Last Sunday night, Oprah interviewed Prince Harry and his wife, Meghan Markle, about why they stepped down from Royal Family duties and moved away. The world is still buzzing in reactivity, some supportive of the couple, who revealed their inner pain from lack of needed support and some defending the Crown and how it operates. I already knew that the couple personally felt close to the Queen and that the tabloids were strewn with racist remarks all through Meghan’s time in the UK. But when I began to listen to the interview, deeper layers of distress were revealed as disturbing details came out. Even my husband, who hates following any celebrity worlds, was riveted watching this interview. We both felt anger, sadness, and surprise. Here is a dialogue I had with someone about depression a few days after the Oprah interview.
“I think Meghan was naïve.”
ME: “Well, yes, she probably was.”
“She should have known what she was getting into. The Monarchy has existed for centuries and they have always valued duty to country first.”
ME: “I know, but she believed them when they said she would be protected and supported.”
“That is naïve.”
ME: “Did you watch all of it?”
“No, just parts.”
ME: “Did you watch the part where she asked for help for her depression and they refused, and she felt suicidal?”
“No, but again, what did she expect? They are a certain way and have been for years.”
ME: “Well, that is exactly one thing that leads to depression and suicidal thoughts.
“What do you mean?”
ME: “When one’s expectations of how things should be is very different from the way things are, and the person can’t reconcile them. This split can lead to depression.”
“Oh, I see. Well, then that makes sense.”
What was the case here? Meghan felt betrayed, as she was warmly welcomed by the Queen and expected to be embraced by the rest of the family, as well as “The Firm”, the business arm of the monarchy. They promised to help her feel secure and protect her. She appealed to them to intervene in all the vitriolic and racist negative press about her in the UK. They refused. She was supposed to smile in public, though she was being treated cruelly in the press. She did not feel safe or secure as she had been promised. This caused her to plunge into depression, which embarrassed her. It got so bad that she felt scared to be left alone for fear of committing suicide. She told Oprah, “I didn’t want to live.” Meghan confessed this fear to Harry. It became the breaking point for both of them. Harry told Oprah that he began to relive the trauma of his mother Diana, and her similar lack of support from the Royal Family. Diana’s life ended in tragedy and Harry feared the same for Meghan. So, he chose his wife and baby son and decided to leave his position as a Senior Royal and step back from his royal duties.
After moving away from the UK, Meghan said she watched, “The Little Mermaid” and identified with having to give up her voice to “marry the prince.” A self-described feminist, Meghan won her prince and tried to fit in and still be her vibrant full-throated self. But they tried to silence her. They almost squeezed her vocal cords shut, but she twisted her head, freed her neck, took a deep breath and sang her soul song of pain, power and promise. Her eyes lit up when she told Oprah, “But in the end, like the little mermaid, I got my voice back.” As one example, I read that Meghan just won a lawsuit for copyright infringement against two UK tabloids, who posted her private letter to her father.
I scrolled through many of the cross-blaming tweets, from those that defend the Royals and their system, to those that defend Harry and Meghan. But the important thing to me is that the voice of one woman has begun to sing so loud, that ripples will be felt in ways that may change the world. Some will try to hold back the tide. Others have called for an end to the monarchy, while some want to at least look at how the monarchy strips individual rights. Some are inspired to take mental health issues more seriously, while others are debating caste, culture, race and the politics of privilege. These discussions, which often move at a slow pace, like a shallow wave, have turned into a giant tsunami, by the voice of this one woman.