Oprah Winfrey has defended Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s decision to repeatedly attack the royal family – insisting that the couple should not have to remain ‘silent’ despite their vehement demands for ‘privacy’ and ‘boundaries’.
Speaking to Hoda Kotb on the Today show on Friday morning – hours after Harry, 36, publicly aired more damaging allegations about his family in his new Apple TV+ series with Oprah, 67 – the TV mogul insisted that the Sussexes ‘deserve’ to ‘not be intruded and invaded upon’, but claimed that this shouldn’t mean they are unable to speak out about their experiences.
‘You know, I ask for privacy, and I’m talking all the time,’ she said. ‘So I think being able to have a life that you are not intruded upon by photographers, or people flying overhead, or invading your life, is what every person wants and deserves — to not to be intruded and invaded upon.
‘That’s what people are missing. Privacy doesn’t mean silence.’
Her public defense of the couple came just hours after Harry launched fresh attacks on his family in their new five-part mental health series, which sees the Duke accusing his father Prince Charles of making him ‘suffer’ as a child and claiming that the royals tried to ‘bully him into silence’.
Harry also alleged that the royal family tried to ‘trap’ him and Meghan, 39, claiming that they faced ‘total silence, total neglect’ when they asked The Firm for help.
Speaking out: Oprah Winfrey, 67, has defended Prince Harry and Meghan Markle for continuing to publicly attack the royal family, despite their repeated demands for privacy
Defense: The TV mogul insisted that ‘privacy doesn’t mean silence’, and said that the couple ‘deserve’ to not be ‘be intruded and invaded upon’ while defending their right to speak out
Timing: Her comments came just hours after Harry launched a fresh volley of attacks on his family in his new Apple TV+ series with Oprah
The Duke of Sussex added that he and his wife felt abandoned by his relatives and said this was one of their ‘biggest reasons’ for leaving for California last year.
‘Certainly now I will never be bullied into silence,’ he told Oprah, adding: ‘I thought my family would help, but every single ask, request, warning, whatever it is, just got met with total silence, total neglect.
‘We spent four years trying to make it work. We did everything that we possibly could to stay there and carry on doing the role and doing the job. But Meghan was struggling.’
He added: ‘That feeling of being trapped within the family, there was no option to leave. Eventually when I made that decision for my family, I was still told, “You can’t do this”, And it’s like, “Well how bad does it have to get until I am allowed to do this?”. She [Meghan] was going to end her life. It shouldn’t have to get to that.’
Harry’s latest explosive TV interview has sparked furious backlash, with many critics questioning why he has continued to publicly air his grievances, while also insisting that he and Meghan be left to live their life in private.
Even while speaking out about the royals in the new Apple TV+ series, Harry – who has not confirmed whether he received payment for the lucrative new show – took the opportunity to slam the couple’s treatment at the hands of the media, accusing the royal family of trying to ‘smear’ the couple in the press before their bombshell interview with Oprah premiered.
He described being woken in their $14 million California mansion by his wife ‘crying in her pillow’ to stifle the noise on the eve of its broadcast.
‘Before the Oprah interview had aired, because of their headlines and that combined effort of The Firm and the media to smear her, I was woken up in the middle of the night to her [Meghan] crying in her pillow – because she doesn’t want to wake me up because I’m already carrying too much,’ he said.
‘That’s heartbreaking. I held her. We talked. She cried and she cried and she cried.’
Amid the uproar over the latest volley of attacks made by Harry on The Firm, Oprah attempted to defend his motives for taking part in their new show, insisting that the Duke only ever wanted to ‘champion’ conversations about mental health.
‘His interest and partnership was really authentic about his desire to champion these conversations,’ she told Hoda. ‘And so, I think that your asking for privacy in your own personal life does not mean that you don’t want to also use your platform to help the world see itself differently.’
In a clip shared by O, The Oprah Magazine in March, Meghan, the Duchess of Sussex, had explained their wish for some amount of privacy, telling Oprah: ‘I think everyone has a basic right to privacy. Basic. We’re not talking about anything that anybody else wouldn’t expect.’
‘If you’re at work and you have a photograph of your child on your desk, and your co-worker says, “Oh, my gosh, your kid’s so cute. That’s fantastic! Can I see your phone so I can see all the pictures of your child?” You go, “No. This is the picture I’m comfortable sharing with you,”‘ she said.
