Rosie DiManno: Prince Harry and Meghan pull back the palace curtain — and reveal some ugly truths

From fairy tale horribilis to La-La-Land mirabilis.It took three years for the duchess in the gilded dungeon — hear her tell it — to liberate herself and her compliant husband from royal captivity.A year beyond that to cut all formal affiliations with the House of Windsor, although it was the monarch who wielded the shears, if regretfully, casting adrift Meghan and Harry, divesting the Duke and Duchess of Sussex of their royal patronages, expelling the wannabe half-in half-out peer power couple from The Firm.During all that time, the Duchess of Sussex had pined for a TV close-up with the queen of the chat show couch. But it was forbidden.Until, on Sunday night — for the first time since her official engagement interview with the BBC — the duchess, née Meghan Markle, cable television actress, biracial beauty, American divorcee, for seven years a part-time resident of Toronto, presented herself to the world unplugged and unshackled.“Oprah With Meghan and Harry” — note who got top billing. Two hours, expanded from the original 90 minutes of prime time television allotted to an “intimate” parley with the defecting nobles.Up the royals indeed.Cut to the breaking news factoid: Meghan and Harry are expecting a girl.Let us start, however, with the answer to the teaser clip that had been pre-released, media tycoon and gentle inquisitor to the stars Oprah Winfrey getting down to the family estrangement nubby: “Were you silent or were you silenced?” Meghan: “The latter.”Smothered by ritual and rigidity, the duchess disclosed, left to flounder, unable to correct the errors or straighten the story.By an institution that — arguably the most shocking revelation — was disgracefully preoccupied with the skin colour of the baby the duchess was carrying the first time around.“Concerns and conversations about how dark his skin might be when he’s born,” said Meghan, which drew a gasp from her interviewer.It is unclear who raised that matter, which was relayed to Meghan by Harry. She won’t identify the individual. “That would be very damaging to them.” This interview was damaging enough.The Look: Radiantly pregnant with the couple’s second child, a sibling for toddler Archie. Luscious black tresses parted in the middle and pulled back into a severe bun. As had been widely observed, dramatically similar to another transatlantic interloper, Wallis Simpson, likewise American and divorced (twice), for whom King Edward VIII famously relinquished the throne. Which led directly to the accession of Queen Elizabeth II.Mere happenstance, the evoking? Possibly. Except Meghan knows how to play a scene.Eyes heavily lined and shadowed smoky black, reminiscent of Diana, in her revenge blab-all “Panorama” sit-down with Martin Bashir a quarter-century ago. (“There were three of us in this marriage, so it was a bit crowded.”)Just as breathtaking — Meghan divulging that the pressures, the stifling from inside and the quick turnaround condemnation from the media outside, became so overwhelming she considered taking her own life. Telling Harry she didn’t want to be alive anymore.“I was ashamed to have to say it at the time and ashamed to have to admit it to Harry, especially. Because I know how much loss he’d suffered. I knew that if I didn’t say it, I would do it. I just didn’t want to be alive anymore. That was a very clear and real and frightening constant thought.”Adding: “I was ashamed. I’m supposed to be stronger than that. To admit that you need help, to admit how dark a place that you’re in.” The Dress: Black silk georgette floor-length $4,700 Armani, with a lotus embroidered across the right shoulder and bodice — a flower associated with rebirth and spiritual enlightenment.Shoes by Aquazurra, stiletto-heeled, $750.They still have their titles, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, but few of the perks — or the burdens — of royalty.It was learning, before their first baby was born, that the child would not be designated “Prince” or “Princess” that raised alarms for Meghan. Without a title — to which, as a grandchild of the future King Charles, Archie would be automatically entitled — there would be a corresponding withdrawal of security.“It was a complete shock to me,” admitted Harry.None of this, Meghan emphasized, is a slag against the Queen, Harry’s grandmother. She felt nothing but “welcome” by Her Majesty and other members of the Royal Family. Even though she didn’t grasp, going in, how straitened her life would become. And that, as presented in the photos and video footage, was never as it seemed.“That’s what was really tricky about these past few years. When the perception and the reality are two very different things and you’re being judged on the perception but you’re living the reality of it, there’s a complete misalignment and there’s no way to explain that to people.”Just as it was never explained, despite her pleadings, that she had not caused Kate, the Duchess of Cambridge, to cry, in an incident about flower girl dresses. It was ins

Rosie DiManno: Prince Harry and Meghan pull back the palace curtain — and reveal some ugly truths

From fairy tale horribilis to La-La-Land mirabilis.

