Content warning: The following article discusses suicidal ideation.
“I always wanted to be normal; as opposed to being ‘Prince Harry,’ just being Harry. It was a puzzling life,” the Duke of Sussex tells Oprah in the series the duo executive produced for Apple TV+, The Me You Can’t See, which premiered on Thursday. It’s just the latest in a series of revelations explaining his need for independence from the British monarchy, one he now admits was marked by mounting anxiety and panic attacks as he suppressed emotions he’d been holding since the 1997 paparazzi-fueled car crash that claimed the life of his mother, Princess Diana.
As Harry also explained, escaping that life became a matter of life and death for his wife, Meghan Markle, who was neither prepared for the demands of the monarchy nor the way she would be vilified by the press and on social media.
“I felt completely helpless,” he said. “I thought my family would help, but every single ask, request, warning, whatever it is just got met with total silence or total neglect.
“We spent four years trying to make it work [in the royal family],” he told Oprah, characterizing himself as a “yes man” subject to “burnout” prior to meeting his now-wife. “We did everything we possibly could to stay and carry on doing the role and doing the job. But Meghan was struggling.”
In the couple’s March interview with Oprah, Meghan admitted that she’d contemplated suicide while pregnant with son Archie—a disclosure that paralleled a reported attempt by Diana during her first pregnancy (and reportedly, several subsequent incidences). Speaking with Oprah, Harry spoke on the evening she shared her feelings with him; the same evening the couple attended a charity event at the Royal Albert Hall, as reported by British publication the Independent.
“What perhaps people don’t understand is, earlier that evening Meghan decided to share with me the suicidal thoughts and the practicalities of how she was going to end her life,” he said. “The scariest thing for her was her clarity of thought.
“She hadn’t lost it, she wasn’t crazy, she wasn’t self-medicating be it through pills or through alcohol, she was absolutely sober. She was completely sane, yet in the quiet of night, these thoughts woke her up,” he continued. “The thing that stopped her from seeing it through was how unfair it would be on me after everything that had happened to my mum and to now be put into a position of losing another woman in my life, with a baby inside of her, our baby.”
Ill-equipped to handle the information or his own emotions at the time, Harry now admits he has “regrets” and felt “ashamed” about how he processed Meghan’s admission.
“My biggest regret is not making more of a stance earlier on in my relationship with my wife, and calling out the racism when I did,” he says on The Me You Can’t See, understandably calling the dynamics “incredibly triggering.”
“My mother was chased to her death while she was in a relationship with someone who wasn’t white,” he noted. “You wanna talk about history repeating itself? They aren’t gonna stop until [Meghan] dies...and it all comes back to the same people, the same business model, the same industry.”
“Because of the system that we were in and the responsibilities and the duties that we had, we had a quick cuddle. And then we had to get changed and jump in a convoy with a police escort and drive to the Royal Albert Hall for a charity event and then step out into a wall of cameras and pretend as though everything is okay,” he also recalled. “There wasn’t an option to say, ‘you know what, tonight, we’re not going to go’. Because just imagine the stories that come from that.
“While my wife and I were in those chairs gripping each other’s hand, the moment the lights go down, Meghan starts crying. I’m feeling sorry for her but I’m also really angry with myself that we’re stuck in this situation,” he continued, echoing Meghan’s own recounting of the evening to Oprah. “I was ashamed that it got this bad, I was ashamed to go to my family because to be honest with you, like a lot of other people my age can probably relate to, I know I’m not going to get from my family what I need.”
That frustration reportedly resurfaced as the couple prepared for their sit-down with Oprah. In the days preceding the interview’s airing, resurfaced allegations of “bullying” were leveled against Meghan by former royal aides and seemingly supported by Buckingham Palace as it announced an investigation into the claims.
“The Duchess is saddened by this latest attack on her character, particularly as someone who has been the target of bullying herself and is deeply committed to supporting those who have experienced pain and trauma...She is determined to continue her work building compassion around the world and will keep striving to set an example for doing what is right and doing what is good,” read the official statement from the Sussexes’ spokesperson at the time, but as Harry now discloses, the “combined effort of ‘The Firm’ and the media to smear her” took another toll on Meghan.
“I was woken up in the middle of the night to her crying in her pillow because she doesn’t want to wake me up, because I’m already carrying too much,” he recalled, according to People. “That’s heartbreaking. I held her, we talked, she cried, and she cried, and she cried.”
The incident both gives credence to the couple’s departure from royal life and the impact of getting support to deal with mental health issues. Harry entered therapy soon after the two started dating, now admitting that “it was meeting and being with Meghan; I knew that if I didn’t do therapy and fix myself, that I was going to lose this woman who I could see spending the rest of my life with.”
The two celebrated their third anniversary last week and are expecting their second child this summer, but Harry now shares: “There was a lot of learning right at the beginning of our relationship. She was shocked to be coming backstage of the institution; of the British royal family,” he continued (h/t People). “When she said, ‘I think you need to see someone,’ that was in reaction to an argument we had. And in that argument, not knowing about it, I reverted back to 12-year-old Harry.” Notably, Princess Diana died less than a month before 13th birthday.
“That was the start of a learning journey for me,” he added. “I became aware that I’d been living in a bubble, within this family, within this institution, I was sort of almost trapped in a thought process or a mindset.”
Engaging in therapy reportedly taught Harry “one of the biggest lessons” of his life, as he finally processed his buried feelings about his mother’s tragic death.
“You’ve sometimes got to go back and to deal with really uncomfortable situations and to be able to process it in order to be able to heal. For me, therapy has equipped me to be able to take on anything. That’s why I’m here now. That’s why my wife is here now.”
“We chose to put our mental health first. That’s what we’re doing. And that’s what we will continue to do,” he later added.