The facts behind Harry and Meghan’s Oprah interview

·9-min read

As the fallout from the Sussexes’ controversial Oprah Winfrey interview continues, here is an examination of some of the facts:

– Allegations of racism

The Duchess of Sussex said that when she was pregnant with Archie, an unnamed member of the royal family raised “concerns and conversations about how dark his skin might be when he’s born”.

There have been calls for the Sussexes to clarify who made the remarks and what exactly they said, so the allegations can be addressed.

Royal baby
The Sussexes and baby Archie (Dominic Lipinski/PA)

The Duke of Sussex said he will never reveal who said it and what was said, but this will not stop the speculation.

Winfrey’s later admission that Harry said it was not the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh, and Meghan’s suggestion that it would be “very damaging to them”, narrows the field.

While Meghan said it happened when she was expecting, the duke said this happened “right at the beginning… what will the kids look like?”

– Archie’s rightful title was taken away from him

Meghan said she and Harry wanted Archie to be a prince so he would have security and be protected, and she suggested he was not given the title because of his race.

Archie was not entitled to be a prince
Archie was not entitled to be a prince (Toby Melville/PA)

But Archie, who is seventh in line to the throne, is not entitled to be an HRH or a prince due to rules set out more than 100 years ago by King George V.

He will be entitled to be an HRH or a prince when the Prince of Wales accedes to the throne.

– Harry and Meghan wanted him to be a prince

At the time of his birth, a royal source said Harry and Meghan had decided he should be a regular Master Archie Mountbatten-Windsor.

But Meghan told Oprah this was not correct, adding: “It was not our decision to make.”

Yet Harry had always previously stressed the importance of wanting to be seen as normal, and he was thought to have wanted to give his baby the opportunities of an ordinary life that he never had, without the burden of being a prince.

Prince Harry during the Wetherby School sports day at Richmond Athletic club
The Princess of Wales with Prince Harry during the Wetherby School sports day at Richmond Athletic Club (Rebecca Naden/PA)

He once said he was always more comfortable being Captain Wales in the Army than being Prince Harry.

As the first-born son of a duke, Archie was actually entitled to have become Earl of Dumbarton – one of Harry’s subsidiary titles – or have been Lord Archie Mountbatten-Windsor.

But a source said after Archie was born in May 2019: “They have chosen not to use a courtesy title.”

– Being a prince would have meant Archie had security

Being a prince or princess does not automatically mean royals have police protection.

Princess Beatrice and Princess Eugenie’s security is no longer paid for by the taxpayer, despite them being princesses and grandchildren of the monarch, because they are not working royals and have full-time jobs instead.

Princess Beatrice and Princess Eugenie
Princess Beatrice and Princess Eugenie (Jonathan Brady/PA)

But as a full-time working royal, Harry and his family would have been entitled to 24-hour security by Metropolitan Police protection officers.

Final decisions are taken by the Home Office, in consultation with Buckingham Palace.

– What about Archie’s security in the future?

In recent years, the royal family has shifted towards a slimmed-down monarchy, focusing on those at the top of the line of succession.

Archie, who will move down the succession list if the Cambridge children have their own families, was never expected to be playing a key role in royal duties when older.

Prince George, Princess Charlotte and Prince Louis
Prince Louis, Princess Charlotte and Prince George (Aaron Chown/PA)

When Harry and Meghan quit as senior working royals and moved to the US, it changed everything.

The prospect of the couple and their son living permanently in the US and not carrying out royal duties, but also having Metropolitan Police protection officers, paid for by British taxpayers, at their side was untenable.

But the royal family could have agreed to foot their security bill privately, and used a private firm.

– Money

Harry said his family “literally cut me off financially” in the first quarter of 2020.

But in January of that year, the duke and duchess released their bombshell statement saying they wanted to achieve financial independence.

Duke and Duchess of Sussex visit to Canada House
The couple said in January 2020 they wanted to work towards financial independence (Yui Mok/PA)

“We intend to step back as ‘senior’ members of the royal family and work to become financially independent,” Harry and Meghan said.

Harry and Meghan’s public duties and some private costs were mostly funded by the Prince of Wales from his private £22 million-a-year Duchy of Cornwall income – not taxpayer funds but money which Charles receives because of his position as heir to the throne.

Taxpayers paid for the couple’s official travel, and some of their office costs, as well an undisclosed amount for their security.

– Surviving financially

Harry said he had what his mother Diana, Princess of Wales left him and “without that we would not have been able to do this”, and he went for the Netflix and Spotify deals to pay for his security.

Pre-Megxit, the duke and duchess’s joint wealth was estimated to be £18 million.

