LONDON -- Britain's royal family was absorbing the tremors Monday from a sensational television interview by Prince Harry and the Duchess of Sussex, in which the couple said they encountered racist attitudes and a lack of support that drove Meghan to thoughts of suicide.
The couple gave a deeply unflattering depiction of life inside the royal household, depicting a cold, uncaring institution that they had to flee to save their lives.
Meghan told Oprah Winfrey that at one point “I just didn’t want to be alive anymore” and had uncontrollable suicidal thoughts. She said she sought help through the palace’s human resources department, but was told there was nothing they could do.
While most in Britain have yet to see the interview, which airs on Monday evening, anti-monarchy group Republic said the Winfrey interview gives a clearer picture of what the royal family is like — and it’s not pretty.
“Whether for the sake of Britain or for the sake of the younger royals this rotten institution needs to go,’’ Graham Smith of the campaign group said.
“Some people will say ‘well you would say that,’ but this interview has only served to highlight what a lot of people have known for years: The monarchy is rotten to the core and does not reflect British values.″
In the soul-baring interview, Meghan, 39, admitted that she was naive at the start of her relationship with Harry and unprepared for the strictures of royal life.
Meghan, who identifies as biracial, described that when she was pregnant with son Archie, there were “concerns and conversations about how dark his skin might be when he’s born.”
Harry confirmed the conversation, saying: “I was a bit shocked.” He said he would not reveal who made the comment.
Harry, born a royal prince, described how his wife’s experience had helped him realize how he and he rest of the family were stuck in an oppressive institution.
“I was trapped, but I didn’t know I was trapped,” Harry said. “My father and my brother, they are trapped.”
Meghan, he said, “saved me.”
The younger royals — including Harry, Meghan, Prince William and William’s wife Catherine — have made campaigning for support and awareness around mental health one of their priorities. But Harry described a royal family 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,’” Harry said.
Sympathy for the couple poured in from the United States, where the two-hour interview was broadcast Sunday night. It will be shown later Monday in Britain, where some see Meghan and Harry as a couple who put personal happiness ahead of public duty.
Tennis star Serena Williams, a friend who attended Harry and Meghan’s wedding, said on Twitter that the duchess’ words "illustrate the pain and cruelty she’s experienced.
“The mental health consequences of systemic oppression and victimisation are devastating, isolating and all too often lethal,” Williams added.
American actress Meghan Markle, a star of the American TV legal drama “Suits,” married Harry, a grandson of Queen Elizabeth II, at Windsor Castle in May 2018. Their son, Archie, was born the following year.
In early 2020, Meghan and Harry announced they were quitting royal duties and moving to North America, citing what they said were the unbearable intrusions and racist attitudes of the British media. They have settled in Santa Barbara, California, and spoke to Winfrey from their home in the upmarket Montecito area.
Harry said he had lived in fear of a repeat of the fate of his mother, Princess Diana, who was covered constantly by the press and died in a car crash in Paris in 1997 while being pursued by paparazzi.
“What I was seeing was history repeating itself, but definitely far more dangerous — because then you add race in, and you add social media in,” Harry said.
Both Meghan and Harry praised the support they had received from Queen Elizabeth II, Harry's grandmother.
“The queen has always been wonderful to me,” Meghan said.
But Harry revealed he currently has a poor relationship with his brother William, and said things got so bad with his father that at one point Prince Charles stopped taking his calls.
“There is a lot to work through there,” Harry said about his relationship with his father. “I feel really let down. He’s been through something similar. He knows what pain feels like. And Archie is his grandson. I will always love him, but there is a lot of hurt that has happened.”
In a rare positive moment in the interview, Harry and Meghan revealed their second child, due in the summer, would be a girl.