Students in U.S. high schools can get free digital access to The New York Times until Sept. 1, 2021.
Were you among the 17.1 million viewers of Oprah Winfrey’s interview with Prince Harry and his wife, Meghan? If so, how much did you already know about the couple and their break with the British royal family last year? What parts of the interview stood out for you?
Even if you don’t know much about the couple — or about British royalty in general — do you think this is an important story? Do the issues raised by the couple, especially about race and mental health, have broader implications for our society?
There are many places in The Times to read about aspects of this interview. In an overview, “‘I Just Didn’t Want to Be Alive Anymore’: Meghan Says Life as Royal Made Her Suicidal,” Mark Landler opens by summarizing what happened:
A year after Meghan Markle married Prince Harry in a fairy-tale wedding, she said in an extraordinary interview broadcast on Sunday night, her life as a member of the British royal family had become so emotionally desolate that she contemplated suicide.
At another point, members of the family told Harry and Meghan, a biracial former actress from the United States, that they did not want the couple’s unborn child, Archie, to be a prince or princess, and expressed concerns about how dark the color of the baby’s skin would be.
An emotional but self-possessed Meghan said of her suicidal thoughts: “I was ashamed to have to admit it to Harry. I knew that if I didn’t say it, I would do it. I just didn’t want to be alive anymore.”
Meghan, 39, made the disclosures in an eagerly anticipated, at times incendiary, interview on CBS with Oprah Winfrey that aired in the United States in prime time. In describing a royal life that began as a fairy tale but quickly turned suffocating and cruel, Meghan’s blunt answers raised the combustible issues of race and privilege in the most rarefied echelon of British society.
The article continues:
For the royal family, already preoccupied by the hospitalization of its patriarch, Prince Philip, it was both an embarrassing airing of dirty laundry and a painful reminder, a year after Harry and Meghan turned their backs on royal life, that the wounds from that rupture had yet to heal.
Meghan said that while her husband was deeply concerned about her emotional fragility — gripping her hand tightly at public events — her efforts to seek medical help were rebuffed by palace officials, who worried about the impact on the monarchy. She described herself as a sort of prisoner in Kensington Palace.
“I couldn’t just call an Uber to the palace,” she said.
Meghan did not say which family member had raised questions about her baby’s skin color, nor did she fully explain why the royal family had not automatically planned to confer a royal title, which would have provided security protection for the child. By convention, Archie would assume a royal title once his grandfather Prince Charles ascended to the throne.
Students, read the entire article, then tell us:
If you watched the full interview, or even the short version above, what stands out for you? What are your reactions to the revelations?
Do you agree with those who think Meghan was brave and admirable in openly addressing her mental health challenges? Why or why not? What effects might her speaking out about them have?
The couple took on the issue of racism, noting its role both in the British tabloids’ treatment of Meghan and in her relationship with the royal family. Harry also discussed his own racial awakening. A Times critic writes that Harry became “more cleareyed, confrontational and emboldened to take on the British monarchy into which he was born, and the white privilege that holds it up and has benefited him his entire life.” What are your reactions to the revelations revealed in the interview about these issues? Did they surprise you? What effects do you think raising them this way might have in Britain or elsewhere in the world?
What is your reaction to this letter to the editor in The Times that reads:
So, the media uber-celebrity thinks that interviewing the two escaped royal celebrities during a public health crisis is a good use of our attention. Aww, they were mean to me, says one of the two privileged spoiled brats. Why should I care? Why do you?
How would you answer this question? Is the British royal family and the story of Harry and Meghan something we should care about? Why or why not?
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Students 13 and older in the United States and the United Kingdom, and 16 and older elsewhere, are invited to comment. All comments are moderated by the Learning Network staff, but please keep in mind that once your comment is accepted, it will be made public.