By KATIE KINDELAN, ABC News
(NEW YORK) — Prince Harry and Meghan, the duchess of Sussex, spoke to Oprah Winfrey for over three hours for their tell-all interview, watched by tens of millions of viewers around the world.
In the interview, Harry and Meghan dropped bombshell after bombshell on things like Meghan’s thoughts of suicide to alleged conversations about the skin color of their son, Archie, to allegedly being cut off financially.
In many cases, Harry and Meghan’s claims raised as many questions as they did answers, as the interview was, in many cases, only their side of the story being told.
Buckingham Palace on Tuesday issued only a brief response to Harry and Meghan’s interview, making it clear any fallout from their claims will be handled privately, as a family.
Harry and Meghan did not comment on Buckingham Palace’s statement and have not issued any public statements since their interview aired.
As we wait to see how the royal family and the Sussexes move forward, here are five questions still remaining:
1. Was Archie purposefully denied a title and security?
While media reports at the time of Archie’s birth in 2019 said the couple chose not to give their son a courtesy title, Meghan claimed in the interview that it was “not our decision to make.”
Meghan told Winfrey that during the “last few months” of her pregnancy, she and Harry were told that their child would not have a title, with Meghan implying she believed it could have been because of Archie’s status as possibly the first mixed race child born into the royal family.
“They were saying they didn’t want him to be a prince, or a princess, not knowing what the gender would be, which would be different from protocol,” Meghan said. “And that he wasn’t going to receive security [without a title].”
“I’m clear on who I am independent of that stuff, and the most important title I will ever have is mom. I know that,” Meghan said. “But the idea of our son not being safe and also the idea of the first member of color in this family not being titled in the same way that other grandchildren would be.”
Archie is one of Queen Elizabeth’s nine great-grandchildren, and the third grandson for Prince Charles, the heir to the throne. Not all of the queen’s great-grandchildren carry royal titles.
Archie, as the grandson of the heir to the throne, would become a prince when Charles becomes king, according to U.K. law.
Archie’s cousins, Prince George, Princess Charlotte and Prince Louis, all carry titles because they are the children of Prince William, Harry’s older brother and the eldest son of Prince Charles and the late Princess Diana.
A 1917 order from King George V limits the titles of prince and princess to the children of the monarch, the children of the monarch’s sons and “the eldest living son of the eldest son of the Prince of Wales.”
Prince George, 7, third in line to the throne, was automatically given the title of prince at birth as the oldest son of Prince William, second in line to the throne.
In 2012, before William and Kate had children, Queen Elizabeth used her power to amend the George V convention and rule that all future children of William and Kate would be princes and princesses, which is why William and Kate’s two younger children, Charlotte, 5, and Louis, 2, also carry the titles of princess and prince, respectively.
Harry’s cousins, Princesses Beatrice and Eugenie, also gained the title of princess as the children of the monarch’s sons.
When it comes to Meghan’s claim about Archie being denied security without a title, a royal title does not guarantee security protection, according to U.K. law. Security protection for Archie would be decided by the Home Office, the U.K.’s government department responsible for immigration, security, and law and order.
2. What conversations took place about Archie’s race?
Arguably the most shocking bombshell dropped by Harry and Meghan was their claim that unnamed members of the royal family had conversations with Prince Harry about “how dark” his child’s skin might be.
Meghan said “conversations” took place while she was pregnant with Archie, while Harry seemed to imply that there was a similar conversation during his courtship with Meghan.
“In those months when I was pregnant, all around this same time, so we have in tandem the conversation of he won’t be given security, he’s not going to be given a title, and also concerns and conversations about how dark his skin might be when he’s born,” said Meghan, who described it as “several” conversations. “That was relayed to me from Harry. Those were conversations that family had with him.”
When Winfrey asked if the conversations focused on “how dark” the baby’s skin would be, Meghan replied, “Potentially, and what that would mean or look like.”
“That if he were too brown, that that would be a problem? Are you saying that?” Winfrey asked.
Meghan replied, “I wasn’t able to follow up with why, but that, if that’s the assumption you’re making, I think that feels like a pretty safe one, which was really hard to understand, right?”
