The burning question from Harry and Meghan's Oprah interview: Will the palace stay silent?

Maria Puente, USA TODAY
·8 min read

Prince Harry and Duchess Meghan spent hours answering questions from Oprah Winfrey in their often-disturbing CBS interview that aired Sunday, but now it's Buckingham Palace's turn to answer the couple's allegations of racism, lying and cold indifference to Meghan's suicidal pleas for help.

So far, there's been silence from the palace. The two-hour interview was followed by bonus clips Monday on "CBS This Morning" with Winfrey's best friend Gayle King; it airs Monday night in the United Kingdom on ITV.

Palace officials were reported to be briefing Harry's grandmother, Queen Elizabeth II, on what was said Sunday night.

Speaking to an occasionally stunned Winfrey, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex went into detail about their reasons for stepping back from their royal roles last year and fleeing the U.K. with their baby, Archie, to southern California, where they now live.

“Oprah With Meghan and Harry: A CBS Primetime Special” aired on Sunday.
“Oprah With Meghan and Harry: A CBS Primetime Special” aired on Sunday.

Some questions went unasked or were left unanswered. Has Meghan reconciled with her estranged father, Thomas Markle, who lives in Baja California, Mexico, a few hours south of Santa Barbara? He didn't attend their wedding because he said he had a heart attack, but then sharply criticized his daughter to the British media.

In a clip from the CBS interview that aired Monday morning, it seemed the answer is no. Meghan said her father went behind her back to speak to the tabloids before the wedding and then lied to her about what he had done. But she said she didn't feel comfortable talking about him in terms like "betrayal." As for her equally critical half-sister, Samantha, she said she couldn't feel betrayed by someone she hardly knew.

Meghan admitted to Winfrey that she failed to do any research on the royal family after meeting Harry in 2016, so she approached the marriage without a full picture of what would be involved and the pressures she would encounter. "Everything we thought I needed to know, he was telling me," she said.

Will the normally tight-lipped palace feel compelled to respond to some of the accusations they leveled to Winfrey?

Who was so concerned about baby Archie's skin color, and why?

The couple described a poisonous atmosphere that began building even before their May 2018 wedding and said an unnamed royal family member expressed "concern" when Meghan, who's biracial, was pregnant about how dark their son's skin color might be.

"Hold on, hold on!" a shocked Winfrey exclaimed.

This came against a backdrop of racist trolling of Meghan on social media after the couple began dating in 2016. Sometimes crass tabloid coverage (one Daily Mail headline described Meghan as "straight outta Compton") greeted the former Meghan Markle, 39, an American actress best known for her lead role in USA Network's "Suits."

Neither Harry, 36, nor Meghan would name the family member. But Winfrey reported on Monday that the couple asked her to convey it was neither his grandmother, 94, nor his ailing grandfather, Prince Philip, 99, who has been hospitalized since mid-February.

What does the baby's appearance have to do with his lack of a title and security?

Meghan said the couple were told Archie would not get a prince title or security. She seemed to connect that to the "conversations" about the baby's skin color.

Meghan said she didn't care that much about whether her son was called "prince," but she did care about his safety, and "also the idea of the first member of color in this family not being titled in the same way that other grandchildren would be," including the children of Harry's brother, Prince William, and his wife, Duchess Kate of Cambridge.

There are complicated rules, declared by King George V in 1917, about which royal offspring could be automatically given the title of prince or princess. The idea of tying a title to security (or skin color) has never been mentioned, so it begs for an explanation. Was Meghan misinformed or did she conflate unrelated issues?

Practically, the title rules mean that only Prince William's eldest son, 6-year-old Prince George – as a great-grandson of the monarch down the direct line of succession to the throne – was entitled to be a prince.

But the queen decided to issue her own "Letters Patent" in 2013 to ensure that all of George's siblings, as the children of William and grandchildren of Prince Charles, would be called prince or princess.

As a result, Harry's children would not automatically be entitled to those titles unless the queen decided otherwise and the Sussexes agreed. At the moment, Archie is officially "Master" Archie Harrison Mountbatten-Windsor, a status that might change once his grandfather becomes king.

Oprah Winfrey, left, sat down with Prince Harry, right, and Duchess Meghan for an explosive interview that aired Sunday night.
Oprah Winfrey, left, sat down with Prince Harry, right, and Duchess Meghan for an explosive interview that aired Sunday night.

Did the palace human resources department decline to help Meghan or let her seek medical attention for suicidal thoughts?

Meghan reported extreme mental distress from the pressures of being in the royal family, but not fully accepted by it. She complained of a "lack of support" by the royal family and palace staff, including officials who allowed what she called untrue and damaging stories about her to circulate in the tabloids, unchallenged.

"I just didn't want to be alive anymore," she said, telling Winfrey she was so depressed she couldn't be left alone for fear of what she might do to herself.

She said that when she asked for help, she was told they couldn't do anything because she wasn't an "employee." Nor could she check into a hospital because it wouldn't look good.

In response to a story in The Times of London four days before the interview, Buckingham Palace announced it launched an "HR investigation" into allegations that Meghan "bullied" her former staff, first raised by the Sussexes' press secretary in 2018 six months after the wedding and apparently never addressed at the time.

Will the alleged HR indifference to Meghan's pain also be part of that investigation? And if Meghan wasn't an employee of the palace, why would an HR investigation of her alleged bullying be warranted?

This content is not available due to your privacy preferences.
Update your settings here to see it.

The alleged indifference by the palace to Meghan's mental health stress is puzzling, if true, because it doesn't fit with the public campaigning over recent years by Harry and his brother about addressing mental health distress openly and without stigma.

Did the palace know that a story that Meghan made Duchess Kate cry at a wedding rehearsal was a lie?

A report that Meghan made Kate cry at a wedding rehearsal emerged about six months after the wedding when once-positive coverage of the new Duchess of Sussex shifted to more negative assessments based on anonymous palace sources.

Meghan told Winfrey the real story was that Kate, under her own stress at the time, hurt her feelings and made her cry, but that Kate later apologized, sent flowers and wrote her a note. Meghan said she forgave her ("She's a good person") and implied the episode was forgotten.

Everyone in the palace knew the story wasn't true, she said. So why not say so, Winfrey asked. "Good question," Meghan replied. (The palace rarely comments on gossip about interpersonal affairs.)

She said the either/or stance many royal fans take in the social media era makes no sense. "If you love me, you don't need to hate her, and if you love her you don't need to hate me."

Why did the couple get married secretly, three days before the official royal wedding?

It turns out the wedding watched by 2 billion people around the world was really just the public "spectacle," Meghan said. The "real" wedding, from her perspective, took place three days earlier in their backyard with just themselves and the Archbishop of Canterbury.

The couple provided a partial explanation for this move, which appears to be unprecedented in recent royal weddings.

"Three days before our wedding, we got married," Meghan said. "No one knows that, but we called the archbishop and we just said, 'This thing, this spectacle is for the world, but we want our union between us.' So the vows that we have framed in our room are just the two of us in our backyard with the Archbishop of Canterbury."

She did not explain how she and Harry managed to keep that secret for nearly three years.

But on Monday, The Daily Mail claimed this secret ceremony wasn't legal, because there were no witnesses. The paper called on Lambeth Palace – the official London residence of the archbishop – to clarify the matter, but a spokesman declined to comment.

"It means the pair exchanging vows in a space outside Kensington Palace was not legally binding and they became man and wife in Windsor days later," the Mail reported.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Meghan, Harry's Oprah interview: Will Buckingham Palace break silence?