In one of the many surprising moments during Sunday night’s Oprah with Meghan and Harry: A CBS Primetime Special, Meghan Markle revealed that when she was expecting her first child with Prince Harry, there were conversations and “concerns” in the royal family about the baby’s skin color, even before the couple knew it would be a baby boy, Archie Mountbatten-Windsor.
Markle, who is biracial, said the couple was blindsided when they learned that their child would not receive a royal title nor would the baby have security, which would’ve marked a break in tradition. “We were very scared having to offer up our baby, knowing they weren’t going to be kept safe,” she said. “In those months when I was pregnant, all around the same time…we have in tandem the conversation of [whether] he won’t be given security, he’s not going to be given a title. And also, concerns and conversations about how dark his skin might be when he’s born.”
A shocked Oprah Winfrey replied, “What? Who is having that conversation with you? … With how dark your baby is going to be?” Markle answered: “Potentially. And what that would mean or look like,” Markle said, then denying who was having that conversation. “That it would be very damaging to them.” Markle and Prince Harry both declined to name the individual or individuals implicated in the conversation. (On Monday morning, Winfrey said on CBS This Morning that Prince Harry confirmed that it was not his grandmother or grandfather.)
The revelation preceded another emotional moment during which Markle revealed that while facing racism, a demanding job and an unrelenting tabloid press, she struggled with thoughts of suicide. The Duchess of Sussex revealed that her suicidal thoughts were so troubling that she requested professional help but was told by the institution behind the royal family that help wasn’t possible.
“I realize that it was all happening because I was breathing,” Markle told Winfrey. “I was really ashamed to say it at the time and ashamed to admit it to Harry because I know how much loss he suffered, I knew that if I didn’t say it. I just didn’t want to be alive anymore. That was a very clear and real and frightening constant thought. I remember how he just cradled me.”
Markle said made a request to get help and “to go somewhere” but that she couldn’t. “I couldn’t call an Uber from the palace, you couldn’t just go,” she said, adding that when she joined the family, she turned over keys, passport and her license. After revealing the suicidal thoughts to her husband, Markle said they had to go to an appearance at Royal Albert Hall. When she zooms in on those photographs from that night, she sees how tightly he is gripping her hand. “Right before we had to leave for that, I had a conversation with Harry that I don’t want to be alive anymore. These are the thoughts I’m having in the middle of the night, I’m scared, this is very real.”
The two-hour Oprah with Meghan and Harry: A CBS Primetime Special, produced by Winfrey’s Harpo Prods., marked their first joint sit down since exiting the royal family and moving to Montecito. (Prince Harry appeared on friend James Corden’s The Late Late Show in a surprise episode that also featured a Facetime chat with Markle.) According to a Wall Street Journal report, CBS paid a license fee to Harpo “between $7 million and $9 million” for the rights to air the special. It’s a blockbuster deal and the latest in a long list of exclusive celebrity interviews for the legendary Winfrey.
Announced on Instagram on Jan. 8, 2020, the former Duke and Duchess of Sussex revealed a plan to step back as senior members of the British royal family. “After many months of reflection and internal discussions, we have chosen to make a transition this year in starting to carve out a progressive new role within this institution,” read the post that also indicated they planned to split time between the United Kingdom and North America and launch a charitable entity.
Ten days later, the Queen released a statement thanking them for their “dedicated work” as it was confirmed that the pair would give up their His Royal Highness and Her Royal Highness titles while still being allowed to use Duke and Duchess of Sussex. They were to still have patronage appointments and Harry maintained military titles after having served more than a decade. “I recognize the challenges they have experienced as a result of intense scrutiny over the last two years and support their wish for a more independent life,” the Queen said in her statement, acknowledging the span of time since the couple’s 2018 nuptials in May 2018 and the intense glare of the media.
However, last month, Buckingham Palace confirmed that after a review completed a year later, the pair would be stripped of any remaining royal duties. For Harry, it meant giving up honorary military titles and for Meghan, she parted ways with cultural organizations like patronage to the National Theatre. “While we are saddened by their decision, the Duke and Duchess remain much loved members of the royal family,” read a statement from the Palace.
An official and final split did not come as a surprise to royal watchers. Since moving to Montecito, the coupled signed deals with Netflix and Spotify, paving the way for careers as Hollywood producers, an unprecedented move for any member of the royal family. The sit-down with Winfrey also likely would not have happened — at least with the level of candor on display — if they weren’t free from their royal duties.
CBS debuted teasers from the interview a week ago with Winfrey promising bombshell claims. “You’ve said some pretty shocking things here,” she told the couple. Another time, with Markle seated across from her for their solo chat, Winfrey said, “I just want to make it clear to everybody there is no subject that’s off-limits.”
