Prince Harry’s life has changed dramatically since he met the woman who would become his wife back in 2016.
After the former Meghan Markle entered his world, the British royal gained a title, battled the tabloid press, stepped away from royal duties, moved to America, co-launched a foundation, signed lucrative deals, welcomed his first child, Archie, to the world and now he’s getting ready to welcome one more.
Of course, royal watchers know all of that. But in a recent interview for Dax Shepard’s “Armchair Expert” podcast, the Duke of Sussex shared details fans had no idea about — like the unexpected rendezvous he and his then wife-to-be had when she came to the U.K.
The scene Harry described sounded like the plot of a cute rom-com, complete with an undercover prince roaming the aisles of a grocery store.
"The first time Meghan and I met up for her to come and stay with me, we met up in a supermarket in London, pretending we didn't know each other — so texting each other from the other side of the aisles,” he recalled. “I was there texting her, saying, ‘Is this the right one?’ and she goes, ‘No, you want parchment paper.’ And I’m like, ‘OK, where's the parchment paper?’”
Despite his efforts to “stay incognito” with a baseball hat and a downward gaze, it didn’t stop him from getting spotted by people eager to say hello. Still he tried to maintain the ruse and keep his eyes down.
“It's amazing how much chewing gum you see and how many people’s shoes you see,” he joked. “It's a mess.”
But the couple have come a long way since then. Life in their new home in California, far from the eyes of British tabloids, doesn’t require such sneaky measures.
“Living here now, I can actually lift my head and actually I feel different,” he noted. “My shoulders have dropped, so have hers. You can walk around feeling a little bit more free. I get to take Archie on the back of my bicycle. ... I never had the chance to do that."
Harry’s life with Meghan has been a learning and growing experience for both of them from the start, one that doesn’t look anything like the royal marriages they both grew up watching in Disney movies or reading about in storybooks.
“I do think that kind of old way of thinking, of the prince/the princess, all these little girls reading these wonderful fairy tales going, ‘All I want to be is a princess!’ And I’m thinking ... uhhh.”
Especially now that he’s seen how it really is.
“My wife had the most amazing sort of explanation to that, which is ... ‘You don’t need to be a princess. You can create the life that will be better than any princess.’ It's something along those lines, and that’s coming from her own lived experience. We got together, and she was like, ‘Wow, this is very different to what my friends at the beginning said (it would be).'”
As Meghan told Oprah Winfrey when she and the prince sat down for their tell-all interview in March, she didn’t expect life as a royal bride to be easy, but she did expect it to be fair.
“I think anybody does,” Harry continued. “You expect a certain element of interest in your life. But at the same time, you still expect to be able to have a private life.”
But given his lineage and the public appetite for royal headlines, that was never an option for them in Britain.
“I think when you marry into it, especially when it’s one of Princess Diana’s sons, there is a certain amount of ‘OK, what am I actually getting myself in for?’” he said. “But very few people actually know, apart from the Brits, how toxic that element of the U.K. press is.”
Getting away from all of that began with understanding his own distressing response to it — and that came from therapy, which he said Meghan inspired him to go to in the first place.
“It was a conversation that I had with my now-wife,” he said. “She saw it; she saw it straightaway. (She) could tell that I was hurting, and some of the stuff that was out of my control was making me really angry. It would make my blood boil.”
Ultimately what therapy taught him went far beyond learning to process that anger and pain. He also learned about himself and what the Duchess of Sussex and other people of color have long known about: Even the best-intentioned people live with an unconscious bias that must be addressed.
It came as a surprise to Harry, who believed his late mother’s “massive, immense” efforts to show him the world at such a young age had left him immune to such a thing.
“I thought I knew, having been able to travel that much and meet so many and such a diverse group of people, I thought I understood life,” he said. “Especially, bearing in mind most of the countries I was going to and most of the communities I was going to were people of color. But then I was really shocked once I started doing therapy, and that bubble was burst.”
And now he regards it as a “constant work in progress.”
“Unconscious bias, the way that I understand it, again it’s not something that’s wrong with you and you don’t have to be defensive about it,” he said. “That’s the thing. No one’s blaming you. But the moment that you acknowledge that you do have unconscious bias, what are you going to do about it? Because if you choose to do nothing, then you’re continuing to fuel the problem, which means you’re then heading towards racism.”
Having witnessed racism up close, through the eyes of his wife and child, he’s committed to doing something — and to encourage others to, as well.
“Unconscious bias is actually something that’s inherent, unfortunately, in every single one of us,” he said, adding, “But it is possible to educate yourself to be more aware of the problems and therefore be part of the solution."