It took three years for the duchess in the gilded dungeon — hear her tell it — to liberate herself and her compliant husband from royal captivity.

A year beyond that to cut all formal affiliations with the House of Windsor, although it was the monarch who wielded the shears, if regretfully, casting adrift Meghan and Harry, divesting the Duke and Duchess of Sussex of their royal patronages, expelling the wannabe half-in half-out peer power couple from The Firm.

During all that time, the Duchess of Sussex had pined for a TV close-up with the queen of the chat show couch. But it was forbidden.

Until, on Sunday night — for the first time since her official engagement interview with the BBC — the duchess, née Meghan Markle, cable television actress, biracial beauty, American divorcee, for seven years a part-time resident of Toronto, presented herself to the world unplugged and unshackled.

“Oprah With Meghan and Harry” — note who got top billing. Two hours, expanded from the original 90 minutes of prime time television allotted to an “intimate” parley with the defecting nobles.

Up the royals indeed.

Cut to the breaking news factoid: Meghan and Harry are expecting a girl.

Let us start, however, with the answer to the teaser clip that had been pre-released, media tycoon and gentle inquisitor to the stars Oprah Winfrey getting down to the family estrangement nubby: “Were you silent or were you silenced?”

Meghan: “The latter.”

Smothered by ritual and rigidity, the duchess disclosed, left to flounder, unable to correct the errors or straighten the story.

By an institution that — arguably the most shocking revelation — was disgracefully preoccupied with the skin colour of the baby the duchess was carrying the first time around.

“Concerns and conversations about how dark his skin might be when he’s born,” said Meghan, which drew a gasp from her interviewer.

It is unclear who raised that matter, which was relayed to Meghan by Harry. She won’t identify the individual. “That would be very damaging to them.”

This interview was damaging enough.

The Look: Radiantly pregnant with the couple’s second child, a sibling for toddler Archie. Luscious black tresses parted in the middle and pulled back into a severe bun. As had been widely observed, dramatically similar to another transatlantic interloper, Wallis Simpson, likewise American and divorced (twice), for whom King Edward VIII famously relinquished the throne. Which led directly to the accession of Queen Elizabeth II.

Mere happenstance, the evoking? Possibly. Except Meghan knows how to play a scene.

Eyes heavily lined and shadowed smoky black, reminiscent of Diana, in her revenge blab-all “Panorama” sit-down with Martin Bashir a quarter-century ago. (“There were three of us in this marriage, so it was a bit crowded.”)

Just as breathtaking — Meghan divulging that the pressures, the stifling from inside and the quick turnaround condemnation from the media outside, became so overwhelming she considered taking her own life. Telling Harry she didn’t want to be alive anymore.

“I was ashamed to have to say it at the time and ashamed to have to admit it to Harry, especially. Because I know how much loss he’d suffered. I knew that if I didn’t say it, I would do it. I just didn’t want to be alive anymore. That was a very clear and real and frightening constant thought.”

Adding: “I was ashamed. I’m supposed to be stronger than that. To admit that you need help, to admit how dark a place that you’re in.”

The Dress: Black silk georgette floor-length $4,700 Armani, with a lotus embroidered across the right shoulder and bodice — a flower associated with rebirth and spiritual enlightenment.

Shoes by Aquazurra, stiletto-heeled, $750.

They still have their titles, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, but few of the perks — or the burdens — of royalty.

It was learning, before their first baby was born, that the child would not be designated “Prince” or “Princess” that raised alarms for Meghan. Without a title — to which, as a grandchild of the future King Charles, Archie would be automatically entitled — there would be a corresponding withdrawal of security.

“It was a complete shock to me,” admitted Harry.

None of this, Meghan emphasized, is a slag against the Queen, Harry’s grandmother. She felt nothing but “welcome” by Her Majesty and other members of the Royal Family. Even though she didn’t grasp, going in, how straitened her life would become. And that, as presented in the photos and video footage, was never as it seemed.

“That’s what was really tricky about these past few years. When the perception and the reality are two very different things and you’re being judged on the perception but you’re living the reality of it, there’s a complete misalignment and there’s no way to explain that to people.”

Just as it was never explained, despite her pleadings, that she had not caused Kate, the Duchess of Cambridge, to cry, in an incident about flower girl dresses. It was instead, she insists, the reverse.

“I don’t say that to be disparaging to anyone. She was upset about something, she owned it, she apologized, she brought me flowers and I forgave her … It made me cry and it really hurt my feelings.”

That was a turning point, she says. Making her look the villain in a story that broke some seven months after the wedding, with the media piling on mercilessly.

