In his 60 Minutes interview with Anderson Cooper, Prince Harry addressed why he and Meghan Markle decided to talk publicly, on the record, about all they experienced with the royal family. They tried to discuss their issues with the family privately, Harry said, but the royals kept briefing British media against them. Speaking to the press and public openly—as we’ve seen in their March 2021 Oprah interview, 2022 Netflix docuseries, and now, Harry’s memoir Spare, coming out Tuesday—became the only way to speak their truth.
Harry said that despite the royals’ “never complain, never explain” motto, they were actually doing quite a bit of explaining, using unnamed sources to speak to tabloids on their behalf. He revealed on 60 Minutes that the royals read the tabloids daily: “You know, my family read the tabloids, you know? It’s laid out—at breakfast when everyone comes together,” Harry said.
Those tabloids also shaped William’s frosty opinion of Meghan, which led him and Harry to have the 2019 argument during which William allegedly physically assaulted Harry. “It was at a time where he was being told certain things by people within his office,” Harry recalled. “And at the same time, he was consuming a lot of the tabloid press, a lot of the stories. And he had a few issues, which were based not on reality. And I was defending my wife.”
Cooper asked Harry about the couple’s motive for telling all about the royals: “One of the criticisms that you’ve received is that okay, fine, you wanna move to California, you wanna step back from the institutional role. Why be so public? Why reveal conversations you’ve had with your father or—with your brother? You say you tried to do this privately.”
Harry responded, “And every single time I’ve tried to do it privately there have been briefings and leakings and planting of stories against me and my wife. You know, the family motto is never complain, never explain. But it’s just a motto. And it doesn’t really hold—”
“There’s a lotta complaining and a lot of explaining,” Cooper said.
“Endless—” Harry affirmed.
“Private—being done in—through leaks,” Cooper continued.
“Through leaks,” Harry verified. He told Cooper he never would brief against his family.
“So now, trying to speak a language that perhaps they understand, I will sit here and speak truth to you with the words that come out of my mouth, rather than using someone else, an unnamed source, to feed in lies or a narrative to a tabloid media that literally radicalizes its readers to then potentially cause harm to my family, my wife, my kids,” Harry said.
Cooper brought up a recent editorial that ran in British tabloid The Sun that was particularly hateful to Meghan, where the author, a TV host, wrote that he fantasized about Meghan “[being] made to walk naked through the streets of every town in Britain while the crowds chant, ‘Shame,’ and throw lumps of excrement at her,” Cooper said. He then asked Harry if the Palace had responded at all to the piece.
“No,” Harry said. “And there comes a point when silence is betrayal.”
Cooper asked if the rupture between Meghan, Harry, and the royal family could be healed.
“Yes,” Harry said. “The ball is very much in their court, but, you know, Meghan and I have continued to say that we will openly apologize for anything that we did wrong, but every time we ask that question, no one’s telling us the specifics or anything. There needs to be a constructive conversation, one that can happen in private that doesn’t get leaked.”
Cooper responded, “I assume they would say, ‘Well, how can we trust you how do we know that you’re not gonna reveal whatever conversations we have in an interview somewhere?’”
Harry pointed out their briefing against Meghan kicked all this off. “This all started with them briefing, daily, against my wife with lies to the point of where my wife and I had to run away from our count—my country.”
Harry spoke previously in Harry & Meghan, the couple’s docuseries, about the moment he knew they could no longer stay in Britain on January 13, 2020, after the “Sandringham Summit.” He realized, like Meghan, that his family wasn’t protecting them. “It was my decision,” he said. “She never asked to leave. I was the one that had to see it for myself.”
“That day a story came out that said part of the reason Meghan and I were leaving was because William had bullied us out, and once I got in the car after the meeting [Sandringham Summit with William, King Charles III, and the Queen discussing Meghan and Harry’s stepping back announcement], I was told about a joint statement that had been put out in my name and my brother’s name squashing the story about him bullying us out of the family,” Harry recalled. “I couldn’t believe it. No one had asked me. No one had asked me permission to put my name to a statement like that. And I rang M, and I told her, and she burst into floods of tears, because within four hours they were happy to lie to protect my brother, and yet for three years, they were never willing to tell the truth to protect us.”
Meghan added, “Suddenly what clicked in my head was: It’s never gonna stop. Every rumor, every negative thing, every lie, everything that I knew wasn’t true and that the Palace knew wasn’t true and internally they knew wasn’t true that was just being allowed to fester.”
“So there was no other option at this point,” Harry said. “I said, ‘We need to get out of here.’”
Senior News and Strategy Editor
Alyssa Bailey is the senior news and strategy editor at ELLE.com, where she oversees coverage of celebrities and royals (particularly Meghan Markle and Kate Middleton). She previously held positions at InStyle and Cosmopolitan. When she’s not working, she loves running around Central Park, making people take #ootd pics of her, and exploring New York City.