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Editorial: Instead of Meghan Markle invigorating the royal family, it drove her to thoughts of suicide

Prince Harry and Meghan
Prince Harry and Meghan, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, speak with Oprah Winfrey in the two-hour prime-time CBS special “Oprah with Meghan and Harry.”
(Joe Pugliese / Harpo Productions / CBS)

Prince Harry and his wife, Meghan Markle, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, painted a deeply disturbing picture of their life inside the British royal family before they left it all to live here in Southern California. In an interview with Oprah Winfrey — their neighbor in Montecito — that aired Sunday night, Markle talked about racism, loneliness, a dictatorial palace staff, savage treatment by the tabloid press, and feelings of such deep despair that she didn’t want to live anymore.

“That was a clear and real and frightening, constant thought,” Markle, now expecting a baby girl, told Winfrey. But when she went to the “institution” — as she called the advisors and staff who run the business of the working royal family — to say she “needed to go somewhere to get help … I was told I couldn’t, that it wouldn’t be good for the institution.”

The couple’s most troubling statement was that someone in the royal family discussed with Harry, during the biracial Markle’s first pregnancy, concerns over “how dark his skin might be when he’s born.” Harry refused to identify the person, but he told Winfrey after the interview that it was neither Queen Elizabeth II nor Prince Philip, his grandparents. As of Monday afternoon, the palace had not responded.

No matter what you make of the interview, it is stunning how quickly Meghan Markle went from being a successful, independent Black woman who captivated Prince Harry and the rest of Britain to being pilloried in the tabloids for transgressions ranging from allegedly being imperious with her personal staff to cradling her baby bump too much when she was pregnant with her first child, Archie.

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The woman who was poised to breathe new life into a hidebound British royal family — whose members seemed eager to be rebooted by her presence — instead felt so dissed and dismissed by the family and its courtiers that she and Harry withdrew from royal duties and fled to the U.S.

The British royal family has its obsessive fans; 17 million people watched the show in just the U.S. But for years, the family has been a target of fierce critics who see it as nothing more than a drain on British public funds. At its best, it serves as a public relations tool for the country. But when Harry tells Winfrey that he had felt “trapped in the system,” then family members have some work to do if they still want to be seen as worthy of support.

How unfortunate the monarchy and its aides did not realize that Markle could have made the royal family more relevant in a multiethnic world.


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