By KATIE KINDELAN, ABC News
(NEW YORK) — Meghan, the duchess of Sussex, revealed there was a breaking point where she considered suicide before she and her husband, Prince Harry, the duke of Sussex, decided to step away from their roles as senior working members of Britain’s royal family.
“I just didn’t see a solution,” Meghan told Oprah Winfrey in a two-hour, primetime interview that aired Sunday. “I would sit up at night, and I was just like I don’t understand how all of this is being churned out … and I realized it was all happening just because I was breathing.”
“Look, I was really ashamed to say it at the time and ashamed to have to admit it to Harry, especially, because I know how much loss he’s suffered, but I knew that if I didn’t say it, that I would do it,” said Meghan, who recalled that Harry “cradled” her when she opened up. “I just didn’t want to be alive anymore, and that was a very clear and real and frightening constant thought.”
Meghan claimed she went to “one of the most senior people” of the royal “institution” and was not able to get help for her mental health. Meghan alleged she also went to human resources and was told there was nothing that could be done, because she was not a “paid employee of the institution.”
“I share this because there are so many people who are afraid to voice that they need help, and I know personally how hard it is to not just voice it, but when you voice it, to be told no,” said Meghan, who later added about the experience, “Nothing was ever done, so we had to find a solution.”
When asked by Winfrey if she was having suicidal thoughts, Meghan replied, “Yes, this was very, very clear. Very clear and very scary.”
During her time of crisis, Meghan said she reached out to one of the best friends of Harry’s late mother, Princess Diana.
“I didn’t know who to even turn to in that,” Meghan said. “And one of the people that I reached out to, who has continued to be a friend and confidant, was one of my husband’s mom’s best friends, one of Diana’s best friends, because it’s like who else could understand what it’s actually like on the inside.”
When asked earlier by Winfrey during the interview whether she felt she was “silent or silenced” during her time as a senior member of Britain’s royal family, Meghan replied, “the latter.”
“It’s nothing like what it looks like,” Meghan said later when describing life as a royal.
Buckingham Palace has not yet responded to claims made by Meghan and Harry in their interview with Winfrey.
In a clip released in advance of Sunday’s interview special, Winfrey revealed that she asked Meghan for an interview just before her 2018 wedding to Harry, at which Winfrey was a guest, but that Meghan politely declined, saying it wasn’t the right time.
Meghan said she wasn’t even allowed to have that conversation with Winfrey on her own, and that other people from the royals’ communications team had to be with her during the call.
When Winfrey asked, “What is right about this time?” for an interview, Meghan responded, “Well, so many things.”
“We’re on the other side of a lot of life experience and also that we have the ability to make our own choices in a way that I couldn’t have said yes to you then. That wasn’t my choice to make,” Meghan said. “So, as an adult who lived a really independent life, to then go into this construct that is different than what I think people imagine it to be, it’s really liberating to have the right and the privilege in some ways to be able to say yes, I’m ready to talk.”
“To be able to just make a choice on your own and just be able to speak for yourself,” added Meghan, who gave up her acting career when she wed Harry.
Meghan, who revealed with Harry that they are expecting a daughter, noticeably wore a diamond bracelet that belonged to Princess Diana for the interview.
In the interview with Winfrey, Harry said his “biggest concern was history repeating itself,” an apparent reference to Princess Diana, who died in 1997 after being injured in a Paris car crash while being pursued by paparazzi.
Diana died one year after she and Harry’s father, Prince Charles, were divorced.
Meghan has also received a high level of press scrutiny since she and Harry publicized their relationship more than three years ago. Last month, a judge ruled in Meghan’s favor in a privacy case she brought against Associated Newspapers’ Ltd., the publisher of the Daily Mail and the Mail on Sunday, after the Mail on Sunday published large parts of the personal letter she sent to her now-estranged father Thomas Markle before her wedding to Prince Harry.
“For me, I’m just really relieved and happy to be sitting here, talking to you with my wife by my side,” Harry said, while sitting next to Meghan. “Because I can’t begin to imagine what it must have been like for her going through this process by herself all those years ago. Because it has been unbelievably tough for the two of us, but at least we had each other.”
Allegations of bullying denied by Meghan
The interview was taped prior to a report in the Times of London that Meghan faced a bullying complaint from a former close adviser at Kensington Palace.
Unnamed sources also told the newspaper that in several alleged incidents after Prince Harry and Meghan’s 2018 wedding, staff members “would on occasion be reduced to tears.” One aide allegedly told a colleague, “I can’t stop shaking,” while in anticipation of a confrontation with Meghan, according to the report.
Buckingham Palace, which represents Harry’s grandmother, Queen Elizabeth, announced shortly after the report was published that it plans to open an investigation into allegations of bullying made against Meghan, a move that one royal expert called “incredibly unprecedented.”
In response to the allegations reported in the paper, a spokesperson for Harry and Meghan told ABC News last week that they’ve “addressed these defamatory claims in full” in a “detailed letter” to the Times, which has not been publicly released. The spokesperson also said Meghan is “saddened” by the news.
“We are disappointed to see this defamatory portrayal of The Duchess of Sussex given credibility by a media outlet,” a Sussex spokesperson wrote in a statement. “It’s no coincidence that distorted several-year-old accusations aimed at undermining The Duchess are being briefed to the British media shortly before she and The Duke are due to speak openly and honestly about their experience of recent years.”
“The Duchess is saddened by this latest attack on her character, particularly as someone who has been the target of bullying herself and is deeply committed to supporting those who have experienced pain and trauma,” the spokesperson added. “She is determined to continue her work building compassion around the world and will keep striving to set an example for doing what is right and doing what is good.”
Duchess Meghan has not yet directly responded to the statement from Buckingham Palace announcing the investigation. Harry and Meghan will not take part in the palace’s investigation, but senior aides are expected to be questioned, ABC News has learned.
On the same day the interview aired, Queen Elizabeth released her Commonwealth Day address, delivered virtually this year due to the coronavirus pandemic. Last year’s Commonwealth Day ceremony at Westminster Abbey was Harry and Meghan’s final engagement as senior, working royals.
“We have all continued to appreciate the support, breadth of experiences and knowledge that working together brings, and I hope we shall maintain this renewed sense of closeness and community,” the queen said in her address. “Looking forward, relationships with others across the Commonwealth will remain important, as we strive to deliver a common future that is sustainable and more secure, so that the nations and neighborhoods in which we live, wherever they are located, become healthier and happier places for us all.”
If you or someone you know is in crisis, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or text HELLO to the Crisis Text Line at 741741.
Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.