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Warning: This piece mentions suicidal ideation.
It wasn't easy to watch Meghan Markle and Prince Harry open up about what they've been through over the past few years, especially when we think about how much of it took place during her first pregnancy. It's hard enough to prepare for baby when your biggest concerns are which crib to buy and how to tell your boss you're expecting—let alone racist and sexist attacks by the tabloids and a relentless schedule of public appearances that took a serious toll on Meghan's mental health.
Archie's parents, who have another baby on the way—a girl, they revealed!—sat down with their Montecito, Calif. neighbour, Oprah, on Sunday for their first interview since stepping down as working members of the royal family last year. And no subject was off limits. In fact, Oprah was visibly shocked by much of what Meghan told her. "I wasn't planning to say anything shocking," she stressed. "I'm just telling you what happened." And it was a lot.
On the eve of International Women's Day, Meghan bravely spoke in heartbreaking detail about the hardships she faced as a royal—something she was never allowed to do as a member of the Royal Family.
“As an adult who lived a really independent life, to then go into this construct that is different than I think what people imagine it to be, it’s really liberating to be able to have the right and the privilege in some ways to be able to say yes,” she explained. “I mean, I’m ready to talk… To be able to make a choice on your own and just be able to speak for yourself.”
And speak for herself she did. Here are five unbearable things she said she had to go through as a first-time mom to be.
Months after Prince Harry and Meghan were married before an audience of two billion, the bride and her royal sister-in-law made headlines for an alleged fight over Princess Charlotte's bridesmaid dress. The British press reported that Meghan made Kate cry over her "strict demands," but she clarified that it was actually the other way around—and she was preparing to welcome her first child while being lambasted by the international press for something she didn't do.
Without going into any more detail, she said that in the walk-up to the wedding, it was actually the Duchess of Cambridge who brought Meghan to tears at a time when emotions were running high. "And I don't say that to be disparaging to anyone, because it was a really hard week of the wedding, and she was upset about something," Meghan explained. "But she owned it, and she apologized and she brought me flowers and a note apologizing."
She thinks the media just wanted to pit a hero against a villain, and we all saw who the villain was. Meghan says this was a turning point, where she and Harry realized the family wasn't going to stick up for them the same way they have released statements for family members in defence of other fictional stories. "I think that's when everything changed," she noted.
For the last few months of Meghan's pregnancy, she had to come to terms with the fact that her baby may never have a title and, more importantly, that that would prevent his being given royal security. "They didn't want him to be a prince or princess, not knowing what the gender would be, which would be different from protocol, and that he wasn't going to receive security," she explained. That meant he wouldn't be entitled to the same safety measures as titled family members—despite the risks that went along with his family's extremely high profiles.
This was "because he's not going to be a prince," Meghan continued. "Okay, well, he needs to be safe, so we're not saying don't make him a prince or princess, but if you're saying the title is what's going to affect that protection, we haven't created this monster machine around us in terms of clickbait and tabloid fodder you've allowed that to happen, which means our son needs to be safe."
At the time, there was speculation that the parents-to-be had refused titles for their first born, but this wasn't the case, Meghan explained. "All the grandeur surrounding this stuff is an attachment I don't have. I've been a waitress, an actress, a princess, a duchess. I'm clear on who I am independent of that stuff. The most important title I will ever have is 'Mom.'"
What was worst of all was that this meant that "the first member of colour born in this family isn't being titled in the same way as other grandchildren would be," which was an unbearable blow.
We can't even imagine the fear she would have felt while also preparing to become a mother for the first time, not to mention the racist implications of denying the first royal baby of colour born to the family denied a title and the safety that comes along with it.
In what was one of the most disturbing revelations of the two hour special, Meghan said that on top of discussions about their baby's title and security, there were also "concerns and conversations about how dark his skin might be when he was born." Oprah was visibly and understandably stunned.
"In those months when I was pregnant, all around this same time—so we have in tandem the conversation of, you won't be given security, not gonna be given a title and also concerns and conversations about how dark his skin might be when he's born," Meghan explained. It's not hard to draw connections between these racist considerations and any differential treatment for the biracial royal's first child.
Meghan wasn't willing to reveal who had those conversations with Harry, saying it would be too damaging, though she noted in a clip released today that it wasn't the Queen or Prince Philip. Harry later said "that conversation I'm never going to share. It was awkward. I was a bit shocked." But he did note that those conversations started very early on, when the two were still just dating.
