor at Vanity Fair, said in an interview on Sky News shortly after the broadcast. “But this is so much worse than that.”
Credit…Facundo Arrizabalaga/EPA, via Shutterstock
The British press on Monday was galvanized, and divided, by the bombshell allegations in Harry and Meghan’s prime-time interview with Oprah Winfrey, in which they shared a glimpse inside the secret workings of the royal family and, in one of the most damaging allegations, said a family member had questioned how dark the skin of their unborn son would be.
But the press also signaled a division. Headlines in many tabloids, with whom the pair has long tussled, were less than sympathetic. “MEGXILE,” proclaimed The Sun, a Murdoch-owned tabloid, adding: “Queen won’t even watch show” and “Whingy chat dubbed ‘Moperah.’”
“HARRY TWISTS THE KNIFE,” proclaimed the Daily Mail, a British tabloid that lost a privacy lawsuit to Meghan last month, on its online site. The tabloid also pointed out a potential inconsistency between Harry and Meghan’s accounts over precisely when the conversation over skin color with the member of the royal family happened.
One of the most vocal critics was Piers Morgan, the controversial co-host of the breakfast show “Good Morning Britain” on the ITV network. He called the interview “a two-hour trash-athon of the royal family” and “race-baiting propaganda designed to damage the Queen as her husband lies in hospital.”
He also feuded with a fellow commentator about the racial dynamics revealed in the interview. “You’re more outraged that Harry and Meghan had the audacity to speak their truth than you should be at the actual outrage of racism,” Dr. Shola Mos-Shogbamimu, a political women’s rights activist, who is Black, told Mr. Morgan in a clip that spread widely on the internet on Monday.
Mr. Morgan also seemed to cast doubt on Meghan’s revelation that she had felt suicidal at one point during her time in England, prompting some viewers to complain to Ofcom, Britain’s broadcasting regulator, that it was harmful and stigmatizing to those experiencing suicidal thoughts.
Of all the allegations Harry and Meghan made, perhaps the most damaging was that when she was pregnant with Archie, some member or members of the royal family speculated about what color the baby’s skin would be, and whether that would be appropriate for the royal family.
The prince refused to say who had made those remarks in his presence, but Ms. Winfrey said on Monday that he made it clear who hadn’t: his grandparents, Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip.
“There’s a big guessing game all around the world: ‘Who was it? Who was it? Who was it?’” said Gayle King, co-host of “CBS This Morning,” interviewing Ms. Winfrey the morning after the broadcast. With the cameras rolling, Harry had refused to answer the question from Ms. Winfrey, and she told Ms. King that she had picked up the theme again off camera.
“He did not share the identity with me, but he wanted to make sure that I knew, and if I had an opportunity to share it, that it was not his grandmother nor his grandfather that were part of those conversations,” Ms. Winfrey said. “He did not tell me who were a part of those conversations. As you can see, I tried to get that answer, on camera and off.”
The assertion by Meghan and Harry was what Ms. King aptly called “the jaw-dropping moment” of the interview. They had long complained that much of the public commentary about her, especially in the British press, was tainted with racism, but this was the first time they had suggested that they experienced the same kind of discrimination within the royal family.
Both of them spoke warmly of the queen and their relationship with her, while pointedly not saying similar things about other members of the family.
Credit…Henk Kruger/Agence France-Presse, via Pool/Afp Via Getty Images
Why is Archie, the young son of Prince Harry and Meghan, not a prince? That emerged as a murky question in the aftermath of the couple’s generally revealing interview with Oprah Winfrey.
Meghan said that the royal family had decided before he was born not to grant Archie the title and the designation His Royal Highness, suggesting that it was linked to their concerns about the color of the baby’s skin.
Under a royal convention, established by King George V in 1917, Archie was not given the title of prince at his birth, since he was a great-grandson — not a son or grandson — of the reigning monarch, Queen Elizabeth II. Were his grandfather, Prince Charles, to ascend the throne, Archie would automatically assume the title of prince, provided the royal family sticks to the rules.
But Meghan said that during her pregnancy, the royal family discussed changing the rules to deprive Archie of the princely title permanently. “I think even with that convention I’m talking about, while I was pregnant, they said they want to change the convention for Archie,” she said.
Around the same time, she said, there were “concerns and conversations about how dark his skin might be when he’s born.”
At the time of Archie’s birth, in May 2019, British newspapers reported that Harry and Meghan had no problems with his not being a prince because they wanted their son to have as normal a childhood as possible. He would be known as “Master Archie Mountbatten-Windsor,” the double-barreled surname of Harry’s family.
In the interview, however, Meghan disputed this contention. The title itself was not important, but it entitles its holder to security protection, which she said mattered deeply to her and to Harry.
Under the convention, Prince William’s eldest son, George, was a prince at birth because, as the firstborn child of the firstborn child of the Prince of Wales, he is a direct successor to the throne. But the queen issued so-called “letters patent” that ensured that William’s other two children, Charlotte and Louis, were also a princess and prince at birth — something she did not do for Archie.
Meghan said she had viewed this as discriminatory treatment. She said she had objected to Archie’s not being a prince because “it’s not their right to take it away,” and because of security concerns. She expressed anger at “the idea of our son not being safe, and also the idea of the first member of color in this family not being titled in the same way that other grandchildren would be.”
Credit…Olivier Douliery/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images
Oprah Winfrey, Meghan Markle and Prince Harry drew a sizable audience on Sunday, but not as big as some of the blockbuster interviews broadcast in the days before on-demand streaming, when such scheduled prime-time events were appointment viewing for many more Americans.
The interview attracted 17.1 million viewers on CBS on Sunday night, according to preliminary Nielsen figures, and the estimate will grow after Nielsen tabulates some viewers who streamed the special, as well as out-of-home viewing.
That is about twice the number of viewers for the prime-time ratings winner in an ordinary week, but well short of the figures for similar prime-time exclusives from years past, despite the days of promotion and sniping in anticipation of Ms. Winfrey’s special. The audience was about the same size as the one that tuned in, in 2015, to see Caitlyn Jenner reveal to Diane Sawyer on ABC’s “20/20” that she was transgender.
In 1993, Ms. Winfrey’s prime-time interview of Michael Jackson at his Neverland Ranch, broadcast by ABC, attracted an audience of at least 62 million. Six years later, also on ABC, Barbara Walters sat down with Monica Lewinsky for a two-hour special that drew 48.5 million people.
Networks and high-profile journalists once competed fiercely for such “big gets,” jam-packed with lucrative commercials, but have done so less in recent years. In 2018, a similarly ballyhooed interview on CBS’s “60 Minutes” with the porn star Stephanie Clifford, talking about her affair with Donald J. Trump, drew 22 million viewers, which was considered a strong showing.
Ms. Winfrey’s special came in the wake of days of anticipatory coverage hinting at what the couple might reveal about their experiences with the royal family and their decision to leave the palace behind.
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?”