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The shots heard round the world: Meghan and Harry’s revelations reverberate globally

Duke and Duchess of Sussex
Prince Harry and the former actress Meghan Markle during their interview with Oprah Winfrey.
(Joe Pugliese / Harpo Productions)

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s explosive TV interview has divided people around the world and rocked an ancient British institution that is struggling to modernize but is now facing claims of racism and callousness toward a woman beset by suicidal thoughts.

During the two-hour interview by Oprah Winfrey, which was broadcast in the U.S. on Sunday and in Britain on Monday, Harry revealed a severe rupture in his relationship with his father, Prince Charles, and elder brother, Prince William, who are first and second in line, respectively, to the British throne. Harry illuminated the depth of the family divisions that led him and his wife to give up royal duties and move to California last year.

Meghan, the Duchess of Sussex, described feeling so isolated and miserable inside the royal household that she had suicidal thoughts, and said a member of the family had “concerns” about the color of her unborn child’s skin.

That family member was not Queen Elizabeth II or her husband, Prince Philip, according to Harry, sparking a flurry of speculation about who it could be.

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The palace has not yet responded to the interview, but leaders around the world were asked about it, and citizens of many countries had an opinion.

In Accra, Ghana, Devinia Cudjoe said that hearing that a member of the royal family was worried about the color of the skin of an unborn child was insulting to people of the Commonwealth, the grouping of Britain and its former colonies that is headed by the queen. Monday, the day that the interview was aired in the U.K., was officially Commonwealth Day.

“That is pure racism,” Cudjoe said, adding that the “Commonwealth is supposed to foster unity, oneness amongst black people, amongst white people. But if we are hearing things like this … I think that is below the belt.”

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In Nairobi, Kenya, Rebecca Wangare called Meghan “a 21st century icon of a strong woman. She has faced racism head-on.”

Asma Sultan, a journalist in Karachi, Pakistan, said the interview “is going to tarnish the image of the royal family.”

“There is so much controversy ever since Diana’s death, so it is [a] new Pandora’s box which is opened up,” she said.

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British Prime Minister Boris Johnson refused to comment on the interview, praising the queen but saying that “when it comes to matters to do with the royal family, the right thing for a prime minister to say is nothing.”

Asked whether President Biden and his wife, Jill, had any reaction to the interview, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said Meghan’s decision to speak about her struggles with mental health “takes courage” and “that’s certainly something the president believes in.”

But she said she wouldn’t offer additional comment on the situation, “given these are private citizens, sharing their own story and their own struggles.”

Former Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said the interview bolstered his argument for Australia to sever its constitutional ties to the British monarchy. The reigning British monarch is Australia’s head of state.

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“It’s clearly an unhappy family, or at least Meghan and Harry are unhappy. It seems very sad,” Turnbull, who met the couple in April 2018, told the Australian Broadcasting Corp. “After the end of the queen’s reign, that is the time for us to say, OK, we’ve passed that watershed. Do we really want to have whoever happens to be the head of state, the king or queen of the U.K., automatically our head of state?”

Turnbull was a leading advocate of choosing an Australian citizen as head of state, serving as chairman of the Australian Republican Movement from 1993 to 2000.

The allegations are especially damaging because many fans of the royal family had hoped that Harry and Meghan, who is biracial, would help the tradition-bound monarchy relate to an increasingly multicultural Britain. In the early days of their marriage, Harry and Meghan joined William and his wife, Catherine, in projecting a glamorous, energetic image for the young royals.

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That partnership was severed when Harry and Meghan left the country, saying they wanted to earn their own living and escape what they called intrusive, racist coverage by the British media.

But the interview brought that criticism into the palace itself, with the couple directing allegations of racism at an unidentified member of the royal family.

Meghan said that when she was pregnant with her son, Archie, Harry told her that the royal family had had “concerns and conversations about how dark his skin might be when he’s born.”

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Harry confirmed the conversation, saying: “I was a bit shocked.” He said he wouldn’t reveal who made the comment.

Emily Nash, royal editor at Hello! magazine, said the revelations had left her and many other viewers “shell-shocked.”

“I don’t see how the palace can ignore these allegations — they’re incredibly serious,” she said. “You have the racism allegations. Then you also have the claim that Meghan was not supported, and she sought help even from the HR team within the household and was told that she couldn’t seek help.”

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The younger royals have made campaigning for support and awareness of mental health one of their priorities. But Harry said the royal family was completely unable to offer that support to its own members.

“For the family, they very much have this mentality of ‘This is just how it is, this is how it’s meant to be, you can’t change it, we’ve all been through it,’” Harry said.

The couple had faced severe criticism in Britain before the interview. Prince Philip, 99, is in a London hospital recovering from a heart procedure, and critics saw the decision to go forward as a burden on the queen — even though CBS, rather than Harry and Meghan, dictated the timing of the broadcast.


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