Later in the interview, Winfrey asked Harry about the alleged race conversations, which Harry described as addressing the question, “What will the kids look like?”
“But that was right at the beginning when [Meghan] wasn’t going to get security, when members of my family were suggesting that she carries on acting because there’s not enough money to pay for her, and all this sorta stuff,” he said. “Like, there were some real obvious signs before we even got married that this was gonna be really hard.”
Both Harry and Meghan declined to discuss specifics and would not say which family members were part of the conversations, though Harry later said it was not his grandparents, Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip.
Queen Elizabeth specifically addressed race in her response to Harry and Meghan’s interview.
“The issues raised, particularly that of race, are concerning,” the queen said in the statement. “While some recollections may vary, they are taken very seriously and will be addressed by the family privately.”
3. Did the royal family not offer support to Meghan as a spouse?
Meghan described to Winfrey a life where she was alone inside Kensington Palace for months at a time, unable to leave for activities like meeting up with friends, saying that being a royal is “nothing what it looks like.”
“I remember so often, people within the firm would say, ‘Well, you can’t do this because it’ll look like that. You can’t,’ so even, ‘Can I go and have lunch with my friends?’ ‘No, no, no. You’re over-saturated. You’re everywhere. It would be best for you to not go out to lunch with your friends,"” Meghan recalled.
“I go, ‘Well, I haven’t left the house in months,"” she said.
“I mean, there was a day that one of the members of the family, she came over, and she said, ‘Why don’t you just lay low for a little while, because you are everywhere right now?"” Meghan said. “And I said, ‘I’ve left the house twice in four months. I’m everywhere, but I am nowhere,’ and from that standpoint, I continued to say to people, ‘I know there’s an obsession with how things look, but has anyone talked about how it feels? Because right now, I could not feel lonelier."”
Speaking of the loneliness she felt, Meghan said there was “very little” she was allowed to do, and added, “When you’ve come from such a full life, or when you’ve come from freedom, I think the easiest way that now people can understand it is what we’ve all gone through in lockdown [during the coronavirus pandemic].”
At another point in the interview, when Meghan was describing being not able to get mental health help, she said, “When I joined that family, that was the last time until we came here that I saw my passport, my driver’s license, my keys. All that gets turned over. I didn’t see any of that anymore.”
Meghan’s description of life as a woman who married into the royal family drew comparisons to the experience of her late mother-in-law, Princess Diana, and raised questions about lessons the royal family may not have learned after Diana’s divorce from Charles and her death one year later, in 1997, after a car crash in Paris.
Meghan also described not receiving any type of onboarding in her role as a royal, recalling moments where she Googled the British national anthem and church hymns to make sure she was prepared.
“There was no guidance … there’s no class on how to speak, how to cross your legs, how to be royal, there’s none of that training,” she said, adding that while “that might exist for other members of the family,” it was not offered to her.
Meghan was staffed by aides at Kensington Palace, and then later, Buckingham Palace, including one aide who stayed on to help Meghan after working for Queen Elizabeth for nearly 20 years.
A few days before Harry and Meghan’s interview with Winfrey aired, former aides publicly accused Meghan of bullying behavior, and Buckingham Palace announced it plans to investigate the claims.
Duchess Meghan has not yet directly responded to the statement from Buckingham Palace announcing the investigation, but did, through a spokesperson, strongly denounce the bullying allegations.
“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, in part. “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.”
4. Did Queen Elizabeth have the power to step in and help Harry and Meghan?
Both Harry and Meghan made it clear in their interview with Winfrey that had they had the support of the royal family, they would not have stepped away from their roles as senior, working royals.
“Without question,” Harry replied to Winfrey, asking him if he and Meghan would “still be there” if they had the support.
“Yeah,” Meghan also replied.
But Harry and Meghan also spoke glowingly during the interview of Queen Elizabeth, who as the monarch is the head of the royal family.
“My grandmother and I have a really good relationship and an understanding, and I have a deep respect for her,” said Harry. “She’s my commander-in-chief, right? She always will be.”
The criticisms of the royal institution, contrasted with the love and admiration Harry and Meghan seem to hold for the queen, the institution’s head, raised questions about why more wasn’t done to help Harry and Meghan, though their telling of the story is the only one the public has fully heard.