Diana, Princess of Wales
Diana, Princess of Wales (John Stillwell/PA)

Harry inherited nearly £7 million from Diana but this will have grown with investment over the past 23 years.

He is also thought to have had an inheritance from the Queen Mother, so his total wealth in 2020 was believed to have been around £10-£15 million.

The duchess was then thought to be worth £2-£3 million, pocketing a reported £333,000 per season for six runs of the legal drama Suits, as well as earning a past income from feature films and fashion collections.

– Mental health

Questions remain as to why Meghan was not offered more help after her shocking admission that she had suicidal thoughts.

She said she begged for help, and asked to go somewhere to get help, and approached one of the most senior people in the institution, but was told it would not look good.

Who did Meghan approach in the palace for help when feeling suicidal and why was she not supported?

Oprah Winfrey interviews Duke and Duchess of Sussex
The Sussexes’ interview aired in the UK on Monday night (Yui Mok/PA)

Even Harry, who launched the Heads Together mental health initiative with the Cambridges in 2016 and who has been open about his own struggles, told of his despair: “I didn’t know what to do. I wasn’t prepared for that. I went into a very dark place as well but I wanted to be there for her.”

Asked by Winfrey: “Did you tell other people in the family I need to get help for her?”

Harry replied: “That’s just not a conversation that would be had. I guess I was ashamed of admitting it to them.”

He added: “I didn’t have anyone to turn to.”

– The second wedding

Meghan said she and Harry had a secret marriage ceremony with the Archbishop of Canterbury in their “backyard” three days before their royal wedding.

Royal wedding
The Sussexes on their wedding day (Danny Lawson/PA)

But this cannot have been a legal ceremony as it lacked witnesses and a registered venue.

It is thought to have been an informal exchange of vows.

– Big royal wedding

Harry and Meghan’s actual star-studded wedding took place in Windsor Castle’s 15th-century St George’s Chapel in May 2018 in front of 600 guests and a worldwide television audience of millions.

Meghan said they told the archbishop “this spectacle is for the world” and they wanted “our union between us”.

Although it would have been unusual in Harry’s case, members of the royal family do not have to have grand nuptials.

Commander Tim Laurence and the Princess Royal and Timothy Laurence after their 1992 wedding ceremony
Commander Tim Laurence and the Princess Royal after their 1992 wedding ceremony (PA)

The Princess Royal – who, like Meghan, was marrying for a second time – wed Commander, now Vice Admiral, Timothy Laurence in a private, low-key ceremony at Crathie Church, near Balmoral Castle, in Scotland in 1992.

Last year, Beatrice got married at a secret ceremony in the Royal Chapel of All Saints at Royal Lodge, Windsor, during the pandemic.

She had been due to have a non-televised ceremony in the Chapel Royal at St James’s Palace.

– Meghan’s knowledge of royal life

As a teenager, she was pictured as a tourist outside Buckingham Palace, but Meghan said she knew little of the royal family growing up and had never looked up Harry online.

She told Oprah about being a working royal: “I didn’t fully understand what the job was.”

Prince Harry visit to Cardiff Castle
Meghan visiting Cardiff Castle with Harry ahead of their wedding (Aaron Chown/PA)

But in their engagement interview in 2017, Harry said he had warned her about life in The Firm, adding he had sat down for frank conversations, telling her: “You know what you’re letting yourself in for. It’s a big deal and… it’s not easy for anybody.”

– Lack of royal training

Meghan said she was not given advice on how to be royal and had to Google the national anthem and learn hymns by herself.

In the Finding Freedom biography about the Sussexes, Omid Scobie and Carolyn Durand told how, ahead of her engagement, calls between Meghan and Kensington Palace became the norm.

INVICTUS GAMES 2017
Meghan joined Harry at the Invictus Games in Toronto in 2017 (Danny Lawson/PA)

“While she got a little annoyed at their advice sometimes, Meghan grew to realise the importance of their support and experience as she navigated Harry’s world,” the authors wrote.

– Staff

Harry exposed his distrust of royal courtiers, saying: “When you’re head of The Firm there is people around you that give you advice. And what has also made me really sad is some of that advice has been really bad.”

Meghan said: “There’s the family. And then there’s the people that are running the institution.”

Buckingham Palace
Buckingham Palace (Nick Ansell/PA)

The remarks have raised questions about how much control palace aides have, but ultimately it is the Queen who is charge.

Royal aides are appointed by the royal family and are accountable to them.

The Sussexes eventually built their own team and appointed key staff including their own head of communications, Sara Latham – a former senior adviser on Hillary Clinton’s 2016 US presidential campaign – and the power to hire and fire lay with the duke and duchess.

But Harry and Meghan would have also had to deal with the Queen and the Prince of Wales’s aides throughout the different royal households.

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