It was a big year for the Duke and Duchess of Sussex.
In 2022, Prince Harry and Meghan Markle released their highly-anticipated Netflix docuseries, Harry & Meghan, which gave the couple the chance to tell their story of the last four years in the spotlight, on their terms. Not to mention Meghan was also able to share details about her personal life with the release of her record-breaking Spotify podcast, Archetypes.
Throughout the past year, the couple has made a number of shocking revelations about their time as senior members of the royal family. Many of these claims made headlines, and even caught the attention of Buckingham Palace on certain occasions – forcing the Palace to issue statements regarding whether or not Harry and Meghan’s claims were unfounded.
From baby Archie’s nursery fire in South Africa to Meghan’s first meeting with Princess Kate, these are some of Harry and Meghan’s most shocking revelations of 2022.
The nursery fire
In the premiere episode of Meghan’s podcast Archetypes, which launched this summer on Spotify, the mother of two recalled how there was a fire in her son Archie’s nursery during a tour of South Africa in 2019.
During her conversation with podcast guest Serena Williams, Meghan said she was informed of a fire in the infant’s room soon after she and Prince Harry had finished a royal engagement. “We’d just landed an hour, two hours before. We raced back, and our amazing nanny Lauren, who we’d had all the way from Canada to here, was in floods of tears,” Meghan told Williams.
She explained that their nanny was preparing to put Archie in bed for his nap when she decided to bring him with her to get a snack at the last minute.
“In that amount of time that she went downstairs, the heater in the nursery caught on fire,” she said. “There was no smoke detector, someone happened to smell smoke down the hallway, went in, fire [was] extinguished. He was supposed to be sleeping in there.”
“We came back, and of course, as a mother... everyone’s in tears, everyone’s shaken. And what did we have to do? Go out and give another official engagement.”
However, Meghan’s revelation led to backlash in South Africa, with #VoetsekMeghan, or “Go away Meghan” trending after the podcast’s release.
Despite the controversy, a source familiar with the event told The Citizen newspaper that the fire had taken place at the official residence in Cape Town.
“The heater burnt. The house didn’t burn, the rooms didn’t burn. I didn’t see the fire itself, but I saw the heater when it came out of the room. The plastic was severely melted,” the source alleged. “We were driving in convoy and all of a sudden, the convoy with Meghan broke away. We followed after... We weren’t sure what was going on.”
“When we got to the house, the house-keeper called me and showed me the heater that was burnt and told me what had happened and that the child was not in the room at the time the heater burnt, they smelt it, went up and saw the smoke,” they recalled. “When we stopped at the residence, I can tell you that she didn’t get out of the car like a lady normally gets out. She bolted into the house.”
The source told the newspaper that British security travelling with the couple allegedly recommended they not make the incident public.
“When we were outside, we discussed what we are going to do about this. It was a new heater that was just purchased and the consensus was ‘guys this is gonna look bad for us or for Cape Town, South Africa, or for whoever,’” they claimed. “The British Police guys actually told us ‘guys just leave it as is, don’t talk about this.’”
“We decided we are not going to expose this thing,” the source alleged. “That’s why we kept quiet about it back then because we knew we were going to get backlash.”
Meghan says she was treated like a ‘bimbo’ on Deal or No Deal
Before she became the Duchess of Sussex, Meghan got her start as a “briefcase girl” on the game show, Deal or No Deal.
The former actor appeared on the show 16 years ago, before being cast in the USA Network drama, Suits. She left NBC’s Deal or No Deal midway through the season in 2006.
“I ended up quitting the show. I was so much more than what was being objectified on the stage,” Meghan explained on her podcast. “I didn’t like feeling forced to be all looks. And little substance. And that’s how it felt for me at the time being reduced to this specific archetype the word bimbo.”
The 41-year-old explained how the women were forced to “line up” for beauty treatments, including having their bras padded and getting fake eyelashes. “We were even given spray-tan vouchers each week because there was a very cookie cutter idea of precisely what we should look like. It was solely about our beauty,” she said.
“I was surrounded by smart women on that stage with me, but that wasn’t the focus of why we were there and I would end up leaving with this pit in my stomach,” Meghan added. “Like I said, I was thankful for the job but not for how it made me feel, which was not smart.”
Although Meghan felt that she was “reduced to a bimbo” during her time on Deal or No Deal, former co-star Claudia Jordan went on to reject these claims, saying that the show “never treated them like bimbos” and that it instead helped provide “so many opportunities”.
“For clarity – yes getting a modelling gig on a game show isn’t necessarily about your intellect, but every show the executive producers picked five models with the most outgoing and fun personalities to place mics on, who they knew would engage with the contestants,” she wrote on social media.
“And Deal or No Deal never treated us like bimbos. We got so many opportunities because of that show,” Jordan said, before adding, “Lord knows I’ve been defending this woman in the media for years. And I still will, but I just didn’t want any misunderstanding about the climate and environment on the Deal or No Deal set.”
However, Deal or No Deal host Howie Mandel went on to defend Meghan’s comments, telling Us Weekly: “I’ve never really heard anybody complain and I don’t think Meghan is complaining. I think Meghan just said she wanted to do more. It wasn’t fulfilling for her.”
The royal family “were not contacted” about the Harry and Meghan docuseries
Following the release of the Sussexes Netflix docuseries on 8 December, a row broke out over whether the royal family was given the chance to reply to claims made by Prince Harry and Meghan in the series.
A senior palace source insisted Buckingham Palace, Kensington Palace and members of the family were not approached for comment on content in the series. However, a Netflix source insisted the communications offices for King Charles III and the Prince of Wales were contacted in advance and given the chance to respond to Harry and Meghan’s claims.
“Members of the royal family declined to comment on the content within this series,” read the on-screen text at the start of episode one.
Although Kensington Palace confirmed it did in fact receive an email “from a third-party production company” and attempted to verify its authenticity with Archewell Productions and Netflix, the palace claimed to have never received a response.
According to Variety, that third-party production company was Story Syndicate, the production company co-founded by Harry & Meghan director Liz Garbus. Story Syndicate co-produced the series alongside Archewell Productions.
The outlet reported that Prince William’s communications secretary, Lee Thompson, both received Story Syndicate’s email and had asked the company to share footage from the series with him, in a reply dated 30 November.
Story Syndicate told Thompson they could not share any footage in advance of dropping it on Netflix, and asked him once again to respond to the claims made in the series. However, Thompson reportedly did not respond further.
Palace staff leaked stories to the media about Prince Harry and Meghan Markle
In volume one of Harry and Meghan, the Duke of Sussex claimed that there was a “leaking but also planting of stories” about the duchess to the British press.
“There’s a hierarchy of the family,” Harry said in the documentary. “There’s leaking, but there’s also planting of stories.”
In a separate scene, Prince Harry suggested there was a difference in the way he and Meghan were treated by the press, compared to his brother Prince William. “They were happy to lie to protect my brother. They were never willing to tell the truth to protect us,” he said.
Meanwhile, Meghan claimed that she “wasn’t being thrown to the wolves, I was being fed to the wolves,” as Harry described their experience as “institutional gaslighting”.
In addition, Prince Harry claimed that he and his wife’s plan to relocate their family to South Africa in 2019 – before they eventually moved to the United States – was leaked to the press by someone from Queen Elizabeth II’s private office.
“My father’s office knew about it, my brother’s office knew about it and my grandmother’s office knew about it,” he said “It was very much an internal document. Then it was leaked to TheTimes newspaper.”
Throughout the docuseries, Harry and Meghan shared many details about the relationship between the press and the royal family, and suggested that palace staff briefed against the couple during their time as senior royals.
Royal reporter Omid Scobie defended the duke’s allegation that palace staff briefed against him and Meghan in an essay published in Yahoo, writing that “the damaging stories leaked by individuals within the House of Windsor were one of the main reasons the Sussexes felt a need to find a different path”.
