The TV special was highly anticipated because Harry and Meghan are now allowed to speak more freely about the royal family due to their effective split from the palace.
And the couple did not hold back.
Meghan began the interview speaking with Winfrey one-on-one. She revealed several bits of information about their private lives, including that the two were married three days before their official wedding and that the second child they are expecting is a girl. Harry said his father, Prince Charles, who is next in line to the throne, briefly stopped taking his calls.
But the most powerful parts of the two-hour segment came when Meghan discussed the difficulties of life as a working royal. Fighting back tears at one point, Meghan said the thoughts of not being alive anymore were incredibly difficult to bear, and she was reticent to share them with her husband — who lost his mother, Princess Diana, when he was a boy.
“I was really ashamed to say it at the time, and ashamed to have to admit it to Harry especially, because I know how much loss he has suffered. But I knew that if I didn’t say it, that I would do it — and I just didn’t want to be alive anymore,” she said.
Harry said he was “terrified” by his wife’s admission.
“I had no idea what to do, I went to a very dark place as well, but I wanted to be there for her,” he said.
Harry said that there is a culture of suffering in silence in the royal family, but Meghan’s race — she is half Black — and the racist abuse she had suffered from made things even more difficult for the couple.
That pushed him to discuss the issue with the royal family and warn them that “this isn’t going to end well,” Harry said.
A lack of understanding
During the interview, aired in primetime television in the United States and relentlessly promoted by CBS, Meghan said she felt she was victim of a “character assassination” in the British media and the machinations of the palace, which valued how it is perceived more than her, her husband and her child’s well-being.
“They were willing to lie to protect other members of the family, but they weren’t willing to lie to protect me and my husband,” she said.
Meghan said the palace was particularly controlling, which made her feel “trapped.” She said she did not have access to her passport, driver’s license or keys when she joined the royal family, and only got them back when the couple moved away.
She also said that when she was pregnant with her son, Archie, she was told that he wouldn’t be made a prince and thus wouldn’t receive security.
“I regret believing them when they said I would be protected,” she said.
The agreement allows Harry, who is still sixth in line to the British throne, and Meghan to both keep their royal titles bestowed on them by the Queen. But Harry and Meghan will give up their royal patronages, which are to be redistributed among working members of the royal family.
Harry said the decision to step back boiled down to “a lack of understanding” between the two sides. He said he would not have stepped back from his family if it were not for Meghan, who helped him realize that the couple was trapped.
“I myself was trapped as well. I didn’t see a way out. I was trapped but I didn’t know I was trapped,” he said.
Meghan specifically complained of how lonely and isolated life became after her marriage.
She said she wasn’t even allowed to go out for lunch with friends at times because she was too heavily covered in the media.
“I am everywhere but I am nowhere,” Meghan added. “Everyone was concerned with optics.”
When the burden became too much to bear, on her own, Meghan said she sought help from human resources at Buckingham Palace. Meghan said she was told she was not an employee of the institution and would need to seek for help elsewhere — which she was told she couldn’t.
Meghan said it was particularly difficult putting on a happy face while suffering in silence. She recounted one particular evening at Royal Albert Hall with her husband, while the two were sitting together in the royal box.
“Every time that those lights went down,” she said,” I was just weeping, and he was gripping my hand.”
When the lights went back on, Meghan said “you just have to be on again.”
‘The people running the institution’
The Duchess of Sussex said had been welcomed into the family itself — but the family members were different from “the people running the institution.”
She said Queen Elizabeth II, Harry’s grandmother, had always been wonderful, warm and welcoming.
Meghan discussed rumors of a dispute with Kate, Duchess of Cambridge, the wife of Prince William. Meghan said reports she made Kate cry over the dresses of flower girls were untrue, and it was in fact the Duchess of Sussex who cried.
“There was no confrontation,” Meghan said.
She declined to discuss the incident further because Kate apologized to her. “I don’t think it’s fair to her to get into the details of that,” Meghan added.
The TV special falls at an already fraught time for the royals, with Prince Philip, the Queen’s 99-year-old husband, spending a third week in hospital, after undergoing a heart procedure Thursday.
The sources said they approached The Times because they felt the version of Meghan that had publicly emerged was only partially true, and they were concerned about how matters of bullying had been dealt with. The report said the sources believed the public “should have insight into their side of the story” ahead of the couple’s interview with Winfrey.
Buckingham Palace said it was “very concerned” about the allegations outlined in the report and would investigate. A spokesperson for the Sussexes dismissed the Times report as “a calculated smear campaign” ahead of the interview.
CNN’s Rob Picheta, Jessie Yeung, Max Foster and Laura Smith-Spark contributed to this report