They announced they were stepping back from the Royal family last year, and moved across the Atlantic in a bid to do things their way.
But as of late, things don’t seem to be going well for Prince Harry and Meghan Markle.
Last week, former GMB presenter Piers Morgan was cleared by Ofcom after Meghan complained over his comments about not believing her claims during the infamous interview with Oprah Winfrey. During the interview, she accused an unnamed royal of being racist and said her cries for mental health help went unanswered.
Meghan – who hinted to Oprah that she had been “silenced” by the royals and also defended her right to speak freely against her in-laws – received a huge backlash and was branded a hypocrite, with Piers gloating, “A resounding victory for free speech and a resounding defeat for Princess Pinocchios.”
Harry faced criticism last week too. Speaking to the crowd at the GQ awards via videolink, he called out the media and social media users for spreading “misinformation” about Covid vaccines. Meanwhile, his brother Prince William earned praise by stepping in to help an Afghan officer he knew from Sandhurst get himself and his family to safety. Critics were quick to point out that Harry – who served in the military for 10 years and spent time in Afghanistan – had simply issued a joint statement with his wife to say they were “speechless” over the crisis.
One commenter wrote, “William actually helping a cadet he met at Sandhurst get out of Afghanistan. Harry in black tie lecturing Brits about vaccination sharing and still whinging about the press.”
Last year, Harry and Meghan’s biography Finding Freedom detailed how the pair had felt liberated after moving to the States and leaving royalty behind them, while new chapters released last month told how they considered naming the “royal racist”.
But as their popularity seems to dwindle – and their ambitions to “do good” have seemingly backfired – royal biographer Duncan Larcombe says recent events show the couple are now more constrained than ever in their new life.
Duncan says, “If freedom is being able to say what you want, when you want, to whoever you choose to speak to, then Harry has found a degree of freedom. But if freedom is having good will behind you to live in peace, being able to live life as you want it or being at peace with the people you’ve rowed with, then freedom has not been achieved.
“It’s backfired. Harry and Meghan seem to have totally isolated themselves – they’re more trapped than ever in this new life they’ve created.”
Now Closer looks at how freedom is still out of the Sussexes’ grasp…
‘There’s huge pressure on them to deliver’
As royals, the couple had the luxury of financial security but with stringent work schedules.
Stepping away has allowed them to pick and choose work projects – and as a result, Harry and Meghan have signed multi-million pound deals with Netflix, Spotify and Apple TV.
They’ve also made money from speaking out against the royals, with Harry’s deal with Penguin Random House to write a tell-all memoir, due to be released next year and anticipated to make more bombshell claims against his family, thought to earn them £29m.
But Duncan says, “With these deals, there’s tremendous pressure on Harry and Meghan to deliver and make a success of their life in America.
“They’ve caused such an uproar – for both the royal family and in the media – that they don’t really have the option of failing. It would be the ultimate humiliation. If Netflix aren’t happy and the production doesn’t get the audiences that they’re expecting, they won’t give them another contract.
“They’ve entered a commercial world and it’s cut-throat.”
‘They have isolated themselves’
Meghan’s fractured relationship with her family is well known, with her father Thomas Markle Sr claiming the pair haven’t spoken since before her wedding to Harry in 2018.
And following the Oprah interview, Harry is reportedly barely on speaking terms with his brother or father Prince Charles. Duncan says, “Harry’s spectacular fall-out with his family has been heartbreaking to watch. He clearly has a lot of anger and bitterness that has built up over the years from his time in the royal family.
“He’s going through therapy, but the best way to heal is to make amends with loved ones.
“All he seems to have done is to damage his relationship with his family, and the book he has coming out next year certainly risks him being cut off for good, so I don’t think he’ll be able to feel free and at peace if that happens.”
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‘Their popularity has nosedived’
In 2017, Harry and Meghan were both in the UK’s top six most popular members of the royal family. But a poll in 2021 revealed that they were in 13th and 14th place, only above Prince Andrew.
The couple have faced a huge backlash for criticising the royals, while Harry has been called out for his hypocrisy – recently, he took a private jet 750 miles to a charity polo match, after lecturing people to make a stand against climate change. Meanwhile, Meghan’s children’s book The Bench flopped in the UK, after failing to make the top 50 bestsellers’ list in its first week.
Duncan says, “I’ve reported on Harry since he was a teenager and he was the most popular member of the royal family. And going from that to where he is now must be really hard for him and probably adds to his anger.
“Meghan too was so welcomed in the beginning, but now the UK has lost trust in her. Their popularity has totally nosedived.
“It’s worrying to think what Harry has left if his American life fails for him. I don’t think he’ll be welcomed back as a working royal, but he would as a brother, son and grandson.
“If Harry’s not on the balcony at Buckingham Palace, waving to the crowds, on the day his father or his brother becomes King, then I think the public will be done with him.”