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How the Harry and Meghan royal racism row unfolded

It was a royal saga to put even the most dramatic of Crown episodes to shame.

Meghan Markle and Prince Harry, sat across from Oprah Winfrey in a sprawling LA mansion, making the astonishing claim that a senior member of the royal family had made comments about the skin colour of their then unborn child, Archie.

The fallout was enormous, and though the Duke of Sussex later distanced himself from the remarks, the damage to The Firm was undeniable.

Fast forward two years when Omid Scobie’s book, Endgame, which purports to expose the monarchy and the fierce battles fought among the royals, reignited the damaging row thanks to a “translation error” which identified the two senior royals at the heart of the claims: Charles and Catherine.

Now, as the saga approaches its dramatic climax, The Independent recaps the twists and turns of this very modern royal row.

From Oprah to Endgame, here’s how the Harry and Meghan royal racism row unfolded

2016: When Meghan and Harry first started dating there was a “wave of abuse”

Meghan and Harry claim their hardships began once their relationship went public. Harry confirmed his relationship with Meghan in a formal statement on 8 November 2016.

At the time, he pleaded with the press and public to stop the “wave of abuse and harassment” that had been directed at his girlfriend.

The statement further highlighted Harry’s distaste for the media’s interest in his public life.

Harry’s press secretary accused the media of introducing “racial overtones” into comment pieces on his relationship with Markle and claimed that she had been subjected to a “abuse and harassment”.

“Prince Harry is worried about Ms Markle’s safety and is deeply disappointed that he has not been able to protect her,” it added.

According to Harry, he had been involved in “legal battles” to stop the media from publishing defamatory stories about Meghan and their relationship.

During an interview with Oprah Winfrey, in her five-episode docuseries The Me You Can’t See, released in 2021, Harry spoke candidly about his mental health as well as how Meghan has been treated in the media.

Prince Harry in ‘The Me You Can’t See’

(Apple TV)

Harry said within a few days of “our relationship being made public was when they said, ‘Harry’s girl almost straight outta Compton’. And that her exotic DNA will be thickening the royal blood,” he told Winfrey.

“We would get followed, photographed, chased, harassed.”

According to Harry, the constant paparazzi presence and the “clicking of cameras and flashes of cameras” still makes his blood boil, as it brought him back to his childhood and his mother’s experience being hounded by the media.

Reflecting on the constant coverage of their relationship, Harry said he felt “helpless”, especially when requests for his family to get involved were ignored.

“I thought my family would help, but every single ask, request, warning, whatever it is, just got met with total silence or total neglect,” he told Winfrey, adding that he and Meghan had done everything to try to make it work as members of the royal family but that she was starting to struggle.

2017: Meghan says their engagement announcement felt like an “orchestrated reality show”

The pair got engaged in 2017

(PA)

On November 27 2017, Prince Harry and Meghan announced their engagement to the world.

In an interview with the press, the couple sat down together on the sofa, side by side, ready to tell the world about their love. It is an interview that Meghan later said felt like an “orchestrated reality show.”

Before the realities of how Meghan and Harry felt were exposed, the pair looked happy, but according to Harry years later, “there were some real obvious signs … that this was going to be really hard”.

“It was rehearsed,” Meghan revealed in their Netflix docuseries Meghan and Harry.

“We did the thing out with the press, then we went right inside, took the coat off and did the interview. So it’s all in that same moment.”

Asked if she meant that they were told how the interview would play out, she explained: “Yeah, but also like, ‘Then there’ll be a moment where they’ll want to see the ring, so show the ring’… We weren’t allowed to tell our story because they didn’t want [it].”

“We’ve never been allowed to tell our story,” Harry echoed, laughing.

The couple also spoke about Meghan’s first walkabout post-engagement and how well received she was by the public. But things slowly started taking a turn for the worse.

2020: Exposing the truth behind the royal family

Meghan and Harry’s wedding in 2018

(Getty Images)

Harry and Meghan tied the knot in 2018, but two years later they decided to step down from their royal duties.

The Duke said he chose to step down because he no longer wanted to feel “trapped and controlled through fear both by the media and by the system itself”.

And in 2020, the couple decided to make their move to the United States.

Stepping away from royal duties, the couple began their journey to set things straight and expose the difficulties they faced within the institution.

A year after their departure, with Oprah Winfrey the pair spoke about why they left the UK, the racism they suffered and how they were silenced.

The Duke and Duchess of Sussex during their interview with Oprah Winfrey (Joe Pugliese/Harpo Productions/PA)

(PA Media)

It was then that Meghan revealed palace conversations around “how dark” Archie’s skin was going to be.

Meghan revealed that in the months leading up to the birth of their son, there were conversations within the palace not only about whether Archie would be given a royal title and security but also about “how dark” his “skin might be when he is born.”

She said the concerns were relayed to her through Harry but declined to share who made the comments, adding: “I think that would be very damaging to them.”

Oprah later revealed that Harry had told her that the royal who made the comments was not the Queen or then, Prince Philip.

Meghan also opened up about her mental health struggles and described her brief time with as a royal as “almost unsurvivable”.

She said she struggled with suicidal thoughts while the palace staff ignored her pleas for help.

“I was ashamed to say it at the time… I just didn’t want to be alive any more. And that was a very real and clear and frightening and constant thought.”

In December 2022, Harry and Meghan release their docuseries Harry & Meghan. The highly anticipated six-part series explores the couple’s courtship to the challenges and controversies that led them to feeling forced to step back from their full-time roles in the institution.

“I wasn’t being thrown to the wolves. I was being fed to the wolves,” Meghan said in one of the episodes.

Adding onto the royal rumble, a month later in January 2023, Harry released his tell-all memoir Spare.

The book sheds light on Harry’s journey with mental health and the pressures he faced while being a part of the royal family.

2020-2023: ‘Finding Freedom’ and ‘Endgame’

A few months after Meghan and Harry’s departure Scobie’s and Carolyn Durand’s book Finding Freedom was released in August 2020. The book was an unauthorised biography of Meghan and Harry.

In an extract from the book, it claimed that the couple considered publicly sharing the name of the person who made racist comments about their son’s skin colour.

The book said an anonymous source told Scobie and Durand “that the couple had considered sharing this detail” but they decided not to.

(EPA)

Adding more fuel to the fire, Scobie’s latest sequel Endgame, the Dutch-version seems to have exposed members of the royal family, linking them to the race row.

However, the Dutch-version of Endgame which exposed the names, has now been dramatically pulled from the shelves in The Netherlands on Tuesday evening, with the publisher ackowledging an “error” had occurred.

King Charles and the Princess of Wales were named as the royals accused of raising questions about the skin colour of Prince Harry and Meghan’s son before he was born.

Speaking to BBC Two’s Newsnight, Scobie said he did not know how the Dutch translation of Endgame came to include the names of the two royals and said a “full investigation” was underway to discover how the names were included. He also said in the English version of the book “didn’t have names in it.”

Endgame further exposes the Duke’s relationship with his brother as well as how he found out about the death of the Late Queen, King Charles, Camilla and The Prince and Princess of Wales.

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