The clips sent the press into a frenzy, kicking up old stories and (shocking) new ones with some outlets accusing the Palace of going into damage control. U.K. newspaper The Times reported that Markle faced claims of bullying from advisors and assistants during her time in Buckingham Palace. Through a spokesperson, Markle denied claims of bullying. Multiple onetime costars of Markle came to her defense, including Suits peers Patrick J. Adams and Abigail Spencer as did longtime friend Jessica Mulroney and makeup artist Daniel Martin.
Other outlets took issue with the timing of the interview, suggesting it arrives at an insensitive time as Prince Philip remains hospitalized after heart surgery. There will undoubtedly be an avalanche of new reporters out of the U.K. in response to the special, which aired during primetime in the United States Sunday and will air in the U.K. Monday evening on ITV.
Other highlights from Oprah with Meghan and Harry: A CBS Primetime Special are below:
On claims that she made Duchess Kate cry: In one of the most dramatic rebuttals of tabloid claims, Markle said that the reports that she pushed Prince William’s wife, Duchess Kate, to tears are false. Markle confirmed that, indeed, there was a dramatic situation that ended in tears but they belonged to her.
Responding during a segment in which Winfrey said that reports surfaced that Markle brought “hurricane Meghan” to the Palace (leading to the departure of several high-profile staff members), Markle said there was one story that proved to be a “turning point” in the negative press she received. Close to six months after the wedding, headlines were rampant that there was an alleged rift between her and Duchess Kate and that tensions boiled over leaving Kate in tears, specifically over the dresses worn by her flower girls.
“That’s when everything changed,” Markle said. “A few days before the wedding, she was upset about something with the flower girl dresses. It made me cry and it really hurt my feelings. In the context of everything going on, it didn’t make sense to not just be doing whatever else was doing was to be supportive.”
Markle said it wasn’t fair to get into the details of it and that Kate apologized, brought flowers and a note.But what was ultimately hard to get over was that the communications team did not have her back and release a statement that countered the many headlines that targeted Markle as the one to blame. “I would’ve hoped that she would’ve wanted that corrected. She’s a good person. I think so much of what I had seen play out is this idea of polarity — if you love me, you don’t have to hate her.”
On his troubled relationship with Prince Charles: Prince Harry revealed that their father-son relationship became so strained that he wasn’t getting his phone calls returned. “There is a lot to work through there,” he said of the relationship. “I feel really let down because he’s been through something similar. He knows what pain feels like. I will always love him, but there is a lot of hurt that’s happened. I will continue to make it one of my priorities to try to heal that relationship. But they only know what they know.”
On his troubled relationship with Prince William: Same for his brother but Prince Harry seemed more optimistic about mending that bond. “I love William to bits. He’s my brother. We’ve been through hell together. But we are on different paths.”Asked to characterize the relationship at the present moment, Prince Harry said, “Space. Time heals all things, hopefully.”
On meeting the Queen for the first time: Markle said the introduction was a surprise moment as she and Prince Harry went to lunch at the Royal Lodge and the Queen happened to be finishing up church service. Prince Harry asked her, “Do you know how to curtsy?” She said that she “genuinely” thought those formalities happened outside, not at informal gatherings inside. “That was really the first moment the penny dropped,” Markle recalled, adding that she learned very quickly outside before going in thanks to Harry and Fergie who came outside to help. “I practiced really quickly and we went in.” Markle said that after doing a “very deep curtsy” that she doesn’t remember doing, the meeting went off without a hitch. “We sat there and we chatted and it was lovely and easy. Thank God I hadn’t known a lot about the family, I would’ve been so in my head about it.”
On how the Queen made her feel welcome and warm: Markle said, “The Queen has always been wonderful to me.” She added that on their first joint engagement together, they shared breakfast and the Queen gifted her beautiful pearl earrings and a matching necklace. Then, during a car ride, her Majesty offered Markle part of the blanket she draped across her knees for warmth. “She’s always been warm and inviting and really welcoming.”
On the couple’s fairy tale wedding, seen by nearly 2 billion people: Winfrey was a guest at the 2018 nuptials and she said that from the outside, it looked like something of a fairy tale that signaled a modern age for the royal family. “Thank you for inviting me, by the way,” Winfrey said. “I recall this sense of magic. I had never experienced anything like it. When you came through that door, it seemed like you were floating down the aisle. Were you even in your body at that time?” Markle said it was indeed like an out-of-body experience “that I was present for.” She added that she slept through the night and upon awakening, she listened to the song, “Going to the Chapel.” “We tried to remind ourselves that this was our day,” even though it truly was “the day that was planned for the world.”
