Royalty doesn't always equal happiness — just ask Prince Harry. Ever since he and Meghan Markle stepped down from their official positions, Harry has opened up more than ever before about what his childhood was really like. And in a rare vulnerable moment on his new TV show, Harry spoke more candidly than ever before. He revealed heartbreaking details about his mother's funeral and the years of turmoil that followed. Not even Meghan knew just how miserable Harry was.
This article was originally published on WHerMoments
"The thing I remember the most was the sound of the horse's hooves going along the Mall, the red brick road. By this point, both of us were in shock.
It was like I was outside of my body." For Prince Harry, opening up about such a traumatic moment in his and William's lives took courage — courage that, at one time, felt impossible.
Prince Harry spoke publicly about how he really felt the day of Princess Diana's funeral on his and Oprah Winfrey’s AppleTV+ show, The Me You Can't See.
It was a rarely vulnerable interview from the prince, and according to him, his own trauma actually began long before his mother's death.
Though Harry and Meghan are their prime suspects nowadays, nosey journalists were once obsessed with writing about Diana. Their intrusiveness created enormous stress for the princess, something Harry remembers from his childhood.
"… Unfortunately, when I think about my mum the first thing that comes to mind is always the same one, over and over again," Harry said.
"Strapped in the car, seatbelt across. My brother in the car as well, and my mother driving and being chased by three, four, five mopeds with paparazzi on,” Harry said.
“She was almost unable to drive because of the tears, there was no protection.” Diana was continually hounded.
Getting their close-ups of the terrified princess and her children was the paparazzi’s focus. “And that happened every single day until the day she died," Harry said.
Their greed and complete disregard of journalistic integrity caused the death of a beloved figure — and mother.
The tragedy of Diana’s death rippled through Harry’s psyche, knocking his emotional stability awry. Cameras became a trigger for him.
Seeing the news outlets following him with enormous DSLRs gave the prince horrific anxiety. Because of this, you can imagine how horrible the day of his mother's funeral was for him.
"I'm just walking along [at the funeral] and doing what was expected of me, showing the one-tenth of the emotion that everybody else was showing," Harry said.
This was the start of his distaste of royal events — even solemn events took on a circus-like feel with the paparazzi’s unrelenting coverage.
The trauma of losing his mother in a preventable accident gave Harry a pile of grief to sift through, but he didn’t know how to safely access these feelings.
"I don't want to think about her because if I think about her it's just gonna make me sad, what's the point in thinking about something sad?” Harry said.
“What's the point thinking about someone you've lost and you're never gonna get back again? So, I just decided not to talk about it," Harry said.
But if you’ve experienced losing someone you love, you’ll know that pushing away your feelings doesn’t make them vanish — on the contrary.
You can numb yourself to the depression, rage, anxiety, and other unpleasant feelings that arise, but doing so isn’t a permanent fix. These repressed feelings will eventually escape.
Harry discovered this for himself: by not processing the traumatic event of Diana’s death, Harry's emotional state started to deteriorate.
"People who are hurt, understandably hurt, from their upbringing, their environment, what's happened to them, what they've been exposed to, what they've seen...if you don't process it, then it ends up coming out and in all sorts of different ways and you can't control," Harry said.
As the prince got older, his own emotions spiraled out of control.
Even when given the opportunity to be open, Harry wouldn’t take it. "If people said, 'how are you?' I'd be like 'fine.' Never happy.
Never sad, just fine. Fine was the easy answer. But I was all over the place mentally," Harry said. Tasks that had once been simple suddenly became insurmountable for the young prince.
"Every time I had to put a suit and tie on and having to do the role, you know, and go right, game face, look in the mirror, let's go — before I even left the house I was pouring with sweat, my heart rate... I was in fight or flight mode.
Panic attacks, severe anxiety," Harry recalled.
These feelings of terror were long-lasting. “So [age] 28 to probably 32 was a nightmare time in my life, freaking out.
I would just start sweating [in front of cameras],” Harry said. "I would feel as though my body temperature was two or three degrees warmer than everybody else in the room."
Still, Harry did have moments of joy. “The happiest times in my life was the 10 years in the army," Harry said.
While he served in Afghanistan, he was treated like the other recruits. There were no hidden photographers, and no cameras flashing in his face. For the first time, he felt like an ordinary guy.
