On his odyssey from Oprah to book publisher Random House, there is no question that Prince Harry has royally stirred up the world. With revelations branching from losing his virginity to the tragic loss of his mother, his recollections have certainly shed light upon how the Duke of Sussex has coped—and not coped—with the traumas of his younger years. Nevertheless, anyone who remembers the death of Princess Diana will invariably be aware of the press’ involvement. Similarly, anyone who knows of Prince Harry will also be conscious of his wilder years as a youngster. So why did these emotive elaborations warrant such widespread press attention? In short, they didn’t.
The hysteria and intrigue surrounding Prince Harry and his childhood is inexhaustible and, more often than not, gratuitous. Throughout his royal rampage, the Duke has made it clear his case is primarily with the British press. Well Harry you have, albeit inadvertently, hit the nail on the head.
When those explosive pages of Prince Harry’s memoir Spare were leaked only a couple of days ago, the world’s media scene was enveloped in a dark PR smog making it almost impossible to establish even clues towards the whole truth. As soon as the pages became public property, Harry’s forthright confessions about his life in the military were instantly blasted across the UK’s front pages. From tabloids to broadsheets, on 5 January 2023, you would be hard-pushed to miss a headline exclaiming that Prince Harry had killed 25 Taliban fighters while stationed in Afghanistan. Security and protocol concerns aside, the fact that he had admitted to treating his victims as “chess pieces” was enough to trigger an international media frenzy.
One week later, 20 people were killed in Afghanistan after a suspected suicide bomber detonated outside the foreign ministry in Kabul. This was documented, to be sure, but the tragedy’s press coverage and interest was a drop in the ocean compared to Harry’s bygone musings. This exposed the crux of the issue with our media in Britain—without undermining the significance of his revelation, Prince Harry’s personal confession of an occupational inevitability should not eclipse 20 deaths and the very real social struggles happening today.
It’s not just the coverage of Spare that has demonstrated this fundamental flaw in the British press. From live feeds to breaking news, the notorious Netflix documentary Harry & Meghan was a force to be reckoned in the newsroom. For two weeks, the public were subjected to a torrent of Sussex sensationalism.
In the second round of episodes, we learned of Meghan Markle’s miscarriage—a horrendous experience that tragically affects one in eight people who know they are pregnant. This could have been an exceptional opportunity to give a voice to the countless women who have experienced similar grief. Yet, true to form, Prince Harry related it to the exceptional, and unrelatable, aspect of their life by blaming the press… And the next day it was on our front pages.
Meanwhile, in Idaho, US, a woman was posting about her miscarriage on TikTok. The 35-year-old actively miscarried for what turned out to be a full 19 days. She said she hoped sharing her ordeal with people could inspire changes in the restrictive abortion laws. Again, this does not undercut the definite tragedy of Harry and Meghan’s loss. But we should be asking ourselves what right they have to a media explosion while the women of Idaho have to use TikTok to communicate the potentially fatal danger they have been in since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade.
Of course, it would be naive to pretend any news involving the royal family isn’t going to cause a stir. They are, without a doubt, some of the most famous (and infamous) figures on the global stage. Their ‘never complain, never explain’ philosophy only works in the first place because they’re very much aware of this. So it is unsurprising that when something as scandalous as the release of a tell-all memoir from a rogue royal occurs, there is colossal interest. But that is yesterday’s news.
Harry and Meghan officially exited the royal family in 2020 and we have been kept regularly informed of the ongoing malcontent. Should the book have been the first hint of Harry’s criticism and general unhappiness, then the extensive reporting may have been justified. Or, perhaps if Harry was wilfully offering hard evidence of institutional racism or PR abuse, there would be a just cause for the country’s outcry. But, as a fundamental part of a nation’s constitution, familial quarrels are unlikely to hold any weight in our decision to back them. So how can we possibly rationalise the way we have chosen to cover them?
This case of the chicken and the egg is a cycle that has to be broken before it breaks our news. To retain relevance and respectability, both qualities must be woven into the fabric of each and every headline we read. On the flip side, we must start actively thinking about the type of news we are consuming and, crucially, whether it has earned its airtime. For now, general preconceptions of gossip and sensationalism are largely confined to the tabloids. But if our media’s response to Prince Harry’s recent exposé is anything to go by, we are in very real danger of slipping irrevocably from truth-tellers to click-baiters.
