Prince Harry told Oprah Winfrey that his family refused to help with the barrage of media and social media abuse directed at his wife, Meghan Markle.
“I thought my family would help, but every single ask, request, warning, whatever it is, just got met with total silence or total neglect,” the Duke of Sussex said in an interview for the Apple TV docuseries The Me You Can’t See, which was released on the streaming platform Friday.
“That was one of the biggest reasons to leave,” he said, referencing the couple’s decision to step back from royal life. “Feeling trapped and feeling controlled through fear, both by the media and by the [royal] system itself, which never encouraged the talking about this kind of trauma. But certainly now, I will never be bullied into silence.”
He said that he felt compelled to get his family away from royal life after the Duchess of Sussex told him that she felt suicidal while 6 months pregnant with their son, Archie and he knew that he “wasn’t going to get from [his] family” the kind of help that he and Meghan needed.
“I then had a son who I’d far rather be solely focused on, rather than every time I look in his eyes wonder whether my wife is going to end up like my mother and I’m going to have to look after him myself,” he said.
The interview began streaming a day after Harry and his brother, Prince William, blasted media culture, and the BBC specifically, for contributing to their mother’s death by hounding her and preying on what William called her “fear, paranoia, and isolation.”
Harry told Oprah that he could see that watching how Meghan was treated by the media brought him back to how he had felt as a child watching his mother be pursued by the paparazzi “every single day until the day she died.”
He also said that the advent of social media platforms added “a whole new depth” to the constant media abuse, as did the fact that Meghan is biracial.
“My mother was chased to her death while she was in a relationship with someone that wasn’t white [Dodi Al-Fayed]. And now look what’s happened. You want to talk about history repeating itself? They’re not going to stop until she dies,” he said. “It’s incredibly triggering to potentially lose another woman in my life. Like, the list is growing. And it all comes back to the same people, the same business model, the same industry.”
Harry has spoken strongly in the past against the British media — in particular, the outlets, including tabloids, that make up the royal family’s official press system, known as the “Royal Rota” — about what he said was biased, unfair, and racist coverage, particularly of Meghan. He and his wife have also both taken legal action against the tabloids for privacy violations. (Harry’s lawsuit against the owners of the UK tabloids the Sun, the Mirror, and the now-defunct News of the World for alleged phone hacking is ongoing; Meghan effectively won her lawsuit against the publisher of the Mail on Sunday and the Daily Mail for printing a letter she sent to her estranged father.)
Immediately after stepping back from royal life, Harry and Meghan’s press team effectively cut off the four tabloids in the Royal Rota — the Sun, the Mirror, the Mail, and the Express — essentially establishing a policy of “no corroboration and zero engagement.” In their statement announcing the decision, published April 19, 2020, Harry and Meghan said that they would not “offer themselves up as currency for an economy of clickbait and distortion.”
The prince told Winfrey that starting therapy after meeting Meghan made him become aware that he had “been living in a bubble within this family, within this institution, and I was sort of almost trapped in a thought process or a mindset.”
“That feeling of being trapped within the family is — there was no option to leave. Eventually, when I made that decision for my family, I was still told, ‘You can’t do this,’ and it’s like, ‘Well, how bad does it have to get until I am allowed to do this?’ She was going to end her life. It shouldn’t have to get to that,” he said.
Harry also specifically called out his father, Prince Charles, for raising him and his brother to believe that constant media abuse and the toll it takes on one’s mental health was just part of being a member of the royal family.
“My father used to say to me when I was younger, he used to say to both William and I, ‘Well, it was like that for me, so it’s gonna be like that for you,’” said Harry. “That doesn’t make sense! Just because you suffered, that doesn’t mean that your kids have to suffer. In fact, quite the opposite. If you suffered, do everything you can to make sure that whatever … negative experiences that you had, that you can make it right for your kids.”
“We chose to put our mental health first. That’s what we’re doing and that’s what we will continue to do,” said Harry. “Isn’t this all about breaking the cycle? Isn’t this all about making sure that history doesn’t repeat itself? That whatever pain and suffering has happened to you that you don’t pass on?”
The prince and Winfrey coproduced The Me You Can’t See and have been working on it since 2019.