Prince Harry said in an interview with Oprah Winfrey on Sunday that the media’s treatment of his wife, Meghan Markle, painfully reminded him of how the press treated his late mother, Princess Diana of Wales.
“My biggest concern was history repeating itself. And I’ve said that before, on numerous occasions, very publicly,” Harry said. “What I was seeing was history repeating itself. More perhaps, or far more dangerously, because then you add race in, and social media in. And when I’m talking about history repeating itself, I’m talking about my mother.”
In the two-hour interview, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex talked about feeling trapped and helpless in the “institution” of the royal family. The couple said they asked for help, both together and separately, on their struggles with mental health and combating racist rhetoric from tabloids, but said they didn’t receive support.
“When you can see something happening in the same kind of way [as my mother’s story], anybody would ask for help, ask the system of which you are a part of, especially when you know there’s a relationship there. They can share some truth or call the dogs off or whatever you want to call it,” Harry said. “So to receive no help at all and to be told continuously, ‘This is how it is, this is just how it is, we’ve all been through it.’”
Harry said that he felt ashamed to admit to the royal family that he felt trapped, saying, “I didn’t have anyone to turn to.”
He added that the media’s treatment of Markle compelled him to reach out to palace staff for support.
“What was different for me was the race element, because it wasn’t just about her, but it was about what she represents. That was the trigger for me to really engage in the conversations with senior palace staff and my family,” he told Oprah. “The way that I saw it, there’s a way of doing things. But for us, for this union and the specifics around her race, there was an opportunity — many opportunities — for my family to show some public support.”
“That hurts,” Harry said of the palace remaining silent on the issue, adding that they are “acutely aware of where my family stands and how scared they are of the tabloids turning on them.”
“There is this what’s … referred to as the invisible contract between the institution and the tabloids, the U.K. tabloids,” he continued. “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. I think everyone needs to have some compassion for [the royal family]. There is a level of control by fear that has existed for generations. The institution survives based on that perception.”
Harry has an understandably fraught relationship with the media, given the role the paparazzi in particular played in his mother’s death. Two years ago, deploring what he called the British tabloids’ “ruthless campaign” against his wife, he said his “deepest fear is history repeating itself.”
“I’ve seen what happens when someone I love is commoditized to the point that they are no longer treated or seen as a real person,” the prince said in a 2019 statement announcing that the Duchess of Sussex was pursuing legal action against Associated Newspapers. “I lost my mother and now I watch my wife falling victim to the same powerful forces.”
More bombshells from Oprah, Harry and Meghan’s interview:
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