Meghan Markle and Prince Harry’s bombshell interview with Oprah has shed light on the defects in the British Monarchy and the parallels between the experience of Megan Markle and that of the late Princess Diana.
In their sit-down with Oprah, the couple discussed what led to their decision to step back as senior members of the royal family. In the interview, Markle revealed feelings of loneliness and a lack of support from the “firm.” Both of which echoed the failed experience of Princess Diana. The interview has prompted a generation to get reacquainted with Princess Diana, the beloved “people’s princess.”
Princess Diana was born on July 1, 1961, in Sandringham England. Diana would meet her future husband Prince Charles in 1977 when he was dating her older sister, Sarah. In an interview with The Telegraph, Charles reflected fondly on his initial impression of sixteen-year-old Diana.
“I remember thinking what a very jolly and amusing and attractive 16-year-old she was. I mean, great fun and bouncy and full of life and everything.”
Diana remembered their initial meeting somewhat differently, telling Andrew Morton for his book Diana: Her True Story in Her Own Words that her first thought upon meeting the Prince of Wales was, “God what a sad man.”
The pair would not meet again until 1980 when they were both invited to a weekend stay at a mutual friend’s house. Despite their 12 year age difference the couple quickly began dating and in February of 1981, they announced their engagement. Their courtship was almost entirely through the phone and they allegedly met in person 13 times prior to their engagement.
Within six months of their engagement, the couple wed in a lavish wedding in St. Paul’s Cathedral. The wedding, seen by around 750 million people around the world, is still considered one of the most memorable royal weddings of all time. Diana would swiftly become an icon and to this day, one of the most influential women of all time.
“Dubbed ‘The People’s Princess,’ Diana spent nearly half her short life in the public eye, endearing herself to millions first through her youth and beauty; then through her humanitarian work and finally through her willingness to buck the stiff upper lip and stonewall conventions of the British royal family,” wrote the Los Angeles Times.
Similarly to Markle, things became far from fantasy for Diana. Though the couple would go on to have two sons, Prince William and Prince Harry, it grew evident that they were not a good match. By 1980, Charles began an affair with his longtime friend and ex-girlfriend, Camilla Parker Bowels, that would go public in the early ’90s.
The affair generated a media frenzy and in a tell-all interview for BBC in 1995, Diana revealed that the media played a vital role in the dissolution of her marriage. “The pressure on us both as a couple with the media was phenomenal, and misunderstood by a great many people … There were three of us in this marriage, and the pressure of the media was another factor, so the two together were very difficult,” she revealed.
The media’s obsession with Diana only intensified after the couple’s separation in 1992. Diana called the media attention “isolating.”
“I seemed to be on the front of a newspaper every single day, which is an isolating experience, and the higher the media put you, place you, is the bigger the drop,” she said.
Megan Markle and Prince Harry revealed in their interview that the lack of support and understanding from the media played a vital role in their decision to step down.
“I asked for calm from the British tabloids once as a boyfriend, once as a husband and once as a father,” Prince Harry said.
Another similarity between Markle and Diana’s experience was they both openly struggled with their mental health throughout their time as royals.
In later years, Princess Diana revealed that she suffered from postnatal depression and bulimia for a number of years. In her interview with Oprah, Markle revealed that she too suffered from depression while pregnant with her son Archie and even contemplated suicide.
“I knew that if I didn’t say it, that I would do it. And I just didn’t want to be alive anymore. And that was a very clear and real and frightening constant thought. And I remember — I remember how [Harry] just cradled me … I went to the institution, and I said that I needed to go somewhere to get help. I said, ‘I’ve never felt this way before, and I need to go somewhere,'” Markle recalled.
Both women also spoke of the intolerable pressure that they felt. Diana described the royal pressure as “cruel” and remembered being constantly “tired and exhausted.”
This mirrors the account Megan Markle shared with Oprah of her experience on royal tours.
“Those tours are — I’m sure they have beautiful pictures and it looks vibrant, and all of that is true. It’s also really exhausting. So, I was fried, and I think it just hit me so hard because we were making it look like everything was fine. I can understand why people were really surprised to see that there was pain there.”
Despite the shortcomings of her personal life, Diana was committed to her role as a humanitarian and single-handedly humanized the British monarchy. Diana was known as a prodigious fundraiser and at one point was linked to more than 100 charities.
Princess Diana was killed in a car accident on August 31, 1997. According to eyewitness accounts among the elements that contributed to the crash was paparazzi chasing the car in the hopes of snapping a picture of Diana and her then-boyfriend, Egyptian billionaire Dodi Fayed, who was also killed.
To this day there is much speculation that her death was not an accident and that the late princess was silenced as a result of her newfound voice against the monarchy.
“Though Diana is personally remembered for her kindness and advocacy, her death is often remembered as a climax of one long chase for a scoop,” wrote O Magazine.