Prince Harry and his wife, Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, spoke with raw emotion in a new documentary about how harmful the British tabloid press coverage has been to them personally.
During a series of candid interviews with ITV reporter Tom Bradby, Meghan said adjusting to life in the royal family — and the media attention that comes with it — had been "hard" and "complicated."
Harry revealed that the intense scrutiny of himself and his wife has brought back the trauma of the death of his mother, Princess Diana, which he described as "a wound that festers."
The interviews were part of a TV documentary on the couple's recent tour of Africa that aired Sunday on ITV in the UK and will air Wednesday on ABC in the US.
"I thought I was out of the woods and then suddenly it all came back, and then suddenly I realized no, this is something that I have to manage," Harry said when asked about his mental health. "Part of this job, and part of any job like everybody, means putting on a brave face and turning a cheek to a lot of the stuff. But again, for me and for my wife, of course there’s a lot of stuff that hurts, especially when the majority of it is untrue."
Meghan said that she was unprepared for the tabloid media attention she would be subjected to after marrying into the royal family, despite dire warnings from her British friends when she first started dating Harry.
"I had no idea," she said. "Which probably sounds difficult to understand here, but when I first met my now husband, my friends were really happy because I was so happy, but my British friends said to me, 'I’m sure he’s great, but you shouldn’t do it because the British tabloids will destroy your life.'"
"I didn't get it," Meghan added, describing herself as having been naive about the differences between UK and US media. "It's been complicated."
Meghan appeared to be near tears when she talked about the intense scrutiny of the press during her pregnancy and with newborn son, Archie, who was born May 6.
"Look, any woman when they’re — especially when they’re pregnant, you’re really vulnerable, and so that was made really challenging, and then when you have a newborn" she said, "it’s a lot. So you add this on top of just trying to be a new mom or trying to be a newlywed."
She then thanked the reporter for asking about how she has been coping with the spotlight, "because not many people have asked if I’m OK."
"And the answer is? Would it be fair to say not really OK? As in, it’s really been a struggle?" Bradby asked.
"Yes," Meghan replied.
Harry also talked candidly about the media in relation to the death of his mother.
"I think that being part of this family and part of this role and this job — every single time I see a camera, every single time I hear a click, every single time I see a flash, it takes me straight back. So in that respect, it’s the worst reminder of her life as opposed to the best," he said. "I will always protect my family, and now I have a family to protect, so everything that she went through and what happened to her is incredibly raw every single day, and that’s not me being paranoid — that’s me not wanting a repeat of the past."
Harry also responded to rumors about an ongoing rift with his brother, Prince William, Duke of Cambridge — and, tellingly, he didn't deny it.
"Part of this role and part of this job and this family, being under the pressure that it’s under — inevitably, you know, stuff happens. But look, we’re brothers, we’ll always be brothers," he said. "We’re certainly on different paths at the moment, but I’ll always be there for him and as I know he’ll always be there for me.
"We don't see each other as much as we used to because we’re so busy, but, you know, I love him dearly and the majority of the stuff is probably — well the majority of the stuff is created out of nothing. As brothers, you know, you have good days, you have bad days."
In the weeks leading up to the tour, Harry and Meghan were attacked and labeled hypocrites online and in the press for their extensive use of private jets over the summer after championing the battle against climate change.
Harry defended the couple's decision to fly privately, arguing that it was for his family's safety and that he traveled commercial "99% of the time" — an argument that failed to assuage critics, since William, his wife, Kate, and their three children had recently been photographed disembarking a budget flight.
They have also been criticized for the secrecy surrounding their son's birth, keeping Archie's christening private, and declining to release the names of his godparents.
In his interview with Meghan, Bradby touched on this, pointing out that she and her husband have "incredible" power, privilege, fame, and wealth — a sizable portion of which is funded by the British taxpayers.
"That comes with scrutiny and sometimes it’s good and sometimes it’s bad," he said. "How do you counter that argument?"
"If things are fair," Meghan said, "that completely tracks for me — if things are fair. But when people are saying things that are just untrue and they’re being told they’re untrue but they’re allowed to still say them, I don’t know anybody in the world that would feel like that’s OK. And that’s different than just scrutiny. It's a different beast."
"I never thought it would be easy. But I thought it would be fair, and that's the part that's really hard to reconcile," Meghan added when asked about the "obvious" pressure of life in the royal spotlight.
"I’ve said for a long time to H — that’s what I call him — it’s not enough to just survive something, right? That’s not the point of life. You’ve got to thrive, you’ve got to feel happy," she said. "I really tried to adopt this British sensibility of a stiff upper lip. I really tried, but I think what that does internally is probably really damaging."
When asked about her privilege as a member of the royal family, she said, "the grass is always greener."
"You have no idea what it’s like," she said. "I know what it seems like it should be — it’s a very different thing. That’s OK. The good thing is I’ve got my baby and I’ve got my husband. And they’re the best.”