Mar 8, 2021 - World

Harry and Meghan accuse British royal family of racism

Photo: Joe Pugliese/Harpo Productions via Reuters

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle delivered a devastating indictment of the U.K. royal family in their conversation with Oprah Winfrey: Both said unnamed relatives had expressed concern about what the skin tone of their baby would be. And they accused "the firm" of character assassination and "perpetuating falsehoods."

Why it matters: An institution that thrives on myth now faces harsh reality. The explosive two-hour interview gave an unprecedented, unsparing window into the monarchy: Harry said his father and brother "are trapped," and Markle revealed that the misery of being a working royal drove her to thoughts of suicide.

What they're saying: The Times of London summed up the global reaction with the headline, "Revelations worse than Palace could have feared."

Details: The couple revealed they're expecting a girl this summer. Both said that before their son, Archie, was born, Harry was asked in family conversations about, as paraphrased by Winfrey, "how dark your baby is going to be."

  • Harry said, "At the time, it was awkward and I was a bit shocked." He refused to give details: "That conversation, I am never going to share."
  • In describing the treatment of Markle, whose mother is Black, Harry said, "One of the most telling parts — and the saddest parts, I guess, was over 70 members of Parliament ... called out the colonial undertones of articles and headlines written about Meghan. Yet no one from my family ever said anything over those three years. ... That hurts."

Both denied that their lucrative media deals had been planned.

  • "Netflix and Spotify were never part of the plan," Harry said. "My family cut me off financially and I had to do this to afford security. ... [D]uring COVID, the suggestion by a friend was: What about streamers?"
  • Markle added, "We genuinely hadn't thought about it."

Harry said his family's lack of support was partly driven by "how scared they are of the tabloids turning on them."

  • The prince spoke of what he said is described as "behind closed doors" as "the invisible contract" between the family and U.K. tabloids — press access in exchange for better coverage.

The bottom line: Harry, spilling ancient family secrets, said that there's "a level of control by fear that has existed for generations."

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (1-800-273-8255) provides 24/7, free and confidential support for anyone in distress, in addition to prevention and crisis resources. Also available for online chat.

Go deeper