LONDON — In a remarkable pair of dueling televised clips, Prince Harry said on a U.S. talk show early Friday that the British press had undermined his mental health, while Queen Elizabeth II urged Britons on Thursday night to think of others and to hurry up and get the coronavirus vaccine.
Though the mash-up was probably unintentional, given that both segments were previously taped, the two rare appearances left the impression that the royals are hashing out their differences in public and on the front pages — with both sides stressing their disparate visions of how the family should best live “lives of public service.” The traditional view from Buckingham Palace appears to be colliding with the Hollywood version from a palatial estate in Southern California.
Harry, 36, told James Corden, the British host of the “The Late Late Show,” that the “toxic” British tabloid culture had been “destroying my mental health” and that he felt he had to flee to protect himself and his family from psychological harm.
But his and Meghan’s decision to quit their roles as senior royals and move to the United States was “never walking away, it was stepping back rather than stepping down,” he told Corden. “Whatever decisions are made on that side, I will never walk away.”
“That side” being the monarch — and his gran.
Harry’s remarks, in a segment taped atop a double-decker tourist bus as it rumbled around West L.A., aired in U.S. markets just hours after the queen appeared on the telly in Britain, in a clip from a videoconference call in which she urged Britons to fear not, get the jab, “it didn’t hurt at all.”
It wasn’t exactly an order. But it was implied.
“They ought to think about other people rather than themselves,” she said of the shirkers.
Harry and Meghan, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, moved to the Los Angeles area — via a quick pit stop in Canada — a year ago, vowing to become financially independent, and that they have done, signing lucrative production deals with Netflix and Spotify.
Just a week ago, with the move now permanent, Buckingham Palace announced that the two will lose their royal patronages and honorary military titles.
“Following conversations with The Duke, The Queen has written confirming that in stepping away from the work of The Royal Family it is not possible to continue with the responsibilities and duties that come with a life of public service,” the statement said, sounding a bit pointed to many.
Immediately afterward, a spokesperson for Harry and Meghan responded with a sharpness that irked many royalists. The statement’s kicker: “We can all live a life of service. Service is universal.”
So, this is far from over.
Expect to hear more from the couple on March 7, when the duo feature in a TV event, “Oprah With Meghan and Harry: A CBS Primetime Special.” The network has said that the “wide-ranging” 90-minute interview will cover everything — from royal life to public pressure.
On the very same day, the queen, along with Prince William, his wife, Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, and other members of the royal family, will take part in a televised special to mark Commonwealth Day. It will air on the BBC a couple of hours before the Oprah interview.
In Harry’s interview with Corden, he was also asked about the long-running Netflix hit, “The Crown,” which in its last season dealt with the troubled marriage of Harry’s father, Prince Charles, to Harry’s mum, Diana.
British royalists and Tory politicians have demanded that Netflix slap advisory warnings at the top of the show, alerting viewers to the fact that “The Crown” is historical but not a documentary.
“Of course, it’s not strictly accurate,” Harry said. “But, loosely, it gives you a rough idea about what that lifestyle, what the pressures of putting duty and service above family and everything else, what can come from that.”
Then he got in another shot at the tabloids, saying, “I am way more comfortable with ‘The Crown’ than I am seeing the stories written about my family or my wife or myself.”
The interview was not all tabloid terrors and dust-ups over royal roles. The prince also revealed the family’s breakfast routine following a gift from the queen for his 21-month-old son, Archie.
“My grandmother asked us what Archie wanted for Christmas, and Meg said a waffle maker. She sent us a waffle maker for Archie,” he said. “So, breakfast now, Meg makes up a beautiful organic mix, in the waffle maker, flip it, out it comes, he loves it. Archie literally wakes up in the morning and says ‘waffle!’ “
Still, the sixth in line to the throne also said he was essentially driven from home.
“It was a really difficult environment, as a lot of people saw. We all know what the British press can be like. And it was destroying my mental health. I was like, this is toxic,” the prince said.
Harry’s mother, Princess Diana, died in 1997 in a high-speed car crash in a Paris tunnel with her boyfriend, Dodi Fayed, as they were being chased by paparazzi on motorcycles.
Camilla Tominey, an associate editor at the Daily Telegraph and a royal expert, pushed back on behalf of the British press. She acknowledged that there were “some elements of the media that do not do due diligence and write a load of nonsense largely online on websites that are completely unaccountable,” she said in an interview with ITV.
But she pointed out that British newspapers are subject to codes of conduct and the law and that when they get things wrong, as the Mail did on Sunday when it published long extracts from a letter Meghan wrote to her father, then “they’ve seen themselves on the wrong side of the law, and that’s absolutely right.”
Tominey said the British royal press welcomed Meghan “with open arms” when she first came on the scene and have “written endless column inches on all of the good things that they’ve done.”
She also noted that it is difficult for Harry and Meghan to complain of press intrusion when they keep doing things that engender headlines.
“We wouldn’t be speaking about them now were it not for the fact that he’s got on the top of the bus with James Corden,” she said.