“It’s Nothing Like What It Looks Like”: 11 Royal Moments That Meghan and Harry Reframed in the Oprah Interview

When Meghan Markle married Prince Harry in a lavish ceremony in May 2018, it looked like a dream come true, and it stayed that way for a few months at least. Meghan also seemed to adapt to life as a working royal easily, and shone during their international tours. But just 18 months later, the couple admitted that they were unhappy with their lives in a gilded cage and stepped down as senior royals. And this week, after a year of silence, they opened up to Oprah about what their lives were really like behind the scenes. From family discontent to racist comments to mental health struggles, some of the most iconic moments of their marriage turn out to have dark backstories. 

In telling her side of the story, Meghan chose to emphasize just how different royal fact is from childhood fiction. “As Americans especially, what you do know about the royals is what you read in fairy tales,” she said. “It’s easy to have an image that is so far from reality. That’s what was so tricky over those past few years, is when the perception and the reality are two 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.”

Here are 11 moments from Meghan and Harry’s relationship that played out in public, but were apparently very different behind the scenes.

Meghan’s First Visit to Church With the Family, December 25, 2017

About a month after Harry and Meghan announced their engagement, Queen Elizabeth invited the soon-to-be duchess to spend Christmas with the family at Sandringham. Meghan was all smiles during the procession to St. Mary Magdalene Church, but behind the scenes, she was beginning to understand just how much she had to learn to be a part of the family. “I don’t want to embarrass them,” she said of her thinking at the time. “I need to learn these 30 hymns for church. All of this is televised. We were doing the training behind the scenes, because I just wanted to make them proud.”

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle kiss on the steps of St George’s Chapel in Windsor Castle after their wedding.Photo by Danny Lawson – WPA Pool/Getty Images.
The flower girls arriving St George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle on May 19, 2018.Photo by Jane Barlow – WPA Pool/Getty Images.

The Royal Wedding, May 19, 2018

Meghan told Oprah that she did have some fun on her wedding day, partially because she and Harry had already exchanged vows three days earlier. “We were both aware in advance that this wasn’t our day, this was the day planned for the world,” she said.

Though the flower girls got plenty of attention for their adorable dresses, the decision for what they were going to wear was not without issue. Previously, the Mail on Sunday said that Meghan and Kate Middleton had argued about whether or not the girls should wear pantyhose, and that the argument left Kate in tears. However, when Meghan discussed the event, she told Oprah that Kate had actually made her cry. “I don’t say that to be disparaging to anyone, because it was a really hard week of the wedding,” Meghan added. “She was upset about something, but she owned it, and she apologized. And she brought me flowers and a note, apologizing.”

Meghan Markle and Queen Elizabeth II open the new Mersey Gateway Bridge on June 14, 2018 .Photo by Samir Hussein/Samir Hussein/WireImage.

Meghan’s Day Trip Tour With the Queen, June 14, 2018

Meghan and the queen had an early rapport that has seemingly survived the upheaval of the last year. In the Oprah interview, Meghan shared a few details about what her first solo trip with the monarch was like behind the scenes. “It made me think of my grandmother, where she’s always been warm and inviting,” she said. “She gave me beautiful pearl earrings and a matching necklace. And we were in the car going between engagements, and she has a blanket that sits across her knees for warmth. And it was chilly, and she was like, ‘Meghan, come on’ and put it over my knees as well.”

Kate and Meghan watching the Wimbledon Tennis Championships on July 14, 2018.Photo by Karwai Tang/WireImage.

Wimbledon With Kate, July 14, 2018

When Meghan and Kate both attended Wimbledon, it looked like a moment of sister-in-law bonding, but we now know that the two were never close. When speaking to Oprah, Meghan emphasized that she bears no ill will against Kate. “She’s a good person,” she said. “And I think so much of what I have seen play out is this idea of polarity, where if you love me, you don’t have to hate her. And if you love her, you don’t need to hate me.” Oprah later asked if the Wimbledon outing was really what it looked like, and Meghan demurred. “When you say, ‘Was it what it looked like?’, my understanding and my experience of the past four years is it’s nothing like what it looks like.”

Harry and Meghan in Dubbo, Australia on October 17, 2018. 

Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images.

Meghan and Harry during a meet and greet at the Sydney Opera House on October 16, 2018 in Sydney, Australia.

Photo by Paul Edwards – Pool/Getty Images.

South Pacific Tour, October 2018

On the tour, Meghan proved that she had what it takes to do the job of a working royal. Throngs of well-wishers gathered to greet her, and she was able to connect with them instantly. But this was also the moment when Meghan began to feel doubts. “After we had gotten back from our Australia tour…we talked about when things really started to turn, when I knew we weren’t being protected,” she told Oprah. “And it was during that part of my pregnancy, especially, that I started to understand what our continued reality was going to look like.”

