The monarchy was plunged into crisis today as the Duchess of Sussex alleged that a member of the royal family had raised “concerns” when she was pregnant about how dark her son Archie’s skin would be.
Buckingham Palace was left struggling to contain the fallout from a series of bombshell allegations from Harry and Meghan in their much-anticipated interview with Oprah Winfrey.
Meghan also told how life as a working royal had taken her to the brink of suicide.
The accusations went beyond the worst fears of courtiers and are likely to make the divide between the California-based couple and the rest of the family unbridgeable for the foreseeable future.
The heaviest damage is likely to be inflicted by Meghan’s claims of racism as she described how the unnamed royal raised “concerns” about how dark Archie’s “skin might be when he’s born”.
However, in a long sequence of other extraordinary revelations in the interview — which is being aired on ITV at 9pm this evening — the couple also spoke of how:
* The duchess had “very scary” suicidal thoughts during the depths of her time as a royal saying: “I just didn’t want to be alive anymore.”
* Meghan felt “shock” at the idea of royal protection being taken away from them and said it was the royal family’s decision that Archie would not have a title.
* Harry’s relationship with his father has become severely strained as he felt “let down” by the Prince of Wales, who at one point refused to take his calls.
* They were secretly married by the Archbishop of Canterbury three days before their “official” wedding at Windsor in May 2018.
* The baby they are expecting this summer is a girl.
* Claims that Meghan made Kate cry before the wedding were “the reverse” of the truth.
* If they had the support, “without question” they would have stayed working members of the royal family.
* Meghan went into her marriage with Harry “naively” not understanding even basic protocols such as how to curtsy.
* Harry and William are still on “different paths” but he loves his brother “to bits”.
* They were forced to make multi-million-pound deals with Spotify and Netflix after Harry’s family “literally cut me off financially”.
But there was also affection for the Queen herself with Meghan speaking warmly of “lovely and easy” conversation with the British head of state, and Harry insisting: “I would never blindside my grandmother. I have too much respect for her.”
There was no immediate official response to the interview from Buckingham Palace, where aides were today briefing the Queen before it airs in the UK tonight.
Senior courtiers and lawyers were understood to have been watching a live feed of the interview as it went out on CBS network in the United States.
A source said: “The palace are not going to get in some sort of tit for tat row over this. The Queen needs to be fully-briefed. That is the priority.”
However, the palace is likely to push back strongly at one particular suggestion — the hint that Archie did not get a princely title because he was mixed race. They will point out that the protocol on titles for royal children was set more than 100 years ago and confirmed by the Queen in 2012.
It comes as Harry’s grandfather, the Duke of Edinburgh, 99, approaches a third week in hospital being treated for an infection and recovering from a heart operation.
The palace will be most fearful of how the claims about racist comments could inflict huge damage to the reputation of British royalty, one of the country’s most respected and admired “brands” that draws millions of visitors to Britain every year.
Meghan, who is the first mixed-race person to marry a senior British royal in modern history, said the unnamed member of the family raised “concerns and conversations about how dark his skin might be when he’s born”.
A visibly stunned Winfrey asked: “What? Who is having that conversation?” After a long pause Meghan said there were “several conversations” involving Harry about Archie’s skin tone, and “what that would mean or look like”.Asked whether there were concerns that her child would be “too brown” and that would be a problem, Meghan said: “If that is the assumption you are making, that is a pretty safe one.” But Meghan refused to say who had spoken to her adding: “I think that would be very damaging to them.”
Harry also declined to give further details, adding: “That conversation, I am never going to share. At the time it was awkward. I was a bit shocked.”
Harry also said he was “hurt” by the failure of his closest relatives to speak out in support of Meghan following the racism he said she faced in media coverage. He said: “No one from my family ever said anything over those three years. That hurts. But I also am acutely aware of where my family stand, and how scared they are of the tabloids turning on them.”
Meghan implied that the palace was partly responsible for what she portrayed as racist stories about her in the British press. She said: “I mean I think there’s a reason that these tabloids have holiday parties at the palace.
“They’re hosted by the palace, the tabloids are. You know, there is a construct that’s at play there, and because from the beginning of our relationship they were so attacking and inciting so much racism really.” Meghan spoke of her upset, particularly with the Commonwealth being such an important factor for the monarchy.
The duchess, who is a passionate supporter of the Black Lives Matter movement, said: “I could never understand how it wouldn’t be seen as an added benefit and a reflection of the world today at all times, but especially right now, to go how inclusive is that you can see someone who looks like you in this family, much less one who’s born into it.”
There was no immediate comment from the Government to the claims but Vicky Ford, the children’s minister, agreed “absolutely” that such a conversation about skin colour was unacceptable. Asked on Sky News if it was simply unacceptable in this day and age to ask Meghan such questions, she replied: “Well, absolutely. I haven’t seen the full interview so I won’t comment on it but just to reaffirm there is absolutely no place for racism in our society, and we all need to work together to make sure that doesn’t happen.”
There will also be huge alarm in the royal establishment about the claims that Meghan felt suicidal as a member of the royal family because of parallels with Harry’s mother Diana, Princess of Wales. Meghan told Winfrey she contemplated taking her own life saying: “I just didn’t want to be alive anymore.”
Asked explicitly if she was thinking of self-harm and having suicidal thoughts at some stage, Meghan replied: “Yes. This was very, very clear. Very clear and very scary. I didn’t know who to turn to in that.”
She said she later reached out to one of the best friends of the late Diana.
The duke said his mother, who would be celebrating her 60th birthday this year, would have been “angry” at the way the royal family had treated his wife. A tearful Meghan described how she is “still haunted” by a photograph of herself at a red carpet event while pregnant with Archie — because she had just told Harry she did not want to live anymore.
Photographs taken at the premiere of Cirque du Soleil’s Totem show at the Royal Albert Hall in January 2019 show a beaming Meghan wearing a full-length navy sequin Roland Mouret gown, holding hands with her suited husband.