They married in secret before the Royal wedding: During a visit to Archie’s Chick Inn — a sanctuary of rescued hens from a factory farm — Markle revealed to Winfrey that ahead of their planned nuptials, the couple organized a private wedding with the two of them and Archbishop of Canterbury. “This thing is for the world,” she said of their public wedding. “We want our union for us.” During the same segment, Markle said that her goal now is “just being able to live authentically.”
She never Googled Prince Harry: “I didn’t do any research. I never looked up my husband online,” Markle said of investigating what she was getting herself into by dating a world-famous royal. It also applied to royal protocols. “Everything we thought I needed to know, he was telling me.” She said she went into the union “naively” because she didn’t grow up knowing much about the family and that her own mother asked her if Princess Diana ever did an interview. “Now, I can say that ‘yes, a very famous one.” As a result, she had no clue about what was required of someone in her position. “I didn’t fully understand what the job was, what does it mean to be a working royal? I think there was no way to understand what the day-to-day was going to be like. I didn’t romanticize any element of it. It’s easy to have an image of it that is so far from reality … that is what was really tricky over the past several years [because] you’re being judged by the perception but you’re living the reality.”
What would the late Princess Diana think of their exit: Winfrey asked Prince Harry to speculate on what his mother would say of their new life and how they left behind their royal status. “I think she would feel very angry about how this has panned out, but ultimately, all she’d ever want is for us to be happy.”
On what kind of protection they hoped to have before exiting the palace: Markle seemed particularly upset by the ways in which their communications team handled the many negative stories coming their way. She said that while reps would go on the record to negate “the most ridiculous story for anyone, things that are super artificial and inconsequential,” they were never given the same treatment while her character was being assassinated. “And they knew it wasn’t true.”
On regret: Prince Harry said he has none. “I’m really proud of us. I’m so proud of my wife. She safely delivered Archie during a period of time which was so cruel and so mean. Every day I was coming back to my life in London and she was crying while breastfeeding Archie. We did what we had to do.” As for Markle, she has only one. “Believing them when I said I would be protected. I regret believing that, because had I really seen that wasn’t happening, I would have been able to do more. I think I wasn’t supposed to see it. I wasn’t supposed to know. Now, because we are actually on the other side, we actually have not just survived but are thriving. All of those things I was hoping for have happened. This is, in some ways, just the beginning for us.”
On their blockbuster deals with Netflix and Spotify: Winfrey questioned the pair on their mega-deals with streaming platforms which caused some, she said, to characterize them as royals in search of a cash grab. Prince Harry was direct and said that the idea of getting into business with streamers was suggested to them by a friend or associate and it became something they negotiated because they needed a way to support themselves and pay for necessary security.
He also revealed that he had an inheritance left to him by his mother, money he needed when they were abruptly cut off in the first quarter of 2020. “I think she saw it coming,” he said of Princess Diana. “I certainly felt her presence throughout his whole process. I’m really relieved and happy talking to be talking with you with my wife by my side. I can’t begin to imagine what it must’ve been like for [my mother] going through this process by herself all those years ago. My biggest concern was history repeating itself.”
Prince Harry on what delights him now: Winfrey asked the 36-year-old what brings him joy now in his everyday experiences. He said the ability to have “actual space” to go for walks with their nearly 2-year-old son Archie, hit the beach, and go for hikes as a family. “The highlight, for me, is sticking him on a back of a bicycle and taking him on his bike rides. It’s something I was never able to do.” They also revealed that Archie’s favorite words at the moment are “drive safe” to anyone as they leave and “hydrate.”
On their happy ending: Through all the bombshell revelations and the emotional rollercoaster that the couple has been, Winfrey closed the interview by suggesting to Markle that her story with the prince does have its happy ending, to which Markle said with a smile, “It does. Greater than any fairy tale you’ve ever read.” She also gave credit to Prince Harry for being the savior who “called it. He made a decision to save us and certainly saved my life and saved all of us.”
On Baby No. 2: “It’s a girl,” Prince Harry confirmed, a reveal saved for their joint interview after Markle was first asked during her solo sit-down with Winfrey but an answer she preferred to deliver once they were together. Asked how he responded to the gender reveal, Prince Harry added, “Jut grateful. To have any child, any one or two, would be amazing. But to have a boy and then a girl, what more could you ask for? Now we’ve got our family, the four of us and our two dogs.” Asked if they’re planning on more than two kids, Harry said, “Done,” with Markle clarifying, “Two is it.”
March 8, 10:06 a.m.: Updated to include Winfrey’s comments on CBS This Morning regarding the unnamed individual involved in a conversation about the baby’s skin tone.