British royal family plunged into crisis after Harry and Meghan allege racism and neglect in Oprah interview

Britain's royal family was facing a once-in-a-generation crisis on Monday after Prince Harry and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, rocked the institution with a lit...

Posted: Mar 8, 2021 2:27 PM

Britain's royal family was facing a once-in-a-generation crisis on Monday after Prince Harry and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, rocked the institution with a litany of devastating allegations in their eagerly awaited interview with Oprah Winfrey.

Over the course of the two-hour special, the couple -- who despite their royal split still sit five relatives away from the throne -- painted a picture of a family so stubbornly rooted in its ways that it left a young, bi-racial couple alone to fend off racist abuse and their own troubled mental health, forcing them into silence and ultimately leaving them with no option but to flee the palace's clutches.

Meghan said she was so isolated and lonely while working as a royal that she contemplated suicide, telling Winfrey she "just didn't want to be alive anymore." The couple were intensely critical of the way the institution treated them, and Meghan revealed a staggering allegation of racism from a member of the clan that threatens to throw its reputation into crisis.

Harry meanwhile admitted his relationships with his father and heir to the throne, Prince Charles, and his brother, Prince William, have come under severe strain in recent years, and suggested the institution may have planted stories in the media that cast him and Meghan in a negative light.

'I just didn't want to be alive anymore'

The palace faced storms on multiple fronts by sunrise in London on Monday.

The interview had been relentlessly previewed in the media over recent days, drawing comparisons with a royal tell-all given by Harry's mother, Princess Diana, in 1995, which shed light on the breakdown of her marriage to Charles.

But the revelations in Sunday's broadcast may have dwarfed even those in magnitude, as Harry and Meghan's scorched-earth confessional posed problem after problem for palace staffers and senior royals.

Perhaps the most pertinent was Meghan's allegation that an unnamed family member had asked about Archie's skin color and "what that would mean or look like." She said those discussions were relayed to her from Harry.

Harry declined to name the family member but said he was "a bit shocked" by the conversation. Winfrey said on CBS on Monday morning that "it was not his grandmother nor his grandfather that were part of those conversations." In Britain, the shadow education secretary, Kate Green, said Buckingham Palace should launch an investigation.

Palace officials are also scrambling to respond to claims from both Duke and Duchess that their pleas for help with their mental wellbeing and security were ignored by the institution.

Fighting back tears at one point, Meghan said her thoughts of suicide were incredibly difficult to bear, and she was reticent to share them with her husband. "But I knew that if I didn't say it, that I would do it -- and I just didn't want to be alive anymore," she said.

Harry, whose mother Diana was killed when he was a boy, said he was "terrified" by his wife's admission. The prince, who is sixth in line to the throne, said there is a culture of suffering in silence in the royal family. But Meghan's race and the abuse she endured made the situation even more difficult for the couple, and their perceived lack of support ultimately led, above all other factors, to their dramatic decision to quit as working royals in January 2020.

They described in emotional detail the most difficult moments -- Meghan revealing her thoughts to Harry hours before they were due to go to an event; the Prince arriving home from work each day to find his wife crying while breastfeeding their newborn -- and said a "lack of support and lack of understanding" were the reasons they chose to step away.

Meghan said the situation was exacerbated by often racist and "outdated, colonial undertones" that repeatedly appeared in coverage of the couple in Britain's notoriously vitriolic tabloids. Both described a toxic blend of press intrusion, bitterness on social media and isolation from a support structure.

Harry added that he pushed the issue with the royal family. He told Winfrey he believed there were many opportunities for the palace to "show some public support" in the face of continued racial abuse in the press, "yet no one from my family ever said anything. That hurts."

"I regret believing them when they said I would be protected," Meghan told Winfrey.

CNN has reached out to the royal family for comment.

Harry reveals serious rifts in the family

If there was even the faintest suggestion that Harry and Meghan could someday rejoin the royal family's mission, Sunday's broadcast likely extinguished it for good. The interview laid bare the depths of division between the pair and the rest of the family, a chasm that would have been unimaginable when they married in Windsor just three years ago.

They told Winfrey that the family had been welcoming towards Meghan at first, and that when they married, they were committed to their roles.

