The Royals Can No Longer Deny This Persistent Rumor Is a Lie, Says Source
But the truth about Meghan and Harry might be harder for them to swallow.
It's no secret that Duchess Meghan has proven to be a polarizing figure in Britain. Last month, a U.K. poll conducted by YouGov found that her popularity (as well as Prince Harry's) dropped to its lowest level in the aftermath of Prince Philip's funeral. The survey found that only 29 percent of Britons have a positive view of her while Harry, who was once second in popularity only to Queen Elizabeth, has seen his favorability ranking plummet to 49 percent. That's a far cry from their earliest days a couple.
When it was announced that Harry and Meghan had gotten engaged in Nov. 2017, they received glowing coverage in the British media. The Financial Times called Meghan, who's biracial, American, and has been married before, "a breath of fresh air" for the monarchy. Coverage of their May 2018 wedding was nothing short of jubilant (The Daily Mail's front page trumpeted: "A Magically Modern Royal Wedding" on the big day; Sunday Mirror dubbed the couple "Harry & Glorious," devoting an entire section to the "joy at the wedding that rewrote [the] royal rulebook"). But it would not stay that way for long.
Rumors and reports that Meghan had changed Harry (and not for the better) began bubbling up within months and only increased once Meghan became pregnant with their son, Archie Mountbatten-Windsor. In Jan. 2019, an insider told Best Life at the time that Meghan's safety had become something of "an obsession" with Harry. "He's also been a bit short with the people around the couple and taken charge in a way he hadn't done before," the source said.
A year later, Page Six reported royal insiders believed Harry had "completely changed" since he met Meghan, who had "taken control of his life." They said that she was behind their decision to step down as senior royals and leave Britain. "Everyone is convinced Meghan is the driving force behind this move to quit the royal family," a source said. "She is the one who most wants to be back living in Canada and California, where she feels happy, and to bring their son, Archie, up away from the restrictive and intrusive politics of Buckingham Palace." The pervasive narrative that Meghan had Harry "under her spell" had become accepted as truth in both the press and on social media and has dogged the duchess ever since.
Then, last week, the persistent rumor that it was solely Meghan's idea that she and Harry step down as senior royals and live full-time in California was finally proven to be a lie. Read on to find out the surprising way the rumor was debunked and why the truth might be harder for the royals to swallow.
Prince Harry wanted out long before Meghan came along.
It was a sexist and stereotypical excuse to surmise that Meghan had beguiled Harry and convinced him to leave everything he's ever known for a laid back (but luxurious) life in California as an international A-lister. On May 13, Harry's explosive interview with the cohosts of the Armchair Expert podcast proved otherwise. The prince revealed it was his idea for him and Meghan to step down as senior royals and leave the U.K., saying he did so to protect his family.
In fact, Harry said he has wanted out of royal life since his 20s. "I was in my early 20s, and I was thinking, I don't want this job, I don't want to be here. I don't want to be doing this. Look what it did to my mum. How am I ever going to settle down and have a wife and family, when I know it's going to happen again," he told podcast co-hosts Dax Shepard and Monica Padman. "I've seen behind the curtain, I've seen the business model and seen how this whole thing works and I don't want to be part of this."
Meghan may have gotten Harry to give up smoking and heavy drinking, and even turned him on to yoga, but the prince was looking for the off-ramp long before she came along. "Meghan was the match that lit what was already a ticking time bomb," said one royal source. "Harry had been looking for a way out for years and Meghan gave him one."
RELATED: Harry & Meghan's Relationship With This Royal Is "Beyond Repair," Says Source.
Harry said he was leaving England in search of privacy, but has embraced the media in the States.
Whether influenced by Meghan or not, Harry was complicit in their decision to go for a much more profitable and freer life in the States. "Harry seems to have embraced the California lifestyle," an insider said. "He has a new job, the Netflix and Spotify deals, and loves his freedom to do as he likes without playing second fiddle to [Prince] William. That's been an issue for a long time that came to a head when he met Meghan."
The prince was emphatic about wanting his privacy away from the prying eyes of the tabloids and paparazzi while in Britain, but since coming to California, he has been in the media spotlight—by choice—more than ever before. From his light-hearted bus trip around Los Angeles with friend James Corden to the shocking list of grievances he and Meghan revealed in their interview with Oprah Winfrey, and finally, the bombshell interview to end all bombshell interviews with Shepard on his podcast, Harry has made more headlines this year than any other celebrity in both Britain and America. "Every day it's something else," an insider told Best Life. "It's as if he just can't stop talking."
Harry's anger at the Royal Family is very real.
Harry's Armchair Expert interview was supposed to be about his new series on mental health that he produced with Winfrey for Apple TV+, but instead he made several off the cuff remarks that took the interview in a more personal direction as he revealed his anger towards his family runs deep. It was clear Harry's feelings towards Prince Charles and his shocking comments about royal life (which he compared to "being in a zoo") were not crafted by anyone but him.
During the interview, Harry discussed the traumatic "genetic pain and suffering" he suffered as a child, passed down from the Queen and Prince Philip to Charles and then to him, effectively criticizing his father and grandparent as parents.
His mother, Princess Diana, who Harry gets his impulsiveness and high emotions from, came to regret her revealing interview with Martin Bashir in 1995. (Bashir recently resigned from his position of religion editor at the BBC in the shadow of an internal investigation into claims of unethical tactics, including allegations that he used false bank statements to convince the princess to talk). It remains to be seen if Harry will one day rue his decision to criticize his family and the Institution he was born into.
RELATED: These 3 Royals Aren't Willing to Forgive Prince Harry, Says Source.
Harry has iced out the British press.
Meghan may have been the one to sue the Mail on Sunday over the outlet publishing excerpts of a letter she wrote to her father, Thomas Markle, but Harry's hatred for the British press runs very deep, starting with Diana's tragic death. However, he always knew being royal involved working with the media. In the past, the prince used to buddy up with some reporters and photographers during official tours, sometimes meeting them in pubs or inviting them for tea.
When Harry and Meghan skipped this tradition during their Australia tour, royal photographer Arthur Edwards knew Harry had undergone a dramatic change. The veteran lensman told The New York Times: "Harry used to be the best of all of them. We'd get together in a pub and we'd talk about everything, get it off our plate. It would be frank and open, and you never reported it. Now, it's not even 'Good morning.' Nothing. He treats us just like telegraph poles now."
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Harry's freedom has become the royals' "ultimate nightmare."
The Royal Family is not focused on what Meghan's next move may be because they have come to realize Harry poses a far more serious threat. "[The Royal Family] can no longer ignore that the story about Meghan luring Harry away from them is a lie. He wanted to go. It's devastating, but it's true," said an insider.
As Sarah Vine wrote on DailyMail.com: "Harry has always claimed he stepped down as a working royal and moved to America to protect his own family. That he had no choice, that it was the only sane option. But if you ask me it's got nothing to do with that." According to Vine, "he did it to pursue his dream. His own dream of freedom—which is fast becoming the Royal Family's ultimate nightmare."
RELATED: Diana's Friends Fear Harry Could Make This "Unthinkable" Decision Next.
Diane Clehane is a New York-based journalist and author of Imagining Diana and Diana: The Secrets of Her Style.