Harry and Meghan have made it clear that they can live—and thrive—outside of the British monarchy, becoming increasingly vocal about the royal family’s fault lines as they enjoy their newfound independence and success in California. After stepping down from senior royal duties early last year, the duo recently exacerbated their rift with the other senior royals when they sat down with Oprah in March, giving a bombshell interview that corroborated rumors of racial bias in the royal ranks.
Tensions have run high ever since, despite Harry’s recent return to the U.K. to attend the funeral of the family patriarch, Prince Philip. However, it was Harry’s subsequent appearance on Dax Shepard’s Armchair Expert podcast that may prove the irreparable breach in royal relations. As reported by The Root last week, Harry spoke about a “cycle” of “genetic pain and suffering” perpetuated by his father and future British monarch Prince Charles and inherited from Queen Elizabeth and the late prince.
“If I’ve experienced some form of pain or suffering because of the pain or suffering that perhaps my father or my parents had suffered, I’m going to make sure I break that cycle,” said Harry.
Reportedly, senior palace aides now think Harry and Meghan should make their break from the monarchy complete by giving up their royal titles. Claiming feelings of “bewilderment and betrayal” within the royal family, at least one source told the Daily Mail on Sunday (h/t Page Six) that “People are appalled that he could do this to the Queen when the Duke of Edinburgh is barely in his grave...To drag his grandfather into this is so shocking and disrespectful.
“The Duke of Sussex has now spent a significant amount of time emphasizing that he’s no different to anyone else and attacking the institution which he says has caused him so much pain,” the aide continued. “There is a growing feeling that if you dislike the institution that much, you shouldn’t have the titles.”
To be clear, the titles in question would be “Duke and Duchess of Sussex,” and presumably also “Prince.” Harry and Meghan released the tag “His and Her Royal Highness” when they initially departed senior royal status. To relinquish the remaining titles back to the royal family would mean fully embracing civilian life—and potentially cementing the couple’s exile.
“They should put the titles into abeyance, so they still exist, but are not used, like they agreed to do with their HRHs...They should just become Harry and Meghan. And if they refuse to do that, they have to explain why not.” another aide told the Mail—which recently lost the final battle in a nearly two-year legal war with Meghan as she was awarded a final copyright claim by Britain’s High Court.
To be fair, Harry hasn’t expressed fond feelings toward the American press either, garnering some predictable right-wing backlash from Fox News and others (including self-proclaimed Sussex nemesis Piers Morgan) for other comments he made on Shepard’s podcast about the breadth of America’s First Amendment.
“I don’t want to start going down the First Amendment route because that’s a huge subject and one which I don’t understand because I’ve only been here a short time,” Harry reportedly told Shepard (h/t Page Six). “But, you can find a loophole in anything. You can capitalize or exploit what’s not said rather than uphold what is said.”
The latest round of royal controversy arrives just ahead of the debut of Harry and Oprah’s long-awaited mental health series for Apple TV+, The Me You Can’t See, which debuts on Friday, May 21 in tandem with Mental Health Awareness Month. Oprah teased the series Monday morning with an emotional and star-studded two-and-a-half-minute trailer, including a somber Harry and a glimpse of Meghan and two-year-old son Archie.
Footage of a then 12-year-old Harry walking behind his mother Princess Diana’s casket in 1997 is also included in the trailer. The 36-year-old prince has repeatedly touched upon her death as a pivotal moment in his life, mental health and relationship to royalty, telling Shepard he’d considered exiting royal life a full decade before meeting his American bride.
“I don’t want to be doing this,” he recalled thinking in his early 20s. “Look what it did to my mum.”
As this story goes to press, a third controversy is brewing around the Sussexes, regarding the couple’s recently inked deal with Procter & Gamble. Page Six reminds us that the personal care juggernaut counts among its holdings beauty brand Olay, which sells skin lightening products outside the US market; specifically its White Radiance moisturizer, which is marketed in India, Malaysia and Singapore.
“Meghan has talked a lot about the issue of race and racism, so this does stick out like a sore thumb,” former Procter & Gamble exec Alex Malouf told UK publication the Mirror (h/t Page Six). San Jose State University Professor Joanne Rondilla agreed, telling Page Six the Sussexes have an obligation to publicly address the problematic products peddled by their new partner.
“Like everyone else around the world, I saw that interview with Oprah that Meghan did,” she said. “It was important for her to bring up these issues of colorism. I don’t think this partnership advances that conversation.”