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Key takeaways from Meghan and Harry’s tell-all interview with Oprah

This image provided by Harpo Productions shows Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, Duchess of Sussex, in conversation with Oprah Winfrey.
This image provided by Harpo Productions shows Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, Duchess of Sussex, in conversation with Oprah Winfrey.Joe Pugliese/Associated Press

In their first interview since stepping away from royal life, Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, the Duchess of Sussex, engaged in an emotional conversation with Oprah Winfrey about their departure from royal duties and the strains it has placed on them.

The two-hour, prerecorded tell-all was highly anticipated, and offered several jaw-dropping revelations. Among them, Meghan shared that she had suicidal thoughts soon after marrying Harry and that there were discussions over how dark the skin tone of the couple’s son, Archie, would be. Harry also talked at length about his mother, the late Princess Diana.

Here are some of the more startling moments from the bombshell interview, in rough order of how the conversation unfolded:

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1) Meghan said Kate Middleton made her cry — not the reverse as the British tabloids reported.

Six months after the Duke and Duchess of Sussex married, a tabloid story painting Meghan in a negative light emerged — centered on a supposed rift she had with Kate Middleton, the Duchess of Cambridge and Prince William’s wife.

It was alleged that Meghan made Kate “cry” prior to her wedding to Harry.

“The narrative with Kate, which didn’t happen, was really, really difficult,” Meghan said. “I think that’s when everything changed.”

Meghan said the reverse happened — Kate made her cry over a situation involving the flower girl dresses a few days before the wedding. Meghan told Winfrey that Kate later apologized, and she forgave her.

“What was hard to get over was being blamed for something that not only I didn’t do, but that happened to me,” Meghan said. “And the people who were part of our wedding were going to our [communications] team and saying, ‘I know this didn’t happen.’”

“Everyone in the institution knew it wasn’t true,” Meghan said, but no statements were issued denying the story. Meghan said she was not sharing her side to “disparage” Kate, but because she wanted the truth to be known.

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The story, and others like it, seemed to highlight how the tabloids really wanted a “hero and a villain,” Meghan said.

2) Soon after marrying Harry, Meghan learned the institution of the royal family would not protect her.

Meghan told Winfrey she went into the marriage “naively,” and never researched what it would be like to marry a prince or enter into a royal family.

When she married Harry, Meghan said she didn’t “fully understand what the job was.” One of the first members of the royal family she met was Queen Elizabeth II — and it was when Harry asked her if she knew “how to curtsy” that she recognized the seriousness of the traditions at play.

Soon after the marriage, with tabloid stories mounting on several topics, Meghan told Winfrey that she realized “not only was I not being protected, but they [the institution of the royal family] were willing to lie to protect other members of the family, but they weren’t willing to tell the truth to protect me and my husband.”

“They would go on the record and negate the most ridiculous story for anyone — I’m talking about things that are artificial and inconsequential,” Meghan said. “But the narrative of making Kate cry, I think was the beginning of a real character assassination — and they knew it wasn’t true.”

Meghan added it was not so much the royal family members themselves who treated her this way, but the people behind the institution.

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She emphasized that the queen herself “has always been wonderful to me,” and made her feel welcome. Meghan gave an example of the queen sharing a blanket with her when it was cold outside.

“I think everyone welcomed me,” Meghan said. But she was careful to note that pictures of her performing royal duties were not “what they looked like” in terms of how she genuinely felt inside.

At the time, “I could not feel lonelier,” Meghan said.

3) There were ‘concerns’ and several ‘conversations’ about how dark Archie’s skin would be.

Meghan said she was stunned when she was told her unborn child (son Archie) would not be named a prince and would not receive security from the palace, which would stray from royal protocol. She said she was especially concerned about her son not receiving protection due to the tabloid stories circulating about her and Harry, which were not being disputed by those within the institution.

“Even though I have clarity on what comes with the title — good and bad — and from my experience, a lot of pain, and again, I wouldn’t wish pain on my child,” Meghan said. “But that is their birthright to then make a choice about.”

In the months when she was pregnant with Archie, Meghan said there were “concerns and conversations about how dark his skin might be when he’s born.” The statement led Winfrey to ask “What?” incredulously and sit in silence for a moment.

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“Growing up as a woman of color, as a little girl of color, I know how important representation is,” Meghan added later in the conversation, after noting that Archie would have been the first member of color born into the royal family. “I know how you want to see someone who looks like you in certain positions.”

Meghan declined to say who had this conversation with Harry that he relayed to her, and said revealing their name would be “very damaging to them.” Later on, Harry said he would never share the specifics of that conversation.

4) Meghan had suicidal thoughts — and she said the palace prevented her from getting help.

Winfrey played a series of clips about the negative press surrounding Meghan, particularly while she was pregnant. “There was constant criticism — blatant sexist, racist remarks by British tabloids and Internet trolls,” Winfrey narrated.

“The daily condemnation and vitriol from the UK press,” Winfrey said, became “almost unsurvivable” for Meghan — as she described in a podcast.

Meghan told Winfrey that she had suicidal thoughts while pregnant with Archie, and that the palace prevented her from getting help.

She said she “just didn’t see a solution” to the mental suffering she had experienced since joining the royal family and that she told Harry she “didn’t want to be alive anymore.” She said she didn’t want to admit her struggles to Harry at first because she “knows how much loss he has suffered.”

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“I knew if I didn’t say it, that I would do it,” Meghan said. “That was a very clear and real and frightening constant thought.”

She said she went to a senior royal staffer and said she needed to get help for her mental health. Meghan said she “had never felt this way before” and was looking to receive medical care, but was told it would be bad for the family if she did.

