Meghan Markle and Prince Harry’s Oprah interview exposed a troubling truth about Harry’s life – and what could be in his future.
Such was the sustained jackhammering of the royal family it’s difficult to imagine the dust ever settling on the Duke and Duchess’s astonishing Oprah interview, particularly when the question remains who came off worse.
Truth be told, it’s none of these key players who will ultimately suffer as a result of the nuclear interview, but the one person who had the opportunity to halt it: Prince Harry.
At 36, the son of Princess Diana is exactly the age his mother is when she died and he has never been more vulnerable.
Stripped of his beloved military appointments, powerless in the Commonwealth, estranged from his family and purposeless after a lifetime of duty, his entire life is now dependent on his relationship with his wife. And considering the pressures on them, not to mention the statistics showing 42 per cent of marriages in the UK end in divorce, it’s not unreasonable to hypothesise about what may happen if his marriage to Meghan falters.
What was clear from the Oprah Winfrey interview is that Meghan is, in many respects, the primary partner in the marriage. She’s older, more articulate, more forceful and worldlier than her husband.
While she gave her husband sufficient airtime during the interview, she also cut him off at one point, putting her hand over his to quieten him while she made her point. She was also the one who raised the issue of Archie’s skin colour, a subject Harry attempted to dampen down by not revealing which member of the royal family had raised the issue with him.
Further, following the interview – and doubtless mindful of the bomb he’d dropped – he asked Oprah to clarify that it was neither the Queen nor Prince Philip who had raised the topic.
If Meghan looked triumphant throughout the seismic interview as she reloaded time and time again for another round of bullets into the institution she clearly loathes, Harry looked like a man defeated, not just by his family and the tabloid press, but by life. Questioned about what was better about living in America, he had to think for a moment before offering up that he could go to the beach and bike riding with Archie.
There is no way back from an interview such as this however much the Prince may wish to mend bridges with his father and brother and so the success of his life depends entirely on the success of his marriage.
The trouble is, we cannot get all things from one person, as relationship experts go to great pains to point out. Right now, the Sussexes are claiming their unhappiness was caused by external forces but how they’ve processed the stress of those forces speaks volumes about how they may respond if those forces begin to erode their own relationship.
While the pair seem united for now, they lack the anchor points of family and trusted friends that might tether them when one snaps at the other, an inevitability when Harry is riddled with guilt and shame and Meghan feels she and her children are unprotected by the institution she pledged herself to.
What if, like so many couples, money pressures, mental health challenges, parenting differences, sickness, lack of purpose or mismatched values start to corrode a relationship which has already been subject to so much tension and stress?
Both are children of divorce so you have to question whether they have a model of conflicts being settled and challenges worked through. Likewise, they’re both exponents of “speaking their truth”, a difficult concept when so much of what happens in relationships is less about truth and more about points of view.
There is no doubt Meghan’s confessions of feeling suicidal were deeply distressing and it would be wrong to challenge her assertion that the institution refused to get her help. If Oprah had been a little more rigorous surely she should have asked why Harry, who has confessed to years of therapy, did not provide contacts or a trusted psychologist for his wife. Likewise, the pair – along with the Cambridges – previously headed the mental health initiative Heads Together through which they would have had ease of access to specialists in the field.
It may be unsavoury to speculate but Harry will be far worse off than Meghan if the three-year marriage collapses under the strain. Marooned in America where his wife and children are citizens, and separated from his family by both water and a war of words, he could become as vulnerable as the 12-year-old boy who walked behind his mother’s coffin.
We can only hope the couple’s own resourcefulness and tenacity will see them through.
Angela Mollard is a freelance writer. Continue the conversation @angelamollard