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Meghan Markle says the royal family was “concerned” about her future child’s skin color

In an interview with Oprah, the former Duchess of Sussex reveals a troubling encounter with the British royal family.

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle speak to Oprah in a CBS interview
Oprah Winfrey interviews Prince Harry and Meghan Markle on March 7.
Harpo Productions/Joe Pugliese via Getty Images
Constance Grady is a senior correspondent on the Culture team for Vox, where since 2016 she has covered books, publishing, gender, celebrity analysis, and theater.

On Sunday night on CBS, Harry and Meghan, the former Duke and Duchess of Sussex, sat down with Oprah Winfrey for what was advertised as a no-holds-barred conversation about their experience with the British royal family. And they made one revelation that appeared to genuinely shock Oprah: Before the 2019 birth of their son Archie, members of the royal family, they said, had approached them with concerns about his skin color.

There were “concerns and conversations about how dark his skin might be when he’s born” from members of the royal family, Meghan said to a flabbergasted Oprah early on in the two-hour interview.

Meghan said she was not present at the conversations, but that she heard of them second-hand through Harry.

“About how dark your baby is going to be?” asked Oprah.

“Potentially,” said Meghan, “and what that would mean or look like.”

Meghan has a Black mother and white father, and has been subject to a storm of racist harassment from the British tabloid press ever since she became associated with the royal family. Similar racist harassment came publicly from the British royal family on at least one occasion as well: Infamously, Princess Michael of Kent wore a racist blackamoor brooch to be introduced to Meghan in 2017.

On Sunday night, Meghan declined to name the member or members of the family who speculated about what her then-unborn child might look like. “I think that would be very damaging to them,” she said.

When Harry joined the interview, he also refused to name names. “That conversation I’m never going to share,” he said. “It was awkward. I was a bit shocked.” Harry added that he had this conversation early on in his relationship with Meghan. “That was right at the beginning,” he said. “What will the kids look like?”

In an interview with CBS on Monday morning, Oprah said Harry had one more thing to add about the people who asked him about his future children’s skin color. “He wanted to make sure I knew and if I had the opportunity to share it that it was not his grandmother, nor his grandfather that were a part of those conversations,” Oprah said.

On Sunday night, the couple also revealed that the palace expressed reluctance to grant their son Archie — great-grandson of the current Queen of England and grandson of the future King — a courtesy title, or to provide him with the security that normally accompanies that title, in violation of traditional royal protocol.

“Do you think it’s because of his race?” Oprah asked.

Meghan emphasized that she was not particularly concerned about Archie’s access or lack thereof to a title, but the lack of security gave her pause. She added, “the idea of the first member of color of this family not being titled in the same way” did not sit well with her.

Meghan and Harry married in 2018 in a lavish and history-making royal ceremony. In January 2020, they declared their intention to step back from their day-to-day duties as senior members of the royal family. Shortly thereafter, they announced they would be relinquishing their “royal highness” titles. Sunday night’s conversation was the couple’s first lengthy interview since departing the royal family.

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