Harry and Meghan interview fallout

By Jessie Yeung, Aditi Sangal, Tara John, Zamira Rahim and Christopher Johnson, CNN

Updated 12:11 p.m. ET, March 8, 2021
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6:07 a.m. ET, March 8, 2021

Queen's former press secretary says Oprah interview has raised 'family issues' but denies racism

From Chloe Adams in Glasgow

Handout/Harpo Productions/Joe Pugliese
Handout/Harpo Productions/Joe Pugliese

The Duke and Duchess of Sussex have raised “issues that need to be looked at carefully,” Charles Anson, a former press secretary to Queen Elizabeth said, while insisting there “wasn’t a strand of racism” within the royal household.

Speaking to BBC on Monday, he recalled an “overwhelming sense of welcome” for Meghan around the time of their wedding in 2018, which he covered as a royal commentator.

I think that it was both evident in the press and from the reaction of the public, and I don't think there's a strand of racism in that within the royal household at all, I think, is much more in the broadcast media. I think such racism as exists tends to be most active on social media,” Anson, who held the position of press secretary from 1990 to 1997, told the BBC.   
Charles Anson, former press officer for Queen Elizabeth II, is pictured in Munich, Germany, in 2015.
Charles Anson, former press officer for Queen Elizabeth II, is pictured in Munich, Germany, in 2015. Sven Hoppe/dpa/picture alliance/Getty Images

During the wide-ranging interview with Oprah Winfrey, Prince Harry said his father, Prince Charles, had stopped taking his calls at one point.

When questioned over a potential rift with Prince Charles, Anson said he was under the impression that the family had parted on good terms.

My feeling is that with the Queen and Prince Philip and Prince of Wales, of course, his father would have tried to have been helpful and continued to try to be helpful and there was no question about it. They went to California, very much with the good wishes and supportive of a queen and her family.”  

Meghan told Winfrey that she was provided with no mental health support. Anson defended the Palace to the BBC, saying he understood there was a robust medical structure within the house to deal with such issues.

“I remember it being very responsive both to the members of staff and, of course, for the queen and members of the family,” he told the BBC.   

5:13 a.m. ET, March 8, 2021

'No place for racism in our society,' says UK Minister for Children

From Sharon Braithwaite in Pisa, Italy

MP Vicky Ford is seen in the House of Commons during Prime Minister's Questions in December 2018.
MP Vicky Ford is seen in the House of Commons during Prime Minister's Questions in December 2018. House of Commons/PA Images/Getty Images

Vicky Ford, the UK Minister for Children, said Monday there was no place for racism in society, after Meghan and Harry raised the issue during a tell-all interview with Oprah Winfrey.

"I haven't seen the full interview so I will not comment on it, but just to reaffirm, there is absolutely no place for racism in our society. And we all need to work together to make sure that doesn't happen," Ford told British broadcaster Sky News Monday.

During the interview, Meghan revealed their son Archie wouldn't receive a title or security, and within the royal family, there were several "concerns and conversations about how dark (Archie's) skin might be when he was born."

3:18 a.m. ET, March 8, 2021

If you're just tuning in, here's what you need to know

Joe Pugliese/Harpo Productions
Joe Pugliese/Harpo Productions

For audiences just tuning in, or British viewers just waking up, here's what you need to know about Meghan and Harry's tell-all interview with Oprah Winfrey.

On suicidal thoughts: Meghan said that life within the royal family was so isolating, lonely, and lacking in support that she had experienced suicidal thoughts. When Winfrey asked if she had been driven to the verge of suicide, Meghan replied, "Yes."

She hadn't wanted to admit it, but she eventually told Harry because "I knew that if I didn't say it, that I would do it, and I just didn't want to be alive anymore," Meghan said.

Harry added that after she confided in him, he, too, had been in "a very dark place" -- but wanted to be there to support his wife.

On their children: The couple dropped two bombshells about their children: First, and most shocking, that in the royal institution there had been "concerns and conversations about how dark (Archie's) skin might be when he was born," said Meghan. Harry confirmed the conversation, but declined to reveal who had posed those questions, or any other details about the exchange.

On a happier note, Harry and Meghan also revealed they are expecting a daughter this summer.

On conflicts with the royal family: Meghan told Winfrey that though she had been welcomed by the Queen and other members of the family, she was given little guidance or support -- when she began having suicidal thoughts and asked for help, they told her no.

