Harry and Meghan Going Public at a Tough Time for the Royals

Harry and Meghan, shown in Sydney, in 2018, cemented their split with the royal family last week.

LONDON — Prince Harry and his wife, Meghan, cemented their split with the British royal family last week. But the prince told a television interviewer that the couple’s self-exile in California was driven as much by the British news media’s unsparing scrutiny of them as by a rift with members of his family.

“We all know what the British press can be like, and it was destroying my mental health,” Harry said to the British talk-show host, James Corden, in an interview that was broadcast Thursday. “I was, like, this is toxic. So, I did what any husband and what any father would do — I need to get my family out of here.”

It was a revealing, if familiar, glimpse into the bitter animus that Harry bears toward the British press, which he blames for hounding his mother, Princess Diana, who was killed in a car crash after a high-speed chase involving photographers. And it served as a kind of tease for a prime-time interview of him and Meghan by Oprah Winfrey that is scheduled to run in the United States on March 7.

Like Ms. Winfrey, Mr. Corden, who hosts “The Late Late Show with James Corden,” is a friend of Harry. Their interview, conducted on the open-air upper deck of a London-style tour bus as it cruised around Los Angeles was breezy and informal. It was not intended as a forensic inquiry into Harry’s complicated relations with his brother, Prince William, Meghan’s frosty introduction into the House of Windsor or last year’s sensational split.

Harry, also known as the duke of Sussex, did not address the decision by his grandmother, Queen Elizabeth II, to strip him of his honorary military titles and royal patronage appointments. That came after he informed the queen that he and Meghan did not intend to go back to their duties as working royals, a year after they first announced they wanted to step back and move abroad.

But Harry suggested, as the couple has in recent statements, that the decision to sever ties was driven by Buckingham Palace, not by them. The queen insisted that Harry and Meghan give up most of the perquisites of royal life after they announced plans to support themselves in the private sector. They have since struck lucrative programming and podcasting deals with Netflix and Spotify.

ImageQueen Elizabeth II insisted that Harry and Meghan give up most of the perquisites of royal life after they announced plans to support themselves in the private sector.
Credit…Tolga Akmen/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

“It was never walking away,” Harry said. “It was stepping back rather than stepping down. As far as I’m concerned, whatever decisions are made on that side, I will never walk away. I will always be contributing.”

Harry offered Mr. Corden few details about his plans for life in the United States, preferring to stick to light banter about gifts the queen sends (a waffle-maker) and somewhat contrived gags (a visit to the house that was used in the TV series, “Fresh Prince of Bel-Air,” where Harry asked rather urgently for a bathroom break).

Meghan appeared only briefly in the interview, when Mr. Corden called her to suggest that she and Harry buy the Fresh Prince’s house. She is expected to get her close-up during Ms. Winfrey’s interview, on CBS.

Unexpectedly, Harry offered a backhanded endorsement to “The Crown,” the popular Netflix series about the royal family that has drawn criticism from some in Britain for playing fast and loose with the facts. While acknowledging its artistic license, he said it captured the unrelenting scrutiny placed on working royals.

“I’m way more comfortable with ‘The Crown’ than I am seeing the stories written about my family or my wife or myself,” he said, referring to Britain’s rough and tumble tabloid papers.

Harry and Meghan are going public at a difficult time for the royal family. It is keeping a vigil over Prince Philip, the queen’s husband, who is entering his 10th day in a London hospital, where he is being treated for an infection. Philip has been visited by Prince Charles, his son, and Prince William, his grandson.

William told a photographer earlier this week that Philip, who is 99, was doing OK, and the palace said he was responding to treatment. The queen, 94, has yet to travel from Windsor Castle to visit her husband. But his age and the length of the hospitalization raised inevitable anxieties about his health.

Elizabeth and Philip have both been vaccinated against the coronavirus — a fact that the queen took note of in a video call with health officials on Thursday in which she urged all Britons to get inoculated. Casting back to the spirit of national solidarity during World War II, she said that people who were reluctant to get vaccinated needed to think of others rather than themselves.

“Once you’ve had a vaccine, you have a feeling of you know, you’re protected which I think is very important and as far as I could make out it was quite harmless,” the queen said. “The jab — it didn’t hurt at all.”

But Harry suggested, as the couple has in recent statements, that the decision to sever ties was driven by Buckingham Palace, not by them. The queen insisted that Harry and Meghan give up most of the perquisites of royal life after they announced plans to support themselves in the private sector. They have since struck lucrative programming and podcasting deals with Netflix and Spotify.

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