Meghan also said she went to royal human resources to relay her concerns but was told that “there is nothing we can do to protect you because you are not a paid employee of the institution.”

She described the moment as a breaking point leading to her and Harry stepping aside from their royal duties.

“It takes so much courage to admit that you need help. It takes so much courage to voice that,” Meghan said. “I was ashamed. I’m supposed to be stronger than that. I don’t want to put more on my husband’s shoulders — he’s carrying the weight of the world.”

When Oprah then asked if she was concerned about what would happen because she was “speaking her truth,” Meghan responded that she wasn’t going to “live her life in fear.”

“I don’t know how they could expect that after all of this time we would still just be silent if there is an active role that the firm [the royal family] is playing in perpetuating falsehoods about us,” Meghan said. “At a certain point you’re going to go, ‘But you guys, someone just tell the truth.’ If that comes with risk of losing things — there’s a lot that has been lost already.”

She continued: “I lost my father, I lost a baby, I nearly lost my name. There’s the loss of identity, but I’m still standing.”

5) Meghan and Harry revealed the gender of their second child: a baby girl.

Once Harry joined Meghan for the second half of the interview, the couple announced they are having a baby girl. She will be their second child, joining son Archie, who turns 2 in May.

The revelation offered a rare upbeat moment in a conversation that dwelt mostly on their struggles within the royal family.

“To have a boy and then a girl, what more can you ask for?” Harry said. “But now we’ve got our family. We’ve got the four of us and our two dogs.”

The couple has been living in California since last March.

6) Harry denied ‘blindsiding the queen’ with the news that he and Meghan were stepping down from their royal duties.

Over a year ago, Harry and Meghan announced they were stepping down as senior members of the royal family. The decision was branded as “Megixt” — a play on “Brexit” — by the British press, with many of the tabloids placing the blame on Meghan for the move.

Harry said the decision was not made lightly and was a move of last resort.

“I went to all the places I thought I should go to to ask for help — we both did, separately and together,” Harry said.

Harry said what he witnessed happening to Meghan was reminiscent of what happened to his mother, Diana.

“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. Or perhaps far more dangerous because then you add race, and you add social media in. When I’m talking about history repeating itself, I’m talking about my mother.”

He continued: “When you can see something happening in the same kind of way, anybody would ask for help.”

Harry denied blindsiding the queen with the news that he and Meghan were stepping down from their royal duties, and said it was preceded by several conversations. He said the decision was spurred by a lack of support from the firm and the treatment the couple, particularly Meghan, received from the press.

“I’ve never blindsided my grandmother,” Harry said. “I have too much respect for her.”

7) Harry’s father, Prince Charles, stopped taking his calls at one point.

Harry said Charles, the Prince of Wales, stopped answering his calls for a period of time because he “took matters into his own hands,” referring to the couple’s decision to step down from their royal duties.

“I needed to do this for my family,” Harry said. “This is not a surprise to anybody. It’s really sad that it’s got to this point. But we’ve got to do something.”

He said there were “many opportunities” for his family to step up and vocally defend Meghan.

“One of the most telling parts, and the saddest parts, over 70 members of Parliament, female members of Parliament — of Conservative and Labor — came together and called out the colonial undertones of the articles and headlines written about Meghan. No one from my family ever said anything over those three years,” Harry said. “That hurts.”

Harry also said his family is “acutely scared” of the tabloids turning on them.

While his family was “very welcoming” of Meghan at first, Harry said, that “really changed after the Australia tour.” That was when the couple announced she was pregnant with son Archie. Harry said the tour was also the first time that the family got to see “how incredible” Meghan is at the job.

“That brought back memories,” Harry said, again alluding to his mother. “I just wish we would all learn from the past.”

Harry also talked about what his relationship with his family is like now, pausing briefly when the subject of Charles was brought up by Winfrey.

In the past year, Harry said he has talked to his grandmother more than he has in “many, many years.” The couple said they have done Zoom calls with her so that she can “see Archie.”

“My grandmother and I have a really good relationship and understanding,” Harry said. “I have a deep respect for her.”

Charles is now taking his calls, Harry said, but “there’s a lot to work through there.”

“I feel really let down because he’s been through something similar. He knows what pain feels like. And Archie’s his grandson,” Harry said. “But at the same time, of course I will always love him, but there’s a lot of hurt that’s happened. And I will continue to make it one of my priorities to try and heal that relationship.”

As for his relationship with his brother, Prince William, Harry said that he “loves him to bits — we’ve been through hell together, and we have a shared experience.”

“But we are on different paths,” he said.

8) Harry said he was ‘trapped’ in the royal family before Meghan helped free him.

Winfrey asked Harry whether he would have stepped down from his royal duties if he had never met Meghan.

“I wouldn’t have been able to,” he replied, “because I myself was trapped as well.”

He said he was “trapped within the system,” after Winfrey pressed him on how he could feel that way after growing up with such privilege. “Like the rest of my family are. My father, my brother — they don’t get to leave. I have huge compassion for that.”

Harry also said his family cut him off financially in early 2020 after he and Meghan announced they were eschewing their duties, and that they were only able to depart because of the money left him by his mother, the late Princess Diana.

Harry said Diana would have been “very angry at how this has panned out, and very sad. But ultimately, all she’d ever want is for us to be happy.”

“I certainly felt her presence throughout this whole process,” he said. “I can’t begin to imagine what it must have been like for her going through this process by herself all those years ago because it has been unbelievably tough for the two of us — and we have each other.”

Material from the Associated Press was used in this report.



Shannon Larson can be reached at shannon.larson@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @shannonlarson98.