She also denied rumors that she had made Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, cry during her royal wedding. In fact, it was the other way around -- a disagreement with Kate had made Meghan cry, she said, adding that Kate has apologized and the issue has been resolved.

Harry spoke about his own tensions with his family; his father, Prince Charles, stopped taking his calls while the couple prepared to step away from the royal family.

"I feel very let down because he's been through something similar. He knows what pain feels like. And Archie is his grandson," Harry said. 

Charles has since started taking his calls again. “I will always love him,” Harry said. “I will continue to make it one of my priorities to try and heal that relationship.”

On being trapped and saved: Harry said that he had also been trapped within the system -- but he hadn't known it until he met and married Meghan. In that way, she saved him, he said.

But Meghan turned it around on him. "You made a decision that certainly saved my life --and saved all of us," she told Harry, referring to the decision to step away from the royal family.

2:32 a.m. ET, March 8, 2021

Britain wakes up to an online furor after Meghan and Harry's interview

It's been a furious few hours since Meghan and Harry's interview with Oprah Winfrey, and social media has been alight with criticism toward the royal family -- largely from outraged Americans and the Black community.

Now, Britain is waking up to the aftermath.

All eyes are on the royal family, which has not yet publicly responded to the interview, or the allegations of racism. It had also adhered to its usual protocol of silence ahead of the broadcast, even as speculation and anticipation rose.

Some viewers in the United States have suggested that given Harry and Meghan's previous negative experiences with the press, they may continue to face attacks for the statements they made -- and for even doing the interview in the first place.

"Let's just bring up the potential ways that the press will make Meghan a villain again so no one is surprised," tweeted American author Morgan Jerkins. The media could accuse Meghan of "lying about the skin color (conversation)," or of "acting" since she's a former actress, or even of brainwashing Harry into thinking he, too, is trapped by the royal institution, she wrote.
"They'll say: She's had all the riches and privileges so she was not depressed. She planned to get into the royal family and cause chaos. She hates her sister-in-law and this is revenge."

Even before the sun had risen over London, British tabloids already began speculating about the potential fallout. The Sun newspaper wrote that Meghan may "never return to Britain after angering Royal Family," citing unnamed "insiders [who] fear she and Prince Harry could have burnt their bridges."

And numerous conservative figures in the UK have begun to echo several of the points Jerkins brought up, with some casting doubt on the apparent sincerity of Meghan's comments.

2:00 a.m. ET, March 8, 2021

Tabloids target Meghan hours after she accused British press of double standards

From CNN's Michelle Toh

British tabloids hit back at Meghan after her interview with Oprah Winfrey on Sunday night, with some focusing on her allegations about concerns of Archie's skin color.

"MEGHAN ACCUSES PALACE OF RACISM," read the front page of Monday's edition of the Daily Mail. While other news outlets used images provided by Harpo Productions, Winfrey's production company, the Daily Mail chose a closely cropped image focused on Meghan's face.

The deluge of stories on the Daily Mail homepage follows a dismissive pre-interview banner headline earlier on Sunday, in which the outlet attempted to lambast the CBS special as "a sideshow."

"Meghan Markle may never return to Britain after angering Royal Family with bombshell Oprah interview," The Sun newspaper wrote, referring to Meghan's name before marriage. It cited "insiders [who] fear she and Prince Harry could have burnt their bridges by failing to tell family members what was in the two-hour chat before it was shown."

Harry and Meghan push back: Both the duke and duchess have increasingly opened up about the harsh media scrutiny they have received.

Last month, Prince Harry told late night talk show host James Corden that his experiences had prompted him to take a step back from the royal family. And in April of last year, Harry and Meghan said they would cut off all dealings with four of the United Kingdom's biggest tabloid newspapers after years of strained relations.

In the interview, Meghan said it had become painfully clear that there were double standards in how the media covered her and Catherine, the Duchess of Cambridge and wife to Prince William, who is second in the line of succession to the British throne.

"I can see now what layers were at play there. And again, they really seemed to want a narrative of a hero and a villain," said Meghan.

Read more here:

1:48 a.m. ET, March 8, 2021

"Self-serving": UK media tabloids attempt to hit back at Meghan and Harry

From CNN's Michelle Toh

British tabloids are hammering Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, and her husband Prince Harry after their explosive interview with Oprah Winfrey.

Meghan revealed during the sit-down conversation that life within the royal family was so lonely and lacking in support that she had experienced suicidal thoughts. She also said that individuals within the institution had raised concerns about the color of their son Archie's skin.

