On Sunday night, Meghan Markle and Prince Harry sat down with Oprah Winfrey for one of the most astonishing and vulnerable televised interviews in recent memory, in which the Duchess of Sussex went all but scorched earth on the crown.
Meghan detailed what certainly sounds like an excruciating experience in the palace. She described a lack of support when she opened up about suicidal ideations; was denied security for her child, Archie; and, most shockingly, says there was royal concern over her baby’s skin color. It is not necessarily shocking that one of Europe’s oldest and most powerful institutions is still fraught with systemic racism, but hearing its impact on one woman’s life — one who is married to a prince no less — was still startling.
Harry was supportive, speaking frankly about his own lack of awareness about what his wife was going through and detailing the ensuing royal estrangement from his family. It’s impossible to not compare Meghan’s experiences with those of her late mother-in-law Princess Diana, and Harry is clearly trying to make sure his wife has the opportunity for the sort of normal, healthy life his own mother never did.
Winfrey, maybe the best interviewer of her generation, was in top form, navigating a complicated conversation with her trademark curiosity and compassion. She pushed for details but respected the couple’s need for privacy. Both of the Sussexes were broadly complimentary of many individuals within the palace but highlighted systemic issues going deeper than any one person ruining Meghan’s life.
That toxic culture contributed to her suicidal ideation. “I thought it would have solved everything for everyone,” she says in an extra heartbreaking moment.
What emerges is a picture of an ancient institution that had a historic chance to update itself for a new millennium and botched it royally. By leaving the palace behind, it certainly seems like the couple has set themselves up for an emotionally and mentally healthier way of life.
But Sunday’s interview was also a rare opportunity for a person to speak honestly about their darkest thoughts, and the toll that toxic environments can take on their wellbeing. Meghan occupied a place of uncommon power, but wealth and influence are not mental health cures and there is simply no replacement for a good support system. By all appearances, the one thing she had going for her is a significant one: a husband who genuinely cared and was willing to sacrifice for her wellbeing.
The couple’s journey is a long ways from over. Britain’s infamously trashy tabloids are primed to have a field day with tales of palace intrigue and the crown’s publicity machine launched a pre-emptive counter-offensive early last week. But by speaking honestly and openly about their struggles and their grief, Meghan and Harry are also primed for better days down the road.