That point seemed to be highlighted by the queen in her statement, who noted that “some recollections may vary.”
Harry and Meghan’s use of the words “institution” and “the firm” in their conversation with Winfrey also put a spotlight on the many facets of Britain’s royal family, and the different layers that may have, at points, separated the queen from Harry and Meghan.
In one instance, Harry described to Winfrey being invited by the queen to meet with her, and then later being told by aides that the meeting was off.
At another point, Meghan explained the need to compartmentalize the family and business facets of royal life, saying, “There’s the family, and then there’s the people that are running the institution. Those are two separate things, and it’s important to be able to compartmentalize that, because the queen, for example, has always been wonderful to me.”
Queen Elizabeth’s statement referred to Harry and Meghan as “much loved family members” and did not use their royal titles.
“One of the things that makes this so complex is the fact that you have a family, and you have a business, so you have the queen, who was the grandmother, but she is also a boss, and it’s unrealistic to think that the decisions that she makes as a boss will not filter into those personal relationships,” Victoria Murphy, ABC News royal contributor, said. “And similarly, it’s unrealistic to think that when Harry and Megan criticized the institution that will also not be felt by the family. It’s very difficult to separate the two.”
Buckingham Palace, which represents Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip and represented Harry and Meghan for a time, has about 400 staff members, who could all be called “the institution,” according to Robert Lacey, a royal historian and author of Battle of Brothers: William, Harry and the Inside Story of a Family in Tumult.
There are also the staff members at Clarence House, which represents Prince Charles and Camilla, the duchess of Cornwall, and Kensington Palace, which represents Prince William and Kate, the duchess of Cambridge.
“[Institution] refers to the people around the royal family, the private secretaries who advise them, who write their statements, speeches, arrange their foreign tours,” said Lacey, who is also a consultant on the Netflix show The Crown.
Meghan told Winfrey, for instance, that she went to the institution to seek professional mental health help after having suicidal thoughts during her time as a royal, adding she went to “one of the most senior people.”
“I went to the institution, and I said that I needed to go somewhere to get help, and I was told that I couldn’t, that it wouldn’t be good for the institution,” she said.
The firm, a term Meghan also used in the interview, is a phrase reportedly coined by Prince Philip to recognize the members of the royal family, but it is now also widely used to mean the family and the business, Murphy said.
Meghan used the phrase when referring to her and Harry’s decision to speak out: “I don’t know how they could expect that after all of this time we would still just be silent if there is an active role that the firm is playing in perpetuating falsehoods about us.”
“We saw a strange contradiction. Harry and Meghan spoke very lovingly of the queen as a person,” Lacey said. “Whatever the principles and beliefs and hopes of the queen, there’s been some sort of failure.”
5. Will Harry and Meghan’s accusations hurt the royal family?
The monarchy has survived scandal before in its centuries-long reign, and it will survive this one, too, but it remains to be seen in what shape the monarchy will be left standing.
The Sussexes’ accusations of racism are particularly troubling for Queen Elizabeth’s representation of the Commonwealth, a group of 54 diverse countries, many of which have the queen as head of state.
Harry had been a Commonwealth Youth Ambassador, and he and Meghan were president and vice president of the Queen’s Commonwealth Trust, respectively, but those titles were stripped when they stepped away from their roles as senior members of the royal family.
Those roles were where Harry and Meghan were expected to continue to have a major impact as representatives of the royal family. The couple’s last royal tour was a 10-day tour of South Africa.
“While I’m here as a member of the royal family, I stand here before you as a mother, a wife, a woman, as a woman of color and as your sister,” said Meghan, the biracial daughter of a white father and Black mother, in Nyanga, a township in Cape Town that is known as one of the most dangerous places in South Africa.
When Meghan spoke about race and her son, Archie, in the interview with Winfrey, she also spoke about the Commonwealth and the importance of representation.
“I lived in Canada, which is a Commonwealth country, for seven years, but it wasn’t until Harry and I were together that we started to travel through the Commonwealth, I would say 60%, 70% of which is people of color, right,” she said. “And growing up as a woman of color, as a little girl of color, I know how important representation is. I know how you want to see someone who looks like you in certain positions.”
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