Update, March 6, 2021: This article has been updated with new developments.
It’s been a little more than a year since Prince Harry and his wife, Meghan, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, declared their plan to Megxit their way out of the British royal family. That all feels like a really long time ago: There’s nothing like a pandemic to distract everyone from royal drama, even an event as historic as a prince of England quitting a job no one even knew was quittable. The pandemic isn’t over, but lately you may have noticed that Harry and Meghan’s names are in the air again, with a certain anxiety-stoking interview on the horizon. So it seems like a good time to check in with our favorite self-exiled prince and princess. Here’s what’s been going on with the Sussexes lately.
This week it was in the news that Meghan was accused of bullying and wore some earrings given to her by a notorious murderer. What?
On Tuesday, the Times of London dropped an exclusive report wherein royal aides claimed that, during Meghan’s time at Kensington Palace, an HR complaint was made against her accusing her of bullying staffers. The next day, Buckingham Palace, breaking with its long-standing policy on not commenting on such matters, announced it would investigate the accusations. The Times article also discussed a pair of earrings Meghan wore on a royal tour of Fiji in 2018: They were reportedly given to her by Mohammed bin Salman, crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, and she donned them just weeks after the prince signed off on the murder of journalist and Saudi dissident Jamal Khashoggi. The Times article stated plainly that royal aides had brought this information to the paper in order to “hit back” at Meghan before her interview with Oprah Winfrey, which is set to air Sunday. The duchess’s team denied the bullying allegations in a statement, calling them an “attack on her character,” and her reps have also claimed that when she wore the earrings she was unaware of the speculation about bin Salman’s involvement with Khashoggi’s murder. This latest round of negative headlines inspired some of Meghan’s celebrity friends and former co-stars, like Suits’ Patrick J. Adams, to speak up on her behalf on social media.
What’s the big deal about doing an interview with Oprah?
The CBS special will mark the first time Meghan and Harry have spoken out after leaving the royal family, and the family is a little worried about that—hence “hitting back” before anyone has actually seen any of it. The much-hyped interview has had Buckingham Palace “steeling themselves for embarrassing disclosures” for the last few weeks, according to the New York Times. The paper added, for anyone who did not watch The Crown this season, “Tell-all interviews have tended to be train wrecks for the royal family.”
What do we know about what will be discussed in the interview?
The teasers, while tantalizing, do not reveal much, but Meghan biographer Omid Scobie told Slate to expect Meghan to speak candidly about how the racism she faced as a royal affected her and for the couple to announce some of what they plan to do with their newly formed foundation, Archewell. Scobie thinks direct bad-mouthing of individual members of the royal family is unlikely, but he does expect to hear some criticism of the institution as a whole.
Let’s go back in time a little: The couple announced their plan to leave the royal family early last year—are they officially out now?
When Harry and Meghan first announced their plans to “step back” from the royal family, it was unclear how involved they would remain. They had initially hoped for some kind of hybrid role, even as Queen Elizabeth, Harry’s 94-year-old grandmother, never seemed too keen on that idea. Buckingham Palace recently confirmed that Harry and Meghan will not be returning to their royal roles. The couple agreed to give up their “HRH” (His/Her Royal Highness) titles last year—well, technically, they retain them but won’t use them, a lovely bit of royal family fine print absurdity.
Losing these titles is a big deal symbolically, and the palace also has now confirmed the loss of several other official royal responsibilities and appointments. Harry is reportedly especially upset about losing his honorary military titles. “While all are saddened by their decision, The Duke and Duchess remain much loved members of the family,” Buckingham Palace said in its entertainingly petty statement. In response, the Sussexes pledged to remain committed to public service, HRH or no.
Is there any reason this news is coming out now?
Harry and Meghan officially stopped working as royals in March 2020, and the plan was that they would re-evaluate the situation a year later, at the end of March 2021. According to People, the timeline moved up because of tension over the couple continuing to represent the queen as they made lucrative plans for their post-royal lives with deals with Netflix and Spotify. And now that the couple is no longer under the monarchy’s thumb, that also freed them up to talk to Oprah—which naturally triggered a PR battle in the lead up to the interview.
Wasn’t Harry just on James Corden’s show too?
Yup, in late February Harry hit The Late Late Show, where he was clearly dialing up the charm. And at the same time Harry was riding a double-decker bus around Los Angeles with the late-night host, the queen was on TV in England talking up the coronavirus vaccine. The Washington Post noted that “the two rare appearances left the impression that the royals are hashing out their differences in public and on the front pages.” And these won’t be the last dueling interviews: On the same day the Oprah interview is supposed to air, the members of the royal family who haven’t been demoted will be on TV in England for a Commonwealth Day special, whatever that is.
How did Harry seem on Corden?
He seemed good! He joked that riding around with the host was finally giving him a chance to see more of his adopted home, Southern California, which has been on lockdown essentially the whole time he’s lived there. The two visited the mansion from The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air as a gag, and Harry proved that he was familiar with (or at least could successfully recite with some practice) the lyrics of that show’s famous theme song. They also briefly FaceTimed Meghan in during the mansion visit; she called Harry “Haz.” The prince shared some thoughts on other matters too, including The Crown—it’s not entirely accurate, but it’s better than a lot of the British press, he said. (He probably was smart not to criticize the Netflix show, given that he now … works for Netflix.) Who would he choose to play himself? Damien Lewis. Not bad, Harry. The prince peppered in, too, some anecdotes meant to show that he’s still on good terms with his family, despite it all: Prince Philip, his ailing 99-year-old grandfather, wouldn’t you know it, is still learning how to use Zoom!
Hey, weren’t Harry and Meghan involved in some kind of lawsuit with the British press?
Yes, they were—a few of them in fact, and they recently had two important victories. Sweet vindication! This month Meghan won a summary judgment in her case against the parent company of the notorious tabloid the Daily Mail over its invasive publication several years ago of a letter she wrote to her father. Harry also recently accepted an apology and “substantial damages” from the same company for claiming in an article that he had “turned his back” on the Marines after leaving the royal family.
About those deals the couple made with Spotify and Netflix: Are they actually going to, like, make podcasts and TV shows?
Everyone wants to be a content creator nowadays. Making a surprise appearance at a Spotify event this week—again, timing!—Harry and Meghan spoke a bit about their ambitions for Archewell Audio, the production company they formed to create podcasts for that streamer. So far, they’ve produced one podcast episode, a 2020 holiday special, but they have big plans to, uh, “drive powerful conversations” “that inspire, challenge and educate.” Great. As for the Netflix deal they signed in September, there have been rumors flying about what they’ll make and possibly completely unfounded reports that Netflix is not happy with what they’ve pitched, but so far no official word on their plans. It seems unlikely that Meghan will return to her acting roots, but you never know.
Wait, aren’t they also having another kid?
After suffering a miscarriage, which she revealed in a piece for the New York Times in November, Meghan (and Harry) recently announced that she’s pregnant again. (The couple’s son, Archie, will be 2 in May.) Is royal baby mania still going to be a thing when the royals involved are kinda sorta no longer royals? We’re about to find out.
March 6, 2021: This article has been updated with new developments.