At the Cirque du Soleil Premiere Of TOTEM at Royal Albert Hall on January 16, 2019.Photo by Paul Grover – WPA Pool/Getty Images.

Royal Albert Hall, January 16, 2019

On a night six months into her pregnancy, Meghan stunned in a sequined gown by Roland Mouret when she and Harry took a trip to Royal Albert Hall to see a Cirque du Soleil performance. She told Oprah that this night was actually her nadir, and that she had spent the day dealing with suicidal thoughts. “I zoomed in, and what I saw was the truth of what that moment was, because right before we had to leave for that, I had just had that conversation with Harry that morning, and it was the next day that I talked to the institution,” she said. Looking back at the photos from that night, she said, “What I see is how tightly his knuckles are gripped around mine. You can see the whites of our knuckles, because we are smiling and doing our job, but we’re both just trying to hold on. And every time that those lights went down in that Royal Box, I was just weeping, and he was gripping my hand.”

Presenting their newborn baby son, Archie Harrison Mountbatten-Windsor, in St George’s Hall at Windsor Castle in Windsor, May 8, 2019. Photo by Dominic Lipinski / POOL / AFP.

Archie’s Introduction to the World, May 8, 2019

In the days after Archie’s birth, some members of the press believed that Meghan and Harry had decided against doing a photo shoot on the hospital steps, and declined to give Archie a title so he could lead a normal life. In the Oprah interview, Meghan disputed both of those claims. She spoke about how the decision on Archie’s title was taken out of her hands, despite her concern for how it might impact his security protection. The picture was even more complicated. “We weren’t asked to take a picture,” she said. “That’s also part of the spin; that was really damaging. I thought, ‘Can you just tell them the truth? Can you say to the world you’re not giving him a title, and we want to keep him safe, and that if he’s not a prince, then it’s not part of the tradition? Just tell people, and then they’ll understand.’”

Attending the King Power Royal Charity Polo Match on July 10, 2019 in Wokingham, England. Photo by Max Mumby/Indigo/Getty Images.

Charity Polo Day, July 10, 2019

Meghan, Harry, Kate, and Prince William showed off a bit of family togetherness at a charity polo match, one of Meghan’s first outings with two-month-old Archie. According to Harry, the relationship with his brother has been rocky for awhile: “As I’ve said before, I love William to bits. He’s my brother. We’ve been through hell together. I mean, we have a shared experience. But we…you know, we’re on…we’re on different paths,” he said. “The relationship is space at the moment. And, you know, time heals all things, hopefully.”

Meghan and Harry visit the Auwal Mosque during day two of their royal tour of South Africa on September 24, 2019.

Photo by TPool/Samir Hussein/WireImage.

Southern Africa Tour, September and October 2019

Meghan and Harry’s tour of southern Africa showed that the couple could connect to citizens of Commonwealth countries, but it was also when a few cracks in their armor became obvious. During their tour, they announced a series of legal actions against tabloids for invasive coverage. Later, Meghan made headlines when she talked about her emotional pain in an ITV documentary with presenter Tom Bradby. In the Oprah interview, Meghan explained why she answered so honestly. “That was the last day of the tour,” she said. “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.”

Arriving at Canada House on January 07, 2020 in London, England. By Samir Hussein/Getty Images.

Canada House Event, January 7, 2020

After spending the holidays in Canada, Meghan and Harry returned to the U.K. for an engagement at Canada House, the country’s embassy, to thank them for their hospitality. The next day, they would announce their bombshell royal exit. Though it seemed sudden, Harry told Oprah that they had already told the queen and Prince Charles about their plans to announce a future change in status. “ When we were in Canada, I had three conversations with my grandmother and two conversations with my father—before he stopped taking my calls—and he said, ‘Can you put this all in writing what your plan is?’” Harry said. “By that point, I took matters into my own hands. It was like, ‘I need to do this for my family. This is not a surprise to anybody.’” 

More Royals Stories From Vanity Fair

— The New, Sad Irony of the Rift Between Prince William and Prince Harry

— Meghan and Harry’s Devastating Revelations About Racism Within the Royal Family

— Why Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s Security Protection Was Such a Big Deal 

— Prince Charles Is in a “State of Despair”

— Buckingham Palace Issues Brief Response to Harry and Meghan’s Interview

— Why Archie’s Title Is About More Than What’s in a Name

— Prince Harry tells Oprah, “I Was Trapped”

— What the Queen’s Statement Reveals About the Royal Family’s Next Steps

— From the Archive: Palace and Prejudice

— Need the latest royals news? Sign up for the Royal Watch newsletter for all the chatter from Buckingham Palace and beyond.

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