Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s explosive TV interview revealing ruptured relationships within the royal family has rocked Buckingham Palace and triggered reported “crisis talks” with the Queen.
After the Duchess of Sussex – seated alongside her husband – complained to US talk show host Oprah Winfrey on CBS on Monday (AEDT) of racism and a lack of support as she struggled with suicidal thoughts and self-harm, Buckingham Palace has gone into lockdown as it works out how to respond.
During the two-hour appearance with Winfrey, Prince Harry revealed fractures in his relationship with his father Charles and brother William, illuminating the depth of the family divisions that led the Sussexes to step away from royal duties and move to California in 2020.
The palace is yet to respond publicly to the bombshell allegations, but both sister-in-law Kate Middleton and Prince Charles’ wife Camilla were spotted by British tabloids out and about hours after the interview.
UK media, including the Daily Mail, have reported the Queen asked for more time before approving a palace response as she held emergency talks with heir-to-the-throne Prince Charles and William.
A royal source described the mood inside the palace as one of “intense personal shock and sadness that the prince (Harry) had pressed the nuclear button on his own family”.
“People are just reeling,” the source said.
More than 24 hours after the interview aired, The Times reported the Queen had refused to sign off on a prepared statement.
The crisis talks came as Winfrey’s production company revealed more outtakes from the couple’s interview.
In the latest revelations, Meghan addresses the invasions of privacy she experienced after dating, and then marrying, Prince Harry.
In the latest clip, released on Tuesday afternoon (Australian time), Winfrey asks the duchess if she should have expected to lose a certain degree of privacy while dating a royal.
“I think everyone has a basic right to privacy. Basic. We’re not talking about anything that anybody else wouldn’t expect,” Meghan said.
She expanded on her idea of a “basic right to privacy” with an example from daily life.
“If you’re at work and you have a photograph of your child on your desk, and your co-worker says, ‘Oh, my gosh, your kid’s so cute. That’s fantastic! Can I see your phone so I can see all the pictures of your child?’ You go, ‘No. This is the picture I’m comfortable sharing with you,’” Meghan said.
She told Winfrey that neither she nor her husband wanted complete privacy, nor were they hiding from their roles as public figures, as some have claimed.
“They’ve created a false narrative. I’ve never talked about privacy,” Meghan said.
Instead, she said, the couple wanted to share just the “parts of their lives” they were “comfortable” with giving the public access to.
“There’s no one who’s on Instagram or social media that would say, ‘Because I shared this one picture, that entitles you to have my entire camera roll. Go ahead and look through it.’ No one would want that. So it’s about boundaries. And it’s about respect.”
Interview highlighted couple’s problems from the outset
In the two-hour TV special, the duchess described feeling so isolated and miserable inside the royal family that she had suicidal thoughts while pregnant.
Most explosively, she claimed an unnamed member of the family had “concerns” about the colour of her unborn child Archie’s skin.
Harry confirmed the conversation, saying: “I was a bit shocked.”
The family member was not the Queen or husband Prince Philip, according to Harry, setting off a flurry of speculation about who it could be.
“That was relayed to me from Harry. Those were conversations that family had with him,” Meghan said.
Prince Harry also said his family had cut them off financially and that Prince Charles had refused to take his calls at one point.
Nearly three years since her star-studded wedding to the duke at Windsor Castle, Meghan described some unidentified members of the royal household as brutal, mendacious and guilty of racist remarks.
She also accused Prince William’s wife, Kate Middleton, of making her cry before her wedding.
But neither Harry nor Meghan attacked the Queen directly.
Still, Meghan said she had been silenced by “the Firm” – which the Queen heads – and that her pleas for help while in distress at racist reporting and her predicament had fallen on deaf ears.
“I just didn’t want to be alive any more. And that was a very clear and real and frightening constant thought. And I remember how he (Harry) just cradled me,” Meghan said, wiping away tears.
The duchess acknowledged she was naive at the start of her relationship with Prince Harry and unprepared for the strictures of royal life.
A successful actor before her marriage, living in Canada and appearing on TV legal drama Suits, she said she bridled at the controlling nature of being royal, squirming at the idea that she had to live on terms set by palace staff.
This was compounded by staff refusing to help her when she faced racist attacks from the media and internet trolls, she said.
But when she sought help through the palace’s human resources department, she was told there was nothing it could do because she wasn’t an employee, she said.
The younger royals have made campaigning for support and awareness around mental health one of their priorities.
But the prince said the royal family was completely unable to offer that support to its own members.
“For the family, they very much have this mentality of ‘This is just how it is, this is how it’s meant to be, you can’t change it, we’ve all been through it’,” he said.
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