But things quickly changed. Harry told Winfrey his relationship with his father Charles reached the point where the heir to the throne stopped taking his calls, so angered by the pair's decision to leave as working royals in 2020. "There's a lot to work through there," Harry said. "I feel really let down, because he's been something similar -- he knows what pain feels like."

On his brother, William -- with whom Harry grew up, and whose shared childhood was meticulously followed by the media -- the Prince implied that communication is virtually non-existent. "We're on different paths," he said, adding that "the relationship is space at the moment," and that "time heals all things -- hopefully."

Perhaps the only silver lining for the family is that its leader survived the interview relatively unscathed. Harry and Meghan both spoke effusively of the Queen, describing her as caring and kind from the beginning.

"My grandmother and I have a really good relationship, and an understanding and I have a deep respect for her," Harry said. Meghan said she has spoken to her frequently in the past year, including on the day that Prince Philip was admitted to hospital last month.

Meghan added that despite the ordeal, it was important to differentiate the royal family from "the people running the institution."

She discussed rumors of a dispute with Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge. Meghan said reports she made Kate cry over the dresses of flower girls at her wedding were untrue, and it was in fact the Duchess of Sussex who cried. But "there was no confrontation," Meghan said, describing her sister-in-law as a "good person."

But the evidently strained family dynamic will overshadow the royals' upcoming engagements. No statements have yet been issued by any of their communications teams in the wake of the interview.

Breathless reaction in Britain

As the hours ticked by and the dust from the broadcast settled on Monday, Buckingham Palace remained silent. But the British media leapt to cover the fallout, with some newspapers publishing extra early editions overnight in order to feature the interview on their front pages.

As has so often been the case with the couple, coverage ranged from the measured to the hysterical. The Daily Mail ran a headline reading "Kate Made Me Cry" on its 2 a.m. edition, before leading on Meghan's accusation of racism later in the morning. The tabloid's website also included a prominent banner that read: "I WANTED TO KILL MYSELF."

The Sun featured a new nickname for Meghan amid her rift with the royal family: "Megxile," and the Daily Express dismissed the broadcast as "a self-serving TV chat with Oprah."

On Monday afternoon, several journalists used Boris Johnson's press conference on Covid-19 to ask for his thoughts on the Oprah interview. The Prime Minister declined to weigh in, aside from saying he'd always had "the highest admiration for the Queen and the unifying role that she plays in our country."

The media's treatment of the royal couple formed a significant part of the interview, with the pair both taking aim at sections of the press.

Harry said the palace is in "fear" of its media coverage, meaning they had little freedom while part of the family.

"To simplify it, it's a case of if you as a family member are willing to wine, dine and give full access to these reporters, then you will get better press," Harry said. "There is a level of control by fear that has existed for generations."

The interview was due to be broadcast in Britain at 9 p.m. Tuesday, with terrestrial broadcaster ITV winning the race to acquire rights. But its main talking points were already being dissected in detail by Brits and in the media long before its UK airing.

Charles Anson, a former press secretary to the Queen, said on Monday the couple raised "issues that need to be looked at carefully," but claimed to the BBC that there "wasn't a strand of racism" within the royal household.

But Julie Montagu, Viscountess Hinchingbrooke, told the BBC that their revelations were "astounding," and that as an American woman who married into British aristocracy, she could relate to Meghan's descriptions. "You don't really know until you're in it, and I think that she made that very well known last night in her interview," she said.

CNN will soon launch Royal News, a weekly newsletter bringing you the inside track on the royal family, what they are up to in public and what's happening behind palace walls. Sign up here.

