Meghan Markle, the Duchess of Sussex, said she had suicidal thoughts after marrying into the British royal family, and was asked about how dark her son’s skin might be, in a CBS interview aired Sunday night.
In their interview with Oprah Winfrey, Ms. Markle and Prince Harry attempted to explain why they left England for California after stepping away from their front-line official duties last year. The couple said their rift with “the firm,” as they called the palace, was exacerbated by the British tabloid media.
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“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,” Ms. Markle said.
Buckingham Palace didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.
The rare airing of royal grievances opened a new chapter in the couple’s breakaway from the British royal family, and their efforts to shape their fame while pursuing personal business ventures, including existing deals with Netflix and Spotify.
In the interview, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex described being cut off financially from monarchy, and recalled their confusion about the extent of security their family would have. In their criticism, they seemed to differentiate palace staff from members of the royal family, and took pains to describe a loving relationship with Queen Elizabeth II, Prince Harry’s grandmother. However, Prince Harry complained that his family failed to speak out against “racist propaganda” in the British press. He also mentioned that his father, Prince Charles, temporarily stopped taking his phone calls.
Prince Harry described his family’s exit in terms of an escape from an oppressive system, and contrasted his situation with those of his father and older brother, Prince William: “They are trapped,” he said. “They don’t get to leave.”
The two-hour broadcast also highlighted homey aspects of the couple’s life as expatriates, along with sunnier personal details. They revealed that the baby they are expecting is a girl and that they were married in a private ceremony by the Archbishop of Canterbury three days before the gala televised around the world in May of 2018.
But the confrontational tone of the interview was certain to inflame tensions between the couple and the House of Windsor. It aired less than a month after Buckingham Palace stripped the Sussexes of royal appointments, cementing the couple’s decision in early 2020 to step back from official duties and establish financial independence.
The suggestions that racism played a role in tensions with the crown illustrated the extent of the rupture since the couple’s wedding. That ceremony included gestures to the African-American side of Ms. Markle’s ancestry, such as a gospel choir, and was widely perceived as promising a more inclusive monarchy.
Ms. Markle recalled discussions about security for their son and his not having the title of prince. “We have in tandem the conversation of he won’t be given security, he’s not being given a title, and also concerns and conversations about how dark his skin might be when he’s born,” she said, without specifying who made those comments.
Under such pressure, Ms. Markle experienced suicidal thoughts, she said. She sought help from the human-resources department of the palace, and was denied official help because she wasn’t a paid employee of the institution, Ms. Markle said.
With their growing network in the entertainment industry, the couple is exerting greater control over the media spotlight upon them. In a recent bit on late-night TV, Prince Harry rode around Los Angeles in an open-air tourist bus with CBS host and fellow Briton James Corden.
Such image control only goes so far. The Sussexes’ sit-down with Ms. Winfrey, titled “CBS Presents: Oprah with Meghan and Harry,” coincided with a health crisis for 99-year-old Prince Philip—Queen Elizabeth II’s husband and Harry’s grandfather—who is recovering from a heart procedure after being hospitalized for nearly three weeks.
Ms. Winfrey, who mentioned that she and Prince Harry are producing a project together for Apple about mental health, described herself as a neighbor of the royal couple. She started the interview by saying that her questions weren’t shared in advance, and that they were not paid for the interview.
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The interview is scheduled to air in the U.K. at 9 p.m. Monday on the ITV network.
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