Even before the interview, the UK media had been criticizing the event. The relationship between the couple and the country's press, and particularly newspaper tabloids, has long been tumultuous.

The Daily Mail ran wall-to-wall coverage of the interview, and tried to fit all of the bombshells into a single headline this way: "Meghan claims she was suicidal when she was 5 months pregnant, Kate made HER cry and Royals refused to make Archie a prince because they were worried how 'dark' he would be, as Harry reveals their new baby will be a GIRL."

Another article on the website ripped into the couple's discussion during the interview about life in the United States, where they are raising chickens. "Back to basics at their $14.5 million mansion," read one headline.

"Queen: Duty and family unite us," read the front page of the Daily Express newspaper. "That's public service for you, Harry and Meghan ... NOT a self-serving TV chat with Oprah."

Even ahead of the program, British tabloids came armed for the occasion, which was among the biggest royal interviews in decades.

On Monday, the Daily Mirror's print edition will point to Princes "Charles & William's 'immense sadness'" amid "Oprah interview fallout," Sky News reported.

Read the full story here.

1:57 a.m. ET, March 8, 2021

Striking parallels between Princess Diana and Meghan's experiences, says royal commentator

Princess Diana at a banquet in New Zealand on April 20, 1983.
Princess Diana at a banquet in New Zealand on April 20, 1983. Tim Graham Photo Library/Getty Images

Kate Williams, a UK-based historian and royal expert, told CNN that Harry and Meghan's interview with Oprah showed stark similarities with Princess Diana's experience.

Harry drew these similarities too, saying in the interview that he couldn't imagine what his mother had gone through and that he didn't want history to repeat itself.

"Diana, too, suffered as well at the hands of the press. She was criticized, she was attacked, both before and after the divorce," said Williams. "She talked about how she wanted to speak up and make her decisions and her voice clear."

"Diana spoke up about how she suffered within the royal family and now we've heard the same (from Meghan). Diana had thought of self harm, Diana was very distressed in the royal family, and she had thoughts of suicide. And now we say Meghan saying she had the same thoughts."

The couple had revealed in the interview that the royal institution had withdrawn their security, and that their son Archie would also be denied security because he didn't receive a title. Security was a major source of concern for the couple -- Meghan said she had written letters to the royal family, pleading them to provide her husband security.

"Harry of course, he was so young when she died, and he knew that she didn't have her security after her divorce -- which for him, I think, added to her tragic death," said Williams.

1:35 a.m. ET, March 8, 2021

Extraordinary tell-all interview lifts lid on life inside Britain's royal family

In her first public comments since she and her husband Prince Harry announced their plans to step back from senior roles in the British royal family, Meghan, the Duchess of Sussex, described herself as the victim of an image-obsessed Buckingham Palace, which weighed in on everything from how dark her son Archie's skin color would be to how often she went to lunch with friends.

The TV special was highly anticipated because Harry and Meghan are now allowed to speak more freely about the royal family due to their effective split from the palace.

And the couple did not hold back.

Read the full CNN report:

12:53 a.m. ET, March 8, 2021

Harry, Meghan and the power of their story

Opinion from CNN's Richard Galant

Whatever magic is left in the House of Windsor today, after "The Crown," may not survive Sunday night's airing of Oprah Winfrey's interview with Prince Harry and Meghan, the Duchess of Sussex.

Meghan told Winfrey that the royal family, aka "The Firm," was "perpetuating falsehoods" against her. Her words evoked memories of the tension between Buckingham Palace and the late Princess Diana in the 1990s.

The palace announced Wednesday that it was investigating accusations that the duchess had bullied employees in the royal household and that it was "very concerned." After the investigation was reported, Holly Thomas noted, "Meghan's spokesman said the duchess was 'saddened by this latest attack on her character,' and a spokesperson for the Sussexes dismissed the Times report as 'a calculated smear campaign.'"

Thomas added that the palace's "eagerness" to respond to the allegations stands "in stark contrast to its previous reactions to the substantially more serious complaints against the Queen's third child, Prince Andrew, the Duke of York. These have been minimal, and resolutely supportive of the prince ..."

Peggy Drexler wrote, "It's easy to feel bad for Harry, who grew up in the spotlight, and for Meghan, who many would say both pursued that attention and fought it." For all his privileges, "since he was small, Harry's life was one of being followed, trailed. He was young when his mother, Princess Diana, was pursued to her death by paparazzi, but old enough to remember."

Read the full opinion piece here: