Prince Harry said members of the royal family believed the media harassment his then-girlfriend Meghan Markle experienced when news broke of their relationship was a “rite of passage” that all potential royal wives were supposed to endure.
The Duke of Sussex made the remarks in the second episode of Harry & Meghan, the Netflix docuseries about the couple, the first three episodes of which dropped Thursday. (The final three episodes of the six-part series will be released on Dec. 15.)
As soon as the world learned of their relationship, Harry and Meghan said, she became the focus of intense media interest. Paparazzi camped outside her home in Toronto and waited for her at the set of the TV show she was filming in the city, Suits. Much of the UK media’s coverage of the new royal girlfriend was racialized, Harry said, citing headlines like “Harry’s new girl is straight outta Compton.” (“I’m just not from Compton. I’ve never lived in Compton. So it’s factually incorrect,” Meghan said.)
But when Harry went to his family, he said, he received neither sympathy nor support.
“What people need to understand is as far as a lot of [my] family were concerned, everything that [Meghan] was being put through, they had been put through as well,” he said. “So it was almost like a rite of passage. Some of the members of the family were like, but, ‘My wife had to go through that, so why should your girlfriend be treated any differently? Why should you get special treatment? Why should she be protected?’ And I said, ‘The difference here is the race element.’”
“Race element” excluded, it’s a fact that the women who’ve married into the royal family in recent years have undergone a trial by fire in the press in the months and years before they officially joined the Mountbatten-Windsor clan. Then–royal girlfriend Kate Middleton was hounded for years by the media and attacked for her middle-class background.
This isn’t the first time the Sussexes have talked about the family’s seeming indifference to the press and social media attacks on Meghan — and how, according to the couple, they expected Meghan to put up with it. In the couple’s March 2021 interview with Oprah Winfrey, the duchess pointed out the difference between how she had been treated in comparison with other women who married into the royal family.
“Members of his family say, ‘Well, this is what happened to all of us,’” Meghan said. “Kate was called 'Waity Katie,' waiting to marry William. While I imagine that was really hard — and I do, I can't picture what that felt like — this is not the same. And if a member of his family will comfortably say, 'We've all had to deal with things that are rude,' rude and racist are not the same.”
Harry also addressed his family’s first impressions of Meghan in the docuseries. “The fact that I was dating an American actress was probably what clouded their judgment more than anything else at the beginning,” he said. “‘Oh, she’s an American actress, this won’t last.’”