The Duchess of Sussex says her first year of marriage to Britain’s Prince Harry has been difficult because of the pressure from Britain’s tabloid press.
The former Meghan Markle told ITV in an interview broadcast on Sunday that her British friends warned her not to marry the prince because of the intense media scrutiny that would follow in his country. But the US television star said she “naively” dismissed the warnings, because as an American she didn’t understand how the British press worked.
“I never thought this would be easy but I thought it would be fair. And that is the part that is hard to reconcile,” she said. “But [I] just take each day as it comes.”
The royal couple revealed their struggles with the media during the ITV documentary ‘Harry & Meghan: An African Journey,’ which followed them on a recent tour of Southern Africa. Both said they had struggled with the spotlight, particularly because they say much of what is printed is untrue.
The pressure was aggravated by the fact that the duchess was a newly-wed, then pregnant and then a new mother.
“Any woman, especially when they’re pregnant, you’re really vulnerable. And so that was made really challenging, and then when you have a newborn, you know?” she said, adding that it was a struggle.
The Duchess also revealed that her friends had warned her about dating Prince Harry, about the British press and the intense scrutiny she would be under if she went ahead with the relationship.
“In all fairness, I had no idea, which probably sounds difficult to understand and hear,” Meghan said of when she began dating Harry in 2016. “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.’”
“And I very naively — I’m American. We don’t have that there — [I said,] ‘What are you talking about? That doesn’t make any sense. I’m not in any tabloids,” she told her friends. “I didn’t get it. So it’s been, yeah, it’s been complicated.”
Harry, 35, acknowledged there have been some differences between him and his older brother, 37-year-old Prince William, although he said most of what has been printed about a rift between the two has been “created out of nothing.”
“Part of this role and part of this job and this family being under the pressure that it’s under, inevitably stuff happens,” he said. “But, look, we’re brothers. We’ll always be brothers. We’re certainly on different paths at the moment, but I will always be there for him, as I know he’ll always be there for me.”
The brothers have suffered a significant parting of ways in the last year, splitting their charitable foundation.
“We don’t see each other as much as we used to because we are so busy but I love him dearly. The majority of the stuff is created out of nothing but as brothers, you know, you have good days, you have bad days.”
Harry has lashed out at the British media in the past for its treatment of Meghan, accusing the media of hounding her the way it did his mother, Princess Diana, who died in a 1997 car crash while trying to elude paparazzi. Harry insisted he didn’t want such history repeated.
During the trip to Africa, Harry walked through the same minefield in Angola that his mother visited just before her death as she publicised efforts to clear thousands of mines left behind by the country’s 27-year civil war.
He told ITV that one of the most difficult parts of being constantly in the public eye is that every click of a shutter and flash from a camera is “the worst reminder” that his mother’s life ended so young, at only 36.
But he added, “I will not be bullied into playing a game that killed my mum. For me, and for my wife of course, there is a lot of stuff that hurts, of course when a majority of it is untrue.”
At the close of their African tour, Harry and Meghan each brought separate legal actions against the media.
The duchess earlier this month sued the Mail on Sunday tabloid, claiming it illegally published a letter she wrote to her father. Harry sued over the alleged illegal interception of voicemail messages by journalists from the Sun, the News of the World and the Daily Mirror newspapers.
Harry, who has joined his brother in promoting a more open discussion of mental health issues throughout society, described his own mental health struggles as being a matter of “constant management.”
“Part of this job, and part of any job, like everybody, is putting on a brave face and turning a cheek to a lot of the stuff,” he said. “But again, for me and again for my wife, of course, there is a lot of stuff that hurts, especially when the majority of it is untrue.”
Reaction to the interviews was swift, particularly from the tabloids that the couple denounced in the documentary. News outlets, including those that the royals have taken to court, reported on the interviews, analysing the body language of the pair and splashing photographs and videos across their web pages Monday morning. The Daily Mail said readers had expressed an “overwhelmingly negative response.”
But comments on social media suggested a good deal of sympathy. Many seemed to empathise with the couple and were especially touched by Meghan’s description of a need to “not just survive” but to thrive and feel happy after initial attempts to try to “adopt this British sensibility of a stiff upper lip.”
The duchess explained that, “I’ve tried, I’ve really tried, but I think that what that does internally is probably really damaging.”
Emma Kenny, a TV personality in Britain, welcomed Meghan’s openness in a post on Twitter.
“She had NO IDEA what she would face and the criticism she would endure,” Kenny wrote. “That’s not acting, that’s absolute transparency! Bless her, bless Harry!!”
Twitter users also backed Harry’s refusal to bow to the tabloids’ tactics.
One of the most poignant moments in the documentary came when Meghan was asked how she was dealing with the newfound scrutiny. She detailed feeling “vulnerable” during her pregnancy and in the months since giving birth.
“Thank you for asking because not many people have asked if I’m OK,” she said, her voice thick with emotion. “But it’s a very real thing to be going through behind the scenes.”
The reporter, Tom Bradby, continued: “And the answer is, would it be fair to say, not really OK? That it’s really been a struggle?”
Meghan replied: “Yes.”