‘And then if they double down and say, “No, but you already showed me that one. So you have to show me everything. You know what, I’m just gonna hire someone to sit in front of your house, or hide in the bushes and take pictures into your backyard, because you’ve lost your right to privacy … because you shared one image with me.”‘
Candid: Oprah said that the couple expressed their ‘own personal truth’ in a way that benefited them and ‘helps other people to see the truth in themselves’ in March interview
‘There’s no one who’s on Instagram or social media that would say, “Because I shared this one picture, that entitles you to have my entire camera roll. Go ahead and look through it.” No one would want that. So it’s about boundaries. And it’s about respect,’ she explained.
But some critics of the royal couple do, still, retain that if Meghan and Harry choose to be public figures, they should expect to forfeit their privacy and control over what is shared about them.
And as Harry and Meghan continue to appear publicly — Harry has since granted several more interviews, including to Dax Shepard on his Armchair Expert podcast — those critics have accused the couple of being hypocrites.
Oprah, however, told her best friend Gayle King on CBS This Morning that it makes sense to her that Harry and Meghan would want to speak out about their experiences, particularly in as candid a way as they did in their interview with her.
‘I don’t know if it helps with the royal family,’ she said. ‘But this is what I do know, is that being able to express your own personal truth in a way that benefits you and also helps other people to see the truth in themselves — which is the reason why Harry agreed to sit down and have the conversation.’
In fact, Oprah said on Today, neither Harry nor Meghan have shared any regrets about speaking so candidly in the interview that aired in March.
In March, Meghan, the Duchess of Sussex, told Oprah: ‘I think everyone has a basic right to privacy. Basic. We’re not talking about anything that anybody else wouldn’t expect’
‘It’s about boundaries. And it’s about respect,’ she explained (pictured with Harry and Archie in announcement of baby number two)
‘They have not shared any regrets with me,’ she said. ‘I understood what had happened to them, and I wanted the rest of the world to come away being able to answer the question, “Why did they leave?” And I think by the time that interview was done, people understood
Oprah previously admitted she was ‘surprised’ that Meghan and Harry ‘went all the way there’ with allegations of racism against the royal family during her bombshell interview.
Oprah reflected on the explosive interview during the launch of Nancy O’Dell’s Channel on talkshoplive in April.
‘I had no idea that it would have the reverberating impact it has had and continues to have. I did a lot of preparation for that,’ she said.
When asked if she was ‘surprised’ that Harry and Meghan were so open and forthcoming in the interview, the TV host admitted that she was.
In particular, she said, she was shocked when Meghan claimed there had been ‘conversations with Harry about how dark [Archie’s] skin might be when he’s born.’
In the moment, Oprah’s jaw dropped, and she paused for a moment before incredulously responding ‘What?’ — a reaction that has since become a meme on social media.
‘I’m like, “What? You’re going there? You’re going all the way there,”‘ Oprah said of her thought process at that time.
Oprah said that she had only texted with Harry and Meghan before the actual interview, and her only understanding was that they were focused on sharing the truth.
‘Whenever I’m doing interviews with anybody for anything that is significant, I have a conversation with them before,’ she said.
‘I didn’t see Harry and Meghan before but I did text them and say intention is very important to me, tell me what your intention is, so that we can be aligned in our goal. And our shared intention was the truth.
‘They wanted to be able to tell their story and tell it in such a way that allowed them to be as truthful as possible.’
Key revelations from Prince Harry’s latest bombshell TV interview
On the Sussexes’ cries for help to the Royal Family
‘I thought my family would help, but every single ask, request, warning, whatever it is, just got met with total silence, total neglect. We spent four years trying to make it work. We did everything that we possibly could to stay there and carry on doing the role and doing the job. But Meghan was struggling.’
On Harry’s family ‘stopping’ them from quitting
‘That feeling of being trapped within the family, there was no option to leave. Eventually when I made that decision for my family, I was still told, “You can’t do this”, And it’s like, “Well how bad does it have to get until I am allowed to do this?”. She [Meghan] was going to end her life. It shouldn’t have to get to that.’
On Meghan’s wish to ‘end her life’
‘Meghan decided to share with me the suicidal thoughts and the practicalities of how she was going to end her life.
