14 Times the Royal Family Was Brutally Honest with the Media
You won’t believe the shocking things these normally tight-lipped British royals have revealed to the world.
How open are the British royal family about themselves?
The British are normally perceived as showing little emotion and maintaining a “stiff upper lip” in the midst of any personal crisis, and the royal family is no exception. Queen Elizabeth II only rarely opens up about herself, and she’s had only one sit-down TV interview in her entire 67-year reign, in 2018 (although we managed to find some juicy tidbits straight from her mouth). The royal family has also had a difficult relationship with the media—specifically the British tabloids—since the death of Princess Diana, who died in a car crash after being chased by paparazzi in Paris.
Today, the royal family wants publicity for the causes they champion, and they do grant interviews to reputable media outlets. But they are fiercely protective of their privacy and understandably want to avoid any more royal family scandals. The younger generation of royals, including the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, though, are more comfortable opening up about their personal lives and struggles—when they choose to, that is.
Prince Harry: “Everything I do reminds me of her”
In the recent documentary Harry and Meghan: An African Journey, Prince Harry got very candid with ITV journalist Tom Bradby. In talking about the lingering trauma over losing his mother, Princess Diana, he describes it as a “wound that festers” and says he ends up remembering the worst aspects of her life instead of the best. “Every single time I see a camera, every single time I hear a click, every single time I see a flash, it takes me straight back,” he said. His mental health is “constant management. I thought I was out of the woods, and then suddenly it all came back and I suddenly realized, ‘Actually, this is something that I have to manage.’” It’s impossible for him not to get choked up when he talks about his mother, saying, “Everything I do reminds me of her.”
Prince Harry: “I will not be bullied into playing a game that killed my mum”
In the documentary, which was broadcast in the United States on ABC, Prince Harry’s anger at the tabloid press is also very apparent. “Everything that [my mother] went through and what happened to her is incredibly raw every single day, and that is not me being paranoid—that is just me not wanting a repeat of the past,” he said, referring to his wife, Duchess Meghan, being attacked in the press. “I will not be bullied into playing a game that killed my mum.”
In that vein, the Sussexes have recently taken legal action against a newspaper over the publication and alleged alteration to a private letter Meghan wrote. In a media statement, you can feel Prince Harry’s genuine emotion. “I have been a silent witness to her private suffering for too long,” he wrote of his wife. “My deepest fear is history repeating itself. I’ve seen what happens when someone I love is commoditized to the point that they are no longer treated or seen as a real person. I lost my mother and now I watch my wife falling victim to the same powerful forces.”
Duchess Meghan: “Not many people have asked if I’m OK”
In Harry and Meghan, Duchess Meghan was also very upfront about her struggles with the press since her wedding to Prince Harry. “I really tried to adopt this British sensibility of a ‘stiff upper lip,’ I really tried, but I think that what that does internally is probably really damaging,” she said. “When people are saying things that are just untrue, and they are being told they’re untrue but they’re allowed to still say them—I don’t know anybody in the world who would feel like that’s OK.”
Her emotion as she talked was palpable. “Any woman, especially when they’re pregnant, you’re really vulnerable, and so that was made really challenging, and then when you have a newborn, you know, especially as a woman, it’s a lot,” she said. “So you add this on top of just trying to be a new mom or trying to be a newlywed.…Thank you for asking because not many people have asked if I’m OK. But it’s a very real thing to be going through behind the scenes.” Here are 14 times Megan and Harry broke royal protocol.
Princess Diana: “There were three of us in this marriage”
Being so frank in interviews might be one of the things Prince Harry inherited from Princess Diana. Although she had a tumultuous relationship with the press, she also had moments of candor, as in her famous 1995 BBC Panorama interview with journalist Martin Bashir, in which she revealed intimate details of one of the most shocking royal family feuds in history. In the interview, Diana dropped a bombshell about husband Prince Charles’ relationship with his now-wife, Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall. When asked if Camilla Parker-Bowles, as she was then known, was a factor in the breakdown of her marriage, Princess Diana said, “Well, there were three of us in this marriage, so it was a bit crowded.”
She also revealed that “woman’s instinct” in part led to her to become aware that Prince Charles “loved someone else.” However, she also revealed her own infidelity, admitting that her relationship with former British Army officer James Hewitt went beyond close friendship. When asked, “Were you unfaithful?” she replied, “Yes, I adored him. Yes, I was in love with him.”
Prince Charles was faithful “until it became irretrievably broken down”
Was Princess Diana’s interview revenge for Prince Charles’ equally jaw-dropping sit-down with journalist Jonathan Dimbleby from the year before? It became one of the moments Queen Elizabeth would prefer we not know about Prince Charles. When Dimbleby asked him if he had tried to be “faithful and honorable” during his marriage, Charles said, “Yes, absolutely.” When Dimbleby pressed, then asking, “And you were?” Prince Charles again said yes, but after a pause admitted, “Until it became irretrievably broken down, us both having tried.” In the interview, he also called Camilla Parker-Bowles a “great friend,” among many great friends. Clearly not liking the spotlight, he said, “I don’t think many other people have to go through this constant attention when their marriages break down,” stressing he’s “not a total idiot” in that he never meant for the split to happen.
Duchess Camilla: “I wouldn’t put my worst enemy through it”
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For her part, Duchess Camilla remembers being vilified by the press when she was blamed for the breakup of Prince Charles and Princess Diana’s marriage. (By the way, this is why Charles didn’t marry Camilla in the first place.) “I couldn’t really go anywhere. It was horrid,” she admitted to the Daily Mail in 2017. “It was a deeply unpleasant time, and I wouldn’t put my worst enemy through it.”
But she remembers how her beloved father, Major Bruce Shand, helped her handle the unwanted attention. “I remember once when he was staying with me at Middlewick [my home] and the press were outside,” she said. “After a while, my father calmly went to the front door, and he summoned them all. They came clustering round, thinking there was about to be some great statement about me, and he said, ‘Gentlemen, in our family, we keep our traps shut, thank you very much,’ and walked in again. He closed the door with a smile, and that was it. I don’t think the press could believe what they’d heard, but that was always how we were brought up: Never complain and never explain. Don’t whinge—just get on with it.”
Duchess Catherine: Her breakup made her “a stronger person”
Luckily, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge finished their breaking up before they got married. Both Prince William and Kate Middleton were both very honest during their engagement interview about their brief split. “We both were very young; it was at university. We were sort of both finding ourselves as such and being different characters and stuff. It was very much trying to find our own way, and we were growing up, and so it was just sort of a bit of space and a bit of things like that and it worked out for the better,” Prince William said.
Kate then added, “And I think I, at the time, wasn’t very happy about it, but actually it made me a stronger person. You find out things about yourself that maybe you hadn’t realized, or I think you can get quite consumed by a relationship when you are younger and I really valued that time for me as well—although I didn’t think it at the time. Looking back on it.” How much has Kate changed over the years? From a purely aesthetic standpoint, quite a bit, judging from these 16 photos that show her stunning transformation.
Prince William: “I still feel emptiness on Mother’s Day”
As part of their work in mental health awareness, both royal brothers have spoken at length about losing their mother. But hearing some of the things you didn’t know about the normally reserved Prince William from his own mouth is like a knife in the heart; you can feel his ongoing grief. “Never being able to say the word ‘Mummy’ again in your life sounds like a small thing. However, for many, including me, it’s now really just a word—hollow and evoking only memories,” Prince William said when he became patron of the Child Bereavement Charity in January 2014, noting that losing a close family member is one of the hardest experiences anyone can endure. “I, too, have felt—and still feel—the emptiness on such a day as Mother’s Day.” Not a day goes by, he revealed, when he doesn’t think of his mother.
Duchess Catherine: “Becoming a mother has been a huge challenge”
Duchess Kate has taken a cue from her husband in revealing her personal struggles in order to help others. “Personally, becoming a mother has been such a rewarding and wonderful experience; however, at times it has also been a huge challenge, even for me, who has support at home that most mothers do not,” she said at the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists in March 2017.
She went on to plainly describe feelings most mothers can relate to, royal or not. “Nothing can really prepare you for the sheer overwhelming experience of what it means to become a mother. It is full of complex emotions of joy, exhaustion, love, and worry, all mixed together,” the Duchess said. “Your fundamental identity changes overnight. You go from thinking of yourself as primarily an individual to suddenly being a mother, first and foremost. And yet there is no rule book, no right or wrong—you just have to make it up and do the very best you can to care for your family. For many mothers, myself included, this can, at times, lead to lack of confidence and feelings of ignorance.”
That said, not many new moms have to be in front of a crowd, looking perfectly put together, mere hours after having a baby. And here’s why Kate left the hospital so soon after giving birth.