“They seemed to want a narrative of a heroine and a villain.”

The Jewels: Diamond tennis bracelet, originally owned by Princess Diana, from which, it is believed, Harry plucked two diamonds for Meghan’s engagement ring. Stud blue topaz earrings from Birks, in Canada. Aquamarine pendant necklace from her own personal collection.

The Location: Not the couple’s $14.7-million (U.S.) mansion in the environs of Montecito, Calif., as had originally been asserted, but the lush gardens of an unidentified neighbour. Oprah lives in the exclusive redoubt as well, so can pop by the Sussexes’ for a cuppa, perhaps of the trendy oak milk latte brand in which Meghan has invested. The TV doyenne called Meghan “M,” BFF-like, and it certainly seems they’ve become much chummier since the then Markle invited Oprah to her wedding, despite the two scarcely knowing each other.

The Timing: Lousy. Prince Philip has been hospitalized since mid-February and last week underwent heart surgery. Husband-consort to the Queen for 73 years, the Duke of Edinburgh will turn 100 in June. Harry reportedly has his bags packed, should he be required to hastily return to London.

Of course, the couple had no say in when the interview would be aired. But the optics are unseemly, portrayed as an insult to the Queen, who’s unlikely to watch the program anyway. She has more pressing matters on her mind. Further, mere hours before showtime for the Sussexes, the Queen delivered a message of her own — the Commonwealth Day address.

Broadcast by the BBC and featuring appearances by other royals, including Prince Charles and Camilla, Prince William and Kate, the annual event was, for the first time, a TV-only affair. But it is an occasion close to the 94-year-old monarch’s heart, uncomfortably scheduled in the countdown to Oprah’s spectacle.

The theme for the Queen, amidst a continuing global pandemic, was unity and selfless dedication — concepts the Sussexes are accused of flipping off.

The Dirt: The empire struck back last week, with the Times, a decidedly Establishment broadsheet, splashing a stunner of an exclusive across its pages.

In what was palpably a calculated hit on Meghan, tit-for-tattle, doubtless orchestrated by The Grey Men (as Diana dubbed the palace courtiers), the Times revealed that the duchess had been accused of bullying in 2018 by one of her closest advisers during her residency at Kensington Palace. The complaint, made by the couple’s communications secretary at the time, Jason Knauf, alleges that the duchess was such a bossy-boots pill, an entitled harridan, that she drove two personal assistants to flee the household while undermining the confidence of a third staffer.

“Emotional cruelty and manipulation,” as one aide was quoted. “Bullying” and “harassment,” according to another.

In the formal complaint made by Knauf, he wrote: “The Duchess seems intent on always having someone in her sights.”

Dirty dealing, countered the couple’s lawyer, who insisted to the Times that the newspaper was “being used by Buckingham Palace to peddle a wholly false narrative” prior to their interview’s broadcast.

A spokesperson for the Sussexes released a statement. “Let’s just call this what it is — a calculated smear campaign based on misleading and harmful information.”

The duchess was said to be “saddened” by the attack on her character, particularly “as someone who has been the target of bullying herself.”

Indisputably, Meghan has been boxed and browbeaten by many British pundits and tabs, some of it unmistakably racist in tone. It was Harry who’d called it a “toxic” environment. “My biggest concern was history repeating itself,” the prince told Oprah, when he joined the cosy confab. Fearful that Meghan would be hounded to extinction, or madness, as his mother had been hunted to death by the paparazzi.

They wanted privacy. They wished to be part-time top-tier working royals. They will continue to advocate for their personal causes and philanthropic interests.

But they went tell-all large and the headlines on Monday, especially in the red-tops, will be even bigger. With the duchess blamed for the Megxit.

“I left my career, I left my life, I left everything … because I loved him.”

Harry wouldn’t have stepped back, though, if not for Meghan — whom he actually married in a private ceremony three days before the royal wedding. “I was trapped but I didn’t realize I was trapped. Trapped within the system, like the rest of my family are.”

The prince was cut off financially by the palace in January, surviving on what Diana had left Harry, albeit now raking it in from mega-deals swung with Netflix and Spotify. They’re not destined for the poorhouse.

Once upon a time, Free the Wales was a pre-Twitter meme. The Freed Sussexes, via Oprah, emitted a sibilant hiss.

Takeaway: They are well rid of each other — The Firm and the firmly defiant.

Rosie DiManno is a Toronto-based columnist covering sports and current affairs for the Star. Follow her on Twitter: @rdimanno

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