‘The thing that stopped her from seeing it through was how unfair it would be on me after everything that had happened to my mum and to now to be put in a position of losing another woman in my life — with a baby inside of her, our baby.
‘The scariest thing for her was her clarity of thought. She hadn’t “lost it.” She wasn’t crazy. She wasn’t self-medicating, be it through pills or through alcohol. She was absolutely sober. She was completely sane’.
On Prince Charles’ parenting
‘My father used to say to me when I was younger, he used to say to both William and I, ‘Well it was like that for me so it’s going to be like that for you’,’ Prince Harry says in the new documentary.
‘That doesn’t make sense. Just because you suffered doesn’t mean that your kids have to suffer, in fact quite the opposite.
‘If you suffered, do everything you can to make sure that whatever negative experiences you had, that you can make it right for your kids’.
On ‘smears’ from ‘The Firm’
‘Before the Oprah interview had aired, because of the combined efforts of The Firm and the media to smear her, I was woken up in the middle of the night to her crying into her pillow because she doesn’t want to wake me up because I’m already carrying too much. That’s heartbreaking.’
And trying to repair the relationship
‘I like to think that we were able to speak truths in the most compassionate way possible, therefore leaving an opening for reconciliation and healing’
On Meghan helping Harry into therapy
‘I saw GPs. I saw doctors. I saw therapists. I saw alternative therapists. I saw all sorts of people, but it was meeting and being with Meghan I knew that if I didn’t do the therapy and fix myself that I was going to lose this woman who I could see spending the rest of my life with.
‘When she said, “I think you need to see someone,” it was in reaction to an argument that we had. And in that argument not knowing about it, I reverted back to 12-year-old Harry.’
On his mother’s funeral
‘When my mum was taken away from me at the age of 12, just before my 13th birthday, I didn’t want the [royal] life. Sharing the grief of my mother’s death with the world,’ he said.
‘For me, the thing I remember the most was the sound of the horses’ hooves going along the pavement. Along the Mall, the Red Brick Road. By this point I was, both of us were in shock. It was like I was outside of my body and just walking along doing what was expected of me.
‘Showing one tenth of the emotion that everybody else was showing. I thought, “This is my mum. You never even met her”.
Using booze and drugs to cope with his mother’s death
‘I was willing to drink, I was willing to take drugs, I was willing to try and do the things that made me feel less like I was feeling.’
The royal said he would drink a week’s worth of alcohol on a Friday or Saturday night ‘not because I was enjoying it but because I was trying to mask something’.
On quitting the Royal Family
‘Making this move was really scary. At every possible opportunity the forces working against us tried to make it impossible. Did I expect to find ourselves in this situation so quickly? No. I think we’ve done a really good job.
‘I have no regrets. It’s really sad but I have no regrets at all because now I’m at a place where I think I should have been four years ago…
‘Now we’ve got a beautiful little boy who keeps us busy, keeps us running around, he makes us laugh every day. We’ve got two dogs. And another little baby girl on the way. I never dreamt that.
‘I have no doubt my mum would be incredibly proud of me. I’m living the life that she wanted to live for herself. Living the life that she wanted us to be able to live.
‘Not only do I know that she’s incredibly proud of me, but that she’s helped me get here. And I’ve never felt her presence more than I have over the last year. I wish she could have met Meghan. I wish she was around for Archie.’
On dealing with his anger and anxiety
‘I can’t remember the first time it happened, I can just remember the feeling, anxiety, like a hollow empty feeling almost of nervousness, is it fear? Everything feels tense.
‘It’s being the hunted, and being helpless and knowing that you can’t do anything about it. There is no escape. There is no way out of this.’
‘Wherever I could I wanted to understand more about what was going on and why my nervous system was reacting the way that it was.
‘I quickly established that if this relationship was going to work then I was going to have to deal with my past, because there was anger there, and it wasn’t anger at her, it was just anger, and she recognised it, she saw it.
‘Well, so how do I fix this? And it was a case of needing to go back to the past, go back to the point of trauma, deal with it, process it, and then move forward.
‘Having now done therapy for four and bit years, five years now, for me it’s all about prevention.
‘That doesn’t mean we have to speak to them every single day, but to have someone that can help guide us and create that awareness in our own life to when we might be feeling pain and how to get out of that and what the tools are available to us on any given day to make sure that it doesn’t snowball into something bigger’.