Terre Haute
Clear
60° wxIcon
Hi: 70° Lo: 48°
Feels Like: 60°
Robinson
Clear
59° wxIcon
Hi: 70° Lo: 45°
Feels Like: 59°
Indianapolis
Clear
58° wxIcon
Hi: 67° Lo: 53°
Feels Like: 58°
Rockville
Clear
57° wxIcon
Hi: 70° Lo: 48°
Feels Like: 57°
Casey
Clear
61° wxIcon
Hi: 69° Lo: 45°
Feels Like: 61°
Brazil
Clear
60° wxIcon
Hi: 70° Lo: 48°
Feels Like: 60°
Marshall
Clear
60° wxIcon
Hi: 69° Lo: 46°
Feels Like: 60°
Clear & Cool
WTHI Planner
WTHI Temps
WTHI Radar

WTHI Events

 

Illinois Coronavirus Cases

(Widget updates once daily at 7 p.m. CT)

Cases: 1605320

Reported Deaths: 27132
CountyCasesDeaths
Cook61354910964
DuPage1039171357
Will873121089
Lake771121060
Kane65888850
Winnebago39007544
Madison38143576
St. Clair35003569
McHenry33032316
Peoria25972362
Champaign25862182
Sangamon24588271
McLean21879207
Tazewell19736326
Rock Island17806344
Kankakee16784234
Kendall15459106
LaSalle14496275
Macon14478240
Vermilion13234189
Adams12695148
DeKalb11667128
Williamson11419157
Whiteside7897176
Jackson769188
Boone760082
Coles7341112
Ogle713486
Grundy701281
Franklin686899
Clinton681498
Knox6651164
Marion6547138
Macoupin646399
Henry620474
Jefferson6060132
Effingham604382
Livingston571295
Woodford554291
Stephenson546289
Randolph529297
Monroe508199
Christian491780
Fulton487970
Morgan487296
Logan477474
Montgomery467476
Lee458156
Bureau427188
Perry415171
Saline409263
Fayette398956
Iroquois394673
McDonough354956
Jersey322253
Shelby311843
Douglas306636
Crawford304130
Lawrence301131
Union296747
Wayne274057
White265930
Richland262054
Hancock256334
Pike255956
Cass250928
Clark250738
Bond244024
Clay240047
Ford235256
Edgar234744
Carroll225437
Warren224960
Johnson213524
Moultrie211831
Jo Daviess206126
Washington206127
Wabash200915
Greene200739
Mason199351
Massac198144
De Witt195530
Piatt190814
Mercer190634
Cumberland178325
Menard158612
Jasper152418
Marshall134721
Hamilton128821
Brown10178
Pulaski98311
Schuyler9688
Edwards96315
Stark76827
Gallatin7435
Scott6975
Alexander67611
Henderson65114
Calhoun6442
Hardin56013
Putnam5444
Pope4815
Unassigned1882432
Out of IL40

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

(Widget updates once daily at 8 p.m. ET)

Cases: 941120

Reported Deaths: 15315
CountyCasesDeaths
Marion1282511983
Lake633041097
Allen53609758
Hamilton43827447
St. Joseph41906590
Elkhart33545490
Vanderburgh30383448
Tippecanoe26820249
Johnson23609417
Hendricks22250341
Porter21737346
Clark17409229
Madison17366384
Vigo16108281
Monroe14466191
LaPorte14311239
Delaware14070221
Howard13865272
Kosciusko11418135
Hancock10841165
Warrick10674177
Bartholomew10542168
Floyd10430205
Wayne9959226
Grant9130204
Morgan8865160
Boone8389111
Dubois7710123
Dearborn762289
Henry7608130
Noble7413101
Marshall7362128
Cass7176117
Lawrence6957153
Shelby6584111
Jackson656785
Gibson6156107
Harrison603786
Huntington600195
Montgomery5805105
DeKalb574291
Knox5494104
Miami542488
Putnam536768
Clinton533665
Whitley524953
Steuben497268
Wabash483592
Jasper479160
Jefferson470092
Ripley454277
Adams444068
Daviess4169108
Scott405865
White391857
Clay390857
Greene388392
Decatur385296
Wells384983
Fayette374278
Posey359941
Jennings353156
Washington332047
LaGrange321375
Spencer317835
Fountain316555
Randolph312888
Sullivan307449
Owen283863
Starke280064
Fulton277553
Orange275859
Jay254837
Perry251652
Carroll243729
Franklin239338
Rush234130
Vermillion233250
Parke219820
Tipton209655
Pike207639
Blackford168334
Pulaski163551
Crawford146018
Newton144345
Benton142516
Brown135346
Martin128217
Switzerland125810
Warren114616
Union96911
Ohio79711
Unassigned0479