Prince Harry said that his wife, Meghan Markle, was the victim of a coordinated smear campaign by the royal family and the UK media in the week before their explosive interview with Oprah Winfrey aired.
In the final episode of The Me You Can't See, the Apple TV docuseries that he coproduced with Oprah that premiered Friday, the Duke of Sussex said that before the interview aired, "because of the headlines and that combined effort of the firm and the media to smear her, I was woken in the middle of the night to [Meghan] crying in her pillow because she doesn't want to wake me up — because I'm already carrying too much."
"That's heartbreaking," he said. "I held her. We talked. She cried, and she cried, and she cried."
BuzzFeed News can confirm that by "the combined effort of the firm and the media to smear her," Harry was referencing stories in the Times alleging that the Duchess of Sussex had bullied her staff and that she had worn earrings gifted to the royal family in honor of her and Harry's wedding by Saudi Prince Mohammed bin Salman following the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi (who, according to a CIA report, was brutally killed with the prince's approval).
The first of the stories of the alleged bullying were published March 2. The earrings story was published March 3. Harry and Meghan's Oprah interview aired March 7.
These stories, particularly the reports that Meghan bullied her staff to such an extent that the couple’s communications secretary at the time allegedly made a formal complaint to the royal household's human resources department over her treatment of her assistants, ignited a maelstrom in the UK media.
BuzzFeed News has reached out to Buckingham Palace for comment on Harry's allegations. A spokesperson for The Times declined to comment.
Following the publication of the bullying stories, Buckingham Palace announced that it was "very concerned" about the reports and was launching an investigation into "the circumstances outlined in the article." The investigation is still ongoing.
The Times reported that current and former royal staffers came forward — and, in some cases, broke nondisclosure agreements — "because they felt that only a partial version had emerged of Meghan’s two years as a working member of the royal family and they wished to tell their side."
At the time, a spokesperson for the couple issued a similarly worded and equally as strong statement as Harry's when asked to comment:
"Let’s just call this what it is — a calculated smear campaign based on misleading and harmful misinformation. We are disappointed to see this defamatory portrayal of the Duchess of Sussex given credibility by a media outlet. 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.
"In a detailed legal letter of rebuttal to the Times, we have addressed these defamatory claims in full, including spurious allegations regarding the use of gifts loaned to the duchess by the Crown.
“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. 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.”
Harry told Oprah that his and Meghan's interview with her "was about being real, being authentic, and hopefully sharing experience that we know is incredibly relatable to a lot of people around the world despite our unique, privileged position."
"I like to think that we were able to speak truth in the most compassionate way possible, therefore leaving an opening for reconciliation and healing," he said.
When asked if he felt, as he had in the past, that the media had "a hold" on him or if he felt controlled, Harry said he didn't, and gave an analysis of the way the UK media has covered him and Meghan in the wake of the interview.
"They're desperately trying to control the narrative," he said, "because they know that if they lose it, then the truth will come out."