TW: Discussion of depression/self-harm
Recently, Meghan Markle and Prince Harry sat down with Oprah to discuss their experience living within the royal family—and wow, it was one for the books. The program has been heavily circulated within the news and people all over the world are chiming in on the issues presented. I for one have struggled to think about anything other than the tell-all interview for the past week. It has completely saturated my social media and left me dumbfounded by the claims leveled at the Royal Family. While there were lighter moments, such as the announcement of the couple’s baby girl due this summer, there was also an overwhelming number of concerning points brought to light. Heartbreaking details emerged as Meghan revealed the tireless abuse she suffered at the hands of the press and how a lack of support from the Royal Family drove her to suicidal thoughts.
If this sounds familiar, it should. Prince Harry’s mother, Princess Diana faced similar trials during her time within “The Firm”. Married to Prince Charles in 1981, Diana was hugely popular around the globe, eventually earning the nickname “The People’s Princess”. While this aspect may differ between the two women due to the unprecedented amount of hate Meghan has received, the effects of living under the crown have proved equally damaging in the past and present.
Diana and Charles divorced in 1996 amidst infidelity allegations of both sides. Before her divorce was finalized, however, Diana appeared for an interview on the BBC show Panorama without notifying members of the royal family. In the interview, she similarly discussed her experience with depression and self-harm that plagued her while living as a princess. In her televised interview, Meghan discussed a similar theme, saying, “I just didn’t want to be alive anymore”.
As shocking as these things may seem, what is arguably more shocking is the lack of support either woman received to better their mental health. Meghan recounted her attempt to get help with Oprah and the response she was met with; “They said, ‘My heart goes out to you because I see how bad it is. But there’s nothing we can do to protect you because you’re not a paid employee.’”
Like Meghan, Diana discussed trying to get help from inside the palace saying, “I was actually crying out because I wanted to get better in order to go forward and continue my duty and my role as wife, mother, Princess of Wales. … I didn’t like myself, I was ashamed because I couldn’t cope with the pressures.” Diana and Meghan did not receive an appropriate level of support and subsequently chose to leave the Royal Family.
Overall, the parallels seen between Meghan Markle and Princess Diana emphasize the culture of secrecy with The Firm. Although the women experienced different things within the palace walls, their discussions on mental health over two decades apart are strikingly similar. Arguably, the most important takeaway from their shared experience, however, is that there is hope even in the darkest of places. Mental health is incredibly important, and as Diana and Meghan have shown us, should always come first.