Life behind fortified castle walls is most certainly not as fairy-tale-esq as many wish to imagine, and yet society is still besotted with the idea of princes and princesses. Meghan and Harry need no real introduction here, neither does Oprah, and now the triple are airing a two-hour broadcast that reveals all the deepest and darkest secrets that drove the runaway couple away from the claws of UK royalty, Harry’s birthright family. Here’s everything you need to know about where to watch the interview, and why it’s important that you do.
Onlookers of Megan and Harry’s story have two very different sides to their views: on one hand, we have a little more of a ‘woke’ fanbase of the couple and their choices to step away from the traditionalist hierarchical society that royalty is built upon. On the other hand, for those traditionalists, there is a view of a privileged young couple who, as written in the Financial Times, “quit work early and then complained about their family.” Either way, what US television personality and interviewer Oprah Winfrey has managed to unravel within the two-hour broadcast, has and will continue to captivate the world.
Previously named Meghan Markle, but having married Prince Harry, and denouncing their royal titles, the couple now go by the name of Meghan and Harry Mountbatten-Windsor. Life as a member of the British royal family has been documented broadly over the centuries as incredibly difficult due to the sheer amount of publicity and curiosity that surrounds the titles, as well as any ‘duties’ that need to be dealt with as a royal. The interview, as reported by the New York Times features Meghan admitting that the life that she had previously chosen in marrying Harry “became so emotionally desolate that she contemplated suicide.”
Members of the royal family also reportedly told Harry and Meghan they did not want the couple’s then-unborn child, Archie, to be a prince or princess by title. Even worse, the family negatively concerned over how dark the colour of Archie’s skin would be. The interview hears Meghan speak of her suicidal thoughts in saying that she was “ashamed to have to admit it to Harry. I knew that if I didn’t say it, I would do it. I just didn’t want to be alive anymore.”
Meghan further revealed that she “went to the institution and I said that I needed to go somewhere to get help, said I had never felt that way before and need to go somewhere, and I was told that I couldn’t, that it wouldn’t be good for the institution.” In other words, her plea for help with ill mental health was denied, outright.
Tabloid narratives have, since the couple stepped away from royalty, somewhat shaped Meghan as a villain that apparently forced Harry away from his former life and ‘expected behaviour’ as a royal by birthright, however, the interview allowed Harry to expose his perspective directly. He said that he may not have stepped away from royal life if he had not met Meghan, but he also could not have done it without her. He “didn’t see a way out,” and “without question, she saved me.”
Harry, as well as his brother, Prince William the Duke of Cambridge, have according to Harry in the interview, “been through hell together” and are now on different paths, but Harry loved him to bits. With their mother Diana dying in a car crash on 31 August 1997, having struggled with royal life and the implications it set on her mental health herself, it is unsurprising that Harry wanted to opt out of a fate anywhere similar.
Oprah asked Harry about his relationship with his family since he did just that, to which he sadly responded that Charles, the Prince of Wales and his father, had in fact stopped taking his calls, and that “I feel really let down because he’s been through something similar, he knows what pain feels like and Archie’s his grandson. 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 reported by the BBC, Harry admitted that his family “literally cut me off financially.” He said the Netflix and Spotify deals that he and Meghan have struck to make shows and podcasts were never part of the plan but “I had to afford security for us” and continued to say, “I’ve got what my mum left me and without that we wouldn’t have been able to do this.”
Meghan also said that she “didn’t do any research” on the royal family, and when she first met the Queen was surprised that she was supposed to curtsy, she told Oprah that she thought it was just “part of the fanfare” and that it didn’t happen inside the Royal Family.
All in all, the interview holds many unheard truths behind what has for centuries remained hidden from the public, and it’s a direct reflection of how far society has come, and yet still how much further we need to go. For this case, it’s worth watching.
The interview has already aired in the US, and will be available to watch in the UK on 8 March between 9 p.m. and 10.50 p.m. (GMT) on ITV. The show will also be streamed at the same time on ITV Hub, and will be available to watch on demand (on ITV Hub) once the official broadcast has aired.