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Harry and Meghan ignore personal controversies in podcast holiday special

Prince Harry talks to Meghan Markle.
Prince Harry and Meghan, the Duchess of Sussex, debuted their new podcast Tuesday.
(Nathan Denette / Associated Press)

Prince Harry and Meghan are now podcast hosts. They teased listeners Tuesday with a sample of their upcoming Archewell podcast, and they’re already getting a lot of flack for it.

Their 2020 Archewell Audio holiday special, part of their multiyear partnership with Spotify to produce podcasts and shows, reflected on the tumultuous year, which began for them with the January announcement that they would be stepping back as senior royals in the British monarchy.

But the Sussexes’ departure from the crown, torrential backlash and bevy of new media endeavors weren’t at all mentioned in the uplifting special, which they said is meant to bring “a little warmth, a smile and something to think about.”

Like many other Sussex entertainment endeavors, the debut special immediately drew adverse reactions in the United Kingdom, with critics demanding that the couple renounce their titles for tackling a number of politically charged subjects.

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Among the topics: racial injustice, gender equality, environmental stewardship, youth employment and mental health, with the couple’s position on them being very clear in the subtext and affiliations of their diverse celebrity and activist guests.

The former “Suits” actress, whose mother is Black, has contended with heightened racist discourse since she began dating the prince, whois sixth in line to ascend the British throne.

But none of that, and how it directly relates to them, was really discussed in the special. Instead, the two focused on their bevy of celebrity guests, whom they asked to record audio diaries about “what they’ll remember about this year and how they’d explain it, and what gives them hope,” Harry said. They also reflected on their lowest moments this year.

The special featured audio diaries from “people that inspire them and people they admire,” including democracy advocate Stacey Abrams, who was an instrumental figure in the election of President-elect Joe Biden; renowned chef and philanthropist José Andrés; researcher and podcaster Brené Brown; antiracism activist Rachel Cargle; alternative-medicine icon Deepak Chopra; friend and “Late Late Show” host James Corden; author Matt Haig; musician Elton John; tennis star Naomi Osaka; filmmaker Tyler Perry; and spoken-word artist George the Poet.

Harry and Meghan’s 1-year-old son, Archie, also made a cameo at the end of the special to wish everyone a happy new year.

The duke and duchess shut down rumors of a Netflix docuseries after a report suggested the project would allow the former actress to show “the real her.”

Before that, however, the Sussexes simply played host and let their guests do the talking to reiterate what they said is the episode’s theme: “the power of connection,” particularly in a year that felt very disconnected.

“It’s been a year,” Harry said in the introduction, “and we really want to honor the compassion and kindness that has helped so many people get through it.”

“And at the same time to honor those who have experienced uncertainty and unthinkable loss,” Meghan added. “Our thoughts have been with you, especially during this holiday season.”

Chilly sisters! Bad gifts! Sad nannies! “Finding Freedom” by Omid Scobie and Carolyn Durand delves into royal Brexit of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex.

The two also thanked healthcare workers, frontline service workers and “so many others for their sacrifices.”

“As we come to the end of this year and look to the future,” Harry said, “let’s hold on to the lessons that we’ve learned about how important it is to take care of one another and how meaningful our connections are even when they’re physically impossible.”

The nearly 34-minute episode also featured a poem from Hussain Manawer and a recording of “This Little Light of Mine,” which played at the end of their 2018 wedding.

The first complete series from Archewell Audio and Spotify is expected next year and will stream for free.


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