Former royals talk about monarchy, UCSB expert discusses CBS interview
Oprah Winfrey’s bombshell interview with fellow Montecito residents Prince Harry and Meghan Markle sparked waves of reaction all over the world and left locals buzzing in Santa Barbara Monday.
Ms. Winfrey’s sit-down interview with the former royals exposed the couple’s rocky history with the monarchy since their grandiose wedding day in 2018. The royals made the decision to step back from their royal duties in January 2020, setting off a firestorm of media coverage as the couple sought to navigate their post-monarchy reality.
Last month Prince Harry and Ms. Markle, who moved to Montecito last summer from Los Angeles, announced they would not resume their royal duties. Prince Harry was stripped of his royal patronages and honorary military titles, but he and Ms. Markle remain the Duke and Duchess of Sussex.
In the televised interview with Ms. Winfrey, Ms. Markle admitted to feeling silenced by the royal family. She also said she went into her marriage with Harry “naively” and without much knowledge of what their union would entail.
As British tabloid coverage intensified and the pressures of royal life bore down, Ms. Markle admitted to having suicidal thoughts while pregnant with her son, Archie.
“That’s the sad irony about the last four years, is that I’ve advocated for so long for women to use their voice, and then I was silent,” Ms. Markle said during the interview, which aired Sunday night on CBS.
“Were you silent or were you silenced?” Oprah asked.
“The latter,” Ms. Markle replied.
During the interview, Ms. Markle said she asked the palace for help regarding her mental state, but was denied any assistance. With tears in her eyes, Ms. Markle recalled the experience of facing the “unrelenting attacks” from the media as “almost unsurvivable.”
The couple also recalled an incident with the royal family leading up to the birth of their son, Archie, where the palace announced he would not receive a royal title or receive protection from palace security. Shocked and confused, Ms. Markle said Prince Harry tried to make sense of this while confronting concerns from the palace about the skin tone of his future son.
“There were several conversations with Harry about how dark (Archie’s) skin might be when he is born,” Ms. Markle said. She did not reveal who specifically was raising these concerns, but admitted it was someone in the family.
The “constant barrage” was the breaking point for the couple, and without receiving help from the royal family, they decided to step back from their duties, Prince Harry said.
“My biggest fear and concern was history repeating itself, and I’ve said that before, on numerous occasions very publicly,” Prince Harry said. “And what I was seeing was history repeating itself but (it was) definitely far more dangerous because you add race in, and you add social media in.”
The interview is now sending shockwaves from the U.S. to the U.K. and beyond, as spectators all over the world are voicing their reactions to the shocking expose of the royal family.
Erika Rappaport, chair of the UCSB history department, told the News-Press that members of the royal family will likely face backlash, but a scandal is something they have weathered before.
“I was thinking, in a way, it’s just replaying the same stories that we’ve seen over and over again,” Dr. Rappaport said. “Where some member, usually who has married into the family, shows how nutty the institution really is.”
As an expert in modern British history, Dr. Rappaport said the royal family has “come back from much worse” in terms of criticism and scandal, pointing to explosive interviews from the late Princess Diana and the details of Prince Andrew’s involvement with Jeffrey Epstein.
“(This interview) is going to be a low point, and they’ve had other low points,” Dr. Rappaport said. “There have been so many times they’ve been at this low point, they don’t respond immediately, but then they really do manage it.”
With the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement, Britain has been forced to confront its racist roots in colonialism and slavery, Dr. Rappaport said.
In unaired interview clips released Monday on “CBS This Morning,” Prince Harry told Ms. Winfrey that a large part of the reason the couple left Britain was because of racism.
In the unaired clips, Prince Harry recalled an encounter with someone at a Sentebale fundraiser, who warned him not to mess with British press because they would “destroy your life.”
“He said, ‘Please understand that the U.K. is very bigotted’ Prince Harry said during the clip on “CBS This Morning.” “And I stopped and I said, ‘The U.K. is not bigoted. The UK press is very bigoted, specifically the tabloids. Is that what you mean?’ He goes, ‘No, the U.K. is bigoted.’
“And I said, ‘I completely disagree.’ But unfortunately, if the source of the information is inherently corrupt or racist or biased, then that filters out to the rest of society.”
On a lighter note, the prince and Ms. Markle announced they are expecting a baby girl during Sunday’s interview. The baby is to be born in early summer, said the couple, who showed Ms. Winfrey the chicken coop at their Montecito home during the interview. (The bulk of the interview took place at the Montecito home of one of Ms. Winfrey’s friends.)
The royal family has yet to make a formal comment following the airing of the interview.