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Over 28 million people across the US and UK tuned in to watch Meghan Markle and Prince Harry's bombshell interview with Oprah Winfrey. One of those people, of course, was Finding Freedom author and royal contributor Omid Scobie. Omid has followed the Duke and Duchess of Sussex since the very beginning of their relationship, covering public engagements, going on royal tours, and even attending their farewell tour last year. As a result, he's also witnessed the vile attacks both Meghan and Harry have received from the British press, especially after their royal exit, so in his opinion, it was "only fair" that the world finally got to hear their side of the story. "We've all spent like the last three or four years talking about them. The palace has spent the past three or four years briefing information about them to certain British papers," Omid told me over a Zoom call. "It surprised me that so many people took issue with the fact that they were even talking before we had even heard what they had to say."
Meghan and Harry truly held nothing back from Oprah, opening up about everything from how the palace failed to protect them to how the royal family's racism targeted their 1-year-old son Archie before he was even born. "I don't think anyone was expecting the level or the severity of revelations shared by the couple — to talk about their mental health reaching such grave levels and to be that fearful of the future of their own child," Omid admitted. "With all of that, we then step away, and we're like, 'Of course, you left.' It makes absolute sense." During the interview, Meghan also got incredibly candid about her struggles with mental health, detailing how she was denied help by the institution after she contemplated suicide during her first pregnancy. Given how much emphasis the royal family puts on mental health, this came as a shock to both myself and Omid. "That's so scary to think about because this is an institution that has had enough chances to learn," he said. "Sarah Ferguson struggled with her mental health severely, spoke openly about it after she left. Princess Diana's struggles are famous; they're the centre of the storyline on the last season of The Crown. Yet, despite all of this proof in front of us, despite these very real lived experiences, we still have an institution that chooses to diminish or dismiss such important issues, simply in the name of preserving the reputation of the crown. And at this point, I don't know what that reputation is."
At the time of my chat with Omid, which took place on Monday, Buckingham Palace had yet to publicly respond to Harry and Meghan's revelations, and according to Omid, this just showed how "very unprepared" it was. "I don't think anyone expected it to be as raw and candid as it was, but it also shows that this is an institution that is perhaps never prepared for these situations," he explained. "It surprises me that they thought that they could almost get away with the treatment of Meghan that she detailed last night, and think that it would just go away." The following day, the palace finally broke their silence, releasing an incredibly brief 61-word statement on behalf of Queen Elizabeth II. "The whole family is saddened to learn the full extent of how challenging the last few years have been for Harry and Meghan," it read. "The issues raised, particularly that of race, are concerning. Whilst some recollections may vary, they are taken very seriously and will be addressed by the family privately. Harry, Meghan and Archie will always be much loved family members."
When I asked Omid how the palace could have better protected Meghan from the British media, his answer was simple, yet very powerful: by listening. "Meghan was very vocal from the beginning. If there are mistruths written about her in the paper, she wants them corrected, or she at least wants the ability to correct it herself," he explained. "The palace decided to ignore it time and time again. And I think that the couple were very frustrated that there were issues that were [more] important to the palace, such as denying that the Duchess of Cambridge has had Botox, or denying that Prince William is a bully, or anything else that could possibly make more important members of the royal family look bad."
While speaking with Oprah, Harry mentioned that the royal family is "scared" of the British press turning on them and that the two have an "invisible contract," or as Omid prefers to call it, "a delicate dance." "You get a little bit, you take a little bit. It gets good, it gets bad. It's like fast, slow," he added. Omid explained that there is a certain expectation between the two that basically states that "members of the royal family must continue to share milestones and important moments in their lives and landmark achievements with the press." And in return, "the press will be slightly more favourable" with their coverage.
"When Meghan and Harry first started dating, there were many individuals that said, 'Well, you know it will be better for Harry and Meghan if they met with us, if they had a drink with us,' because that's, of course, what used to happen with the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge," Omid said. "There has certainly been the entertaining of media on and off over the years. I think that Harry made it really clear all along that it was just a game that he didn't want to play. He saw his mother get sucked into it and how dangerous it could get. And ultimately, I think we look back now and understand why Harry was so protective of Meghan when it came to the press." Omid then referenced a conversation he once had with an aide, adding, "I don't think I've written this before, but Meghan was actually quite keen to perhaps see if it would make a difference to meet with the press. And it was Harry that stepped in and was basically like, 'No way in hell.' And given what we know now, it's clear why he said that because he knew that if they got too involved, there would continue to be no protection from the palace and things could get particularly bad for them."