Meghan explained how gutted she was, not only because she wouldn't have the security of knowing her baby was safe but also because it seemed that the family was preventing something that would mean so much to so many kids in the world. "Growing up as a little girl of colour, I know how important representation is," she said, like seeing people who look like you in positions of power.
During the interview, Harry and Meghan were very clear on the fact that racism played a huge role in their stepping away from their royal roles.
#EXCLUSIVE: Prince Harry reveals to @Oprah a “large part of” the reason he and Meghan left the UK was because of racism. #OprahMeghanHarry pic.twitter.com/ksAZWargg1— CBS This Morning (@CBSThisMorning) March 8, 2021
Royal fans always look forward to a royal baby photo opp on the steps outside the hospital's maternity wing, and there was plenty of backlash when Meghan and Harry were said to have skipped the tradition. But it wasn't snobbery or self-importance that led to the couple's decision—it was fear. And what newborn parents aren't entitled to want to protect their baby?
“There was a fear surrounding it, because we were scared of having to offer up our baby, knowing that they weren’t going to be kept safe,” Meghan shared, saying their decision was directly linked to Archie's not being given a title and security.
"I just didn't want to be alive anymore," Meghan admitted of a suicidal period she went through during her first pregnancy in 2019. "That was clear and real and frightening and constant thought." She added, "I thought it would have solved everything for everyone."
Meghan was scared to tell her husband, given all he'd been through losing his mom, Princess Diana, but “I knew that if I didn’t say it, that I would do it.”
That night the couple had to get dolled up and attend a splashy royal event, and she said the facade might have been glossy but she was broken—and wouldn't skip the event to stay home alone for fear of what she might have done. "When I zoom in on those photos, all I can see is his knuckles, how tightly he was holding my hand," she said. She stressed that people have to remember you have no idea what's going on behind closed doors in anyone's life. For example, the mom-to-be wept throughout the event, a Cirque du Soleil premiere at Royal Albert Hall, before pulling herself together to smile for the cameras when the lights came on.
A mental health advocate herself, Meghan knew she needed help. "I went to the institution. And I said that I needed to go somewhere to get help. And I said that I’d never felt this way before. I need to go somewhere. And I was told that I couldn’t, because it wouldn’t be good for the institution,” said Meghan. With no access to her driver's license, passport or keys, she was trapped, so the couple took matters into their own hands, ultimately moving across the world to save themselves.
“Nothing was ever done, so we had to find a solution.”
Editor's note: If you or someone you know need mental health help, call the Canada Suicide Prevention Service at 1-833-456-4566 for immediate help, 24 hours a day.
It's not a huge stretch that Meghan likened herself to The Little Mermaid during the interview: She fell in love with her prince and lost her voice. "I've always valued independence. I've always been outspoken, especially about women's rights, and that's the sad irony of the last four years: I've advocated for so long for women to use their voice, and then I was silent."
Oprah asked Meghan if she was silent, or being silenced. "The latter," she replied, adding that "nothing is like what it looks like" in the Royal Family.
But the couple made it through to the other side, and they know how lucky they are. "You know, for me, I'm just really relieved and happy to be sitting here, talking to you with my wife by my side because I can't begin to imagine what it must've been like for her going through this process by herself all those years ago," Harry told Oprah of his mom's experience. "Because it has been unbelievably tough for the two of us, but at least we have each other."
Among the devastating details of Meghan and Harry's time as royals were sweet tidbits about their life in Santa Barbara, like their coop of rescue chickens, who Meghan greeted "Hi, girls." Oprah was quick to notice the most adorable detail—the sign on the coop that said "Archie's Chick Inn." We can only imagine how cute the 22-month-old is hanging out with his feathered friends.
And we got another glimpse of Archie running around on the beach in a cute clip of the family. Harry said that, in true California dad style, he takes his son for bike rides, and Archie likes to wave his arms in the breeze.
After such a tough few years living under the glare of the British tabloids, we're so happy for Meghan, Harry and Archie that they're finally able to move forward with their lives and find some peace—making breakfast on the sweet waffle maker Archie got from the Queen, watching their adorable little boy grow and preparing for their baby girl.