Just days after Prince Harry and Meghan Markle first went public with their relationship, one MailOnline headline declared “Harry’s Girl Is (Almost) Straight Outta Compton.” While another, on The Daily Star, asked if Harry would “Marry Into Gangster Royalty?” Since then, Markle has been subjected to relentless and often overtly racist coverage by some British tabloids—which the couple told Oprah was a large part of their decision to step back as senior royals and leave the United Kingdom entirely.
While the Duke of Sussex reveals in the new Apple TV+ docuseries The Me You Can’t See that he has “no regrets” about the couple’s move to California, he does feel remorse over the events that led up to it. “My biggest regret is not making more of a stance earlier on in my relationship with my wife and calling out the racism when I did,” he said in the fourth episode of the series that he co-produced with Oprah. “History was repeating itself. My mother was chased to her death while she was in a relationship with someone that wasn’t white.” Like his mother, Princess Diana, Harry added that he and Meghan were often followed and harassed by the paparazzi, which resulted in well-documented invasions of their privacy and triggered painful memories. “It takes me back to what happened with my mum and what I experienced as a kid,” he said. “But it went to a whole new depth with not just traditional media, but also social media platforms as well.”
Even though Harry publicly condemned the tabloids’ treatment of his now wife, he received little support from the royal family: “Every single ask, request, warning, whatever it is, just got met with total silence or total neglect,” Harry recalled, which led to feelings of helplessness—an emotion that he described in a recent interview as his greatest Achilles heel.
Still, the couple spent the first few years of their relationship doing “everything we possibly could to stay there and carry on doing the role.” But in January 2019, the effects of severe media scrutiny became terrifyingly clear. Shortly before they were scheduled to appear at the Royal Albert Hall, Meghan revealed that she was having suicidal thoughts.
“I’m somewhat ashamed with the way that I dealt with it,” Harry admitted in the second episode of The Me You Can’t See. “Because of the system that we were in and the responsibilities and duties that we had, we had a quick cuddle and then we had to get changed…there wasn’t an option to say, ‘Tonight, we’re not going to go, because just imagine the stories that come from that.'” When the lights went down inside the music venue, Meghan, who was six months pregnant at the time, started weeping. “I’m feeling sorry for her, but I’m also really angry with myself that we’re stuck in this situation. I was ashamed that it got this bad,” he said. “I was ashamed to go to my family—because, to be honest with you, like a lot of other people my age can probably relate to, I know that I’m not going to get from my family what I need.”
The impetus to step back from the royal family then grew even stronger in the months following the birth of their son, Archie Harrison Mountbatten-Windsor. “I’d far rather be solely focused on [my son], rather than every time I look in his eyes, wondering whether my wife is going to end up like my mother and I’m going to have to look after him myself,” Harry said. “That was one of the biggest reasons to leave—feeling trapped and feeling controlled through fear, both by the media and by the system itself, which never encouraged the talking about this kind of trauma.”
In fact, he added: “Eventually when I made that decision, for my family, I was still told, ‘You can’t do this.’ And I was like, ‘Well, how bad does it have to get until I am allowed to do this? Where she was going to end her life?’ It shouldn’t have to get to that.”
In July 2020, after spending several months in Canada and Los Angeles, Harry, Meghan, and Archie settled down in Santa Barbara, California. Since then, Harry says he no longer feels controlled by the media—though they’ve still been impacted by the British press. “Before the [Oprah] interview had aired, because of their headlines and that combined effort of the firm and the media to smear her, I was woken up in the middle of the night to [Meghan] crying in her pillow,” he said. “She [didn’t] want to wake me up because I’m already carrying too much. That’s heartbreaking.”
Still, Harry ultimately believes they made the right move for their growing family. “We’ve got a beautiful little boy, who keeps us busy, keeps us running around, and he makes us laugh every day, which is great. We’ve got two dogs and then another little baby girl on the way. I never dreamt that,” he said. “I have no doubt that my mom would be incredibly proud of me. I’m living the life that she wanted to live for herself, living the life that she wanted us to be able to live.”