"We still have an institution that chooses to diminish or dismiss such important issues, simply in the name of preserving the reputation of the crown. And at this point, I don't know what that reputation is."
Another topic that was frequently brought up throughout Harry and Meghan's interview was the distinction between the royal family and the institution. Omid explained that the institution "is the machine of the monarchy" and its job is to simply protect members of the royal family, uphold the queen's values, and protect the crown. "It is the home of the palace aides, the courtiers, the staff, all of the terms that we often hear," he said. "They're not protecting you, they're protecting the crown and the legacy of the monarchy." While Queen Elizabeth II may be the reigning monarch, it's ultimately the institution who has the final say in making decisions. "It's very bureaucratic at the palace. There's a lot of red tape for everything," Omid noted. "It is those around the Queen that makes things happen. They are in charge of her diary, they are in charge of the relationship between the queen and leaders and politicians around the world. She has a role within that, but obviously, it takes a team or a village to make that all happen."
What struck me the most from Meghan and Harry's tell-all was the fact that it was actually the palace who denied giving Archie a royal title, not Harry and Meghan, and that there had been "concerns and conversations about how dark his skin might be when he's born." Excuse me?! But now, the couple is expecting a baby girl in the summer, and it makes me happy to know that she won't be brought up in the palace. It also looks like she won't be receiving a royal title either. However, because of the George V convention that Meghan mentioned, it's possible that both Archie and their daughter will receive titles when Harry's dad, Prince Charles, eventually becomes king. "Both Harry and Meghan's children will become prince and princess or His and Her Royal Highnesses, we don't know the exact titles, so there will be change ahead," Omid explained. "But I would also imagine that when Harry and Meghan made that decision to step away, there were conversations with Charles to make sure that that didn't happen. And that would involve Charles rewriting or amending what's called the letters patterns. It was what had to be changed to allow Princess Charlotte to become or to take a fixed line on the hierarchy or steps to the throne, as opposed to being pushed down by every man that's born after her, which is what happened to Princess Anne. So, it can be amended by the reigning monarch."
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Because of how closely Omid has covered the royal family, specifically Meghan, I asked him if there are any rumours he wanted to dispel about the duchess. Almost immediately, he responded, "Probably that I'm friends with Meghan. I get frustrated to see headlines. I've seen it a few times this week referring to me as 'Meghan's friend' simply because I perhaps haven't joined the barrage of negative criticism or constant unnecessary criticism of her. I've been very vocal about some of the race-related issues that have come up over the years and I've often found myself in the minority, but for some reason that often gets translated into, I am somehow a friend of hers. I think anyone that's been around this long enough knows that journalists and members of the royal family will always have some distance between them." In terms of Meghan, Omid wanted to make it clear that she is not a bully. "I can't undermine and diminish someone's experience in the workplace, so if someone has felt that way, then they've absolutely the right to feel that way and to speak up, to be heard, and for there to be a thorough investigation that follows," he said. "But it has surprised me . . . I had never heard anyone talk about Meghan the bully. Meghan, over opinionated, sure. Megan, demanding, some have said. I would say a lot of that [comes] down to a culture clash."
As for what's next for Meghan and Harry, Omid is almost certain that they'll remain in California and will continue supporting the queen, as they've stated numerous times before. "[California] is the place that they found probably the most peaceful chapter of their relationship or their marriage or their family life so far, and I can't imagine them ever wanting to leave that, especially with everything that they're setting up with the Archewell legacy," he stated. "But supporting the queen, absolutely. I can't imagine a world in which they would not want to do that." As for their relationship with the rest of the royal family, Omid believes "there's a lot of healing that needs to take place." "I think that it is not a one-sided thing. I think that effort needs to be made on both sides," he added. "But we do know that there has been some communication along the way, and I think that perhaps with everything out there with this interview, if the couple can see accountability taken by anyone that may have contributed to any of the things discussed in that interview that made the couple so unhappy or feel so unprotected or ignored or unheard, then I think that that's their way forward."