Scobie alleged that it was “gaslighting” for a “royal source” – which he explained is “usually code for someone at the palace who doesn’t want to go on the record” – to insist that the Sussexes were unfounded in their claims that they had been briefed against during their time as senior royals.
Meeting the Prince William and Kate Middleton for the first time
Speaking in episode two of the six-part Netflix docuseries, Meghan said she was “surprised” about the formality of the royal family behind closed doors and recalled the first time she met the now Prince and Princess of Wales.
“When Will and Kate came over, and I met her for the first time, they came over for dinner, I remember I was in ripped jeans and I was barefoot,” she said.
“I was a hugger. I’ve always been a hugger, I didn’t realise that that is really jarring for a lot of Brits,” Meghan continued. “I guess I started to understand very quickly that the formality on the outside carried through on the inside.”
“[I thought there would be] a forward-facing way of being, and then you close the door and go, ‘You can relax now,’ but that formality carries over on both sides. And that was surprising to me.”
However, an unnamed friend of the Princess of Wales told People that Princess Kate is a “big hugger” and is “quite affectionate” with friends and family.
“Kate’s a big hugger,” the friend told the outlet. “She is warm and friendly and greets everyone with a big hug and kiss. It comes naturally to her to be like that.”
Lady Susan Hussey racism scandal
While the Duke and Duchess of Sussex did not directly comment on the latest racism scandal to hit Buckingham Palace, Meghan has previously been open about her experiences with racism during her time as a senior member of the royal family.
Earlier this month, Lady Susan Hussey – a former lady-in-waiting to the late Queen Elizabeth II – was forced to resign from her role as a royal aide at Buckingham Palace after Black charity boss Ngozi Fulani accused her of making racist remarks at a reception held by the Queen Consort.
The 83-year-old lady-in-waiting repeatedly asked Fulani where she “really came from” and touched Fulani’s hair without her consent. Speaking exclusively to The Independent, Fulani accused Buckingham Palace of “institutional racism” after Lady Susan engaged her in a “traumatic” encounter.
“This is bigger than one individual. It’s institutional racism,” Fulani said.
The racism row didn’t come as a surprise to some, considering Prince Harry and Meghan claimed a member of the royal family made a racist comment about their son Archie during their televised interview with Oprah Winfrey last year.
The duchess told Winfrey that the unnamed royal – who was not the late Queen nor the late Duke of Edinburgh – was worried about how dark their son’s skin tone might be before he was born.
Two days after the interview, Buckingham Palace released a statement on behalf of the Queen, saying that the issues raised by the couple, “particularly that of race”, were “concerning”.
“While some recollections may vary, they are taken very seriously and will be addressed by the family privately,” the statement added.
Meghan’s treatment by the British tabloids
The couple’s claims that Meghan was “fed to the wolves” by the British press was all but confirmed last week with Jeremy Clarkson’s highly-criticised column for The Sun, in which he said that he dreamt of the day Meghan would be made to parade naked through Britain while a crowd chanted “shame” and threw “excrement” at her.
Throughout the six-part docuseries Harry and Meghan, the royal couple often spoke about how they were treated by the press. At one point, the duchess revealed she was struggling with thoughts of suicide due to the unfair media attention.
Harry also claimed that his wife’s miscarriage was likely caused by the stress of their lawsuit against the publisher of The Mail on Sunday – Associated Newspapers Limited (ANL) – who reproduced parts of a letter Meghan sent to her estranged father.
“The fact that The Sun has not contacted The Duchess of Sussex to apologise shows their intent,” a spokesperson for Harry and Meghan said.
“This is nothing more than a PR stunt. While the public absolutely deserves the publication’s regrets for their dangerous comments, we wouldn’t be in this situation if The Sun did not continue to profit off of and exploit hate, violence and misogyny.”
“A true apology would be a shift in their coverage and ethical standards for all. Unfortunately, we’re not holding our breath.”