"There was no special treatment because of who I was,” Harry said. “That was where I felt my most normal."
This didn’t last. The older he got, the more responsibilities he had to take on as a senior member of the royal family. And when he eventually left the service, he was thrust back into the spotlight.
There was only one way for him to feel in control. "I was willing to drink, I was willing to take drugs,” Harry said.
"I was willing to try and do the things that made me feel less like I was feeling." Numbing himself was a temporary fix to a problem that, Harry realized, wasn't going away.
"I slowly became aware that, okay, I wasn't drinking Monday to Friday, but I would probably drink a week's worth in one day on a Friday or a Saturday night,” Harry said. “And I would find myself drinking, not because I was enjoying it but because I was trying to mask something."
He was masking something that needed to be addressed, once and for all.
In order to address the emotional pain haunting his life, Harry knew he needed professional help. "I saw doctors, I saw therapists, I saw alternative therapists.
I saw all sorts of people,” he explained. Although finally confiding in others helped alleviate some of the pain, it was someone else who helped Harry heal for good.
His real motivation for getting help was "meeting and being with Meghan," Harry explained. "I knew that if I didn't do therapy and fix myself, that I was going to lose this woman who I could see spending the rest of my life with."
But even marrying Meghan couldn't prevent Harry's greatest fear from happening.
“Being born into it, you inherit the risk,” Harry said. This was never more obvious than when he married Meghan.
”Look what it did to my mum,” he said of the aforementioned “risk,” which he attributed to the voracious British tabloid media. “I have a wife and a family...I know that it’s going to happen again.”
With this terrifying thought in mind, pushing down his past became nearly impossible. “I didn’t acknowledge...what happened to me when I was 12 years old, losing my mom and all the other pieces that happened, the traumatic experiences that happened to me since then,” he admitted.
But his struggles, he revealed, weren’t only attributed to the press.
Part of the problem was the institution itself. “I’ve seen behind the curtain.
I’ve seen the business model. I know how this operation runs and how it works,” Harry said. “I didn’t want to be part of this.” Of course, most of us know what happened next.
When Harry and Meghan announced that they were giving up their royal duties and moving to California, many people saw it as a betrayal. What they didn’t know, however, was how the move didn’t automatically improve Harry’s mental health, as he'd perhaps hoped.
He opened up about his and Meghan's decision to move in an unusual format.
Not long after his and Meghan's explosive interview with Oprah on CBS, Harry did something he probably wouldn’t have been able to do as a working member of the royal family: he went on Dax Shepard’s podcast Armchair Expert, where he talked candidly about his mental health and experience growing up royal.
His biggest problem? “Helplessness,” he revealed.
“That’s my biggest Achilles' heel.” He said he’d felt helpless as a child, when he and his mother were being chased by paparazzi, and again as a soldier. “The third [time],” he admitted, “was with my wife.”
Meghan herself has opened up about her feelings of helplessness and isolation while she was a working member of the royal family, and Harry concurred while talking to Dax. “Like, I got the privilege.
I’ve got the platform. I’ve got the influence. And even I can’t fix this.”
It took breaking off from everything he knew to finally find some semblance of relief — and even then, Harry admitted, peace was impossible to find. He credited Meghan with encouraging him to speak to a therapist.
And as soon as he did, “the bubble burst,” he described.
What kind of “bubble” burst, exactly? As Harry explained, he realized that he was the only person who could change his own life.
He had to acknowledge his childhood trauma once and for all, because “If I don’t [acknowledge them], how...am I going to be a decent father to my son and daughter?”
Harry delved into the most controversial portion of the interview when he opened up about his family. “There’s a lot of genetic pain and suffering that gets passed on,” he explained.
After all, his grandmother, Queen Elizabeth II, only inherited the crown because her uncle abdicated. It was an expected turn of events, one that put Charles, William, and Harry directly in line for the throne.
And though Queen Elizabeth II became a universally beloved monarch, that doesn’t mean the unexpected twist of fate didn’t leave the Windsors reelings for generations to come.
It was once hoped that Charles would bring some modernity to the monarchy, expectations that Prince Harry watched his father shoulder for years.
Dax and Harry discussed how this kind of generational pain was inherited alongside the privilege, money, and titles.
“When it comes to parenting...I’ve experienced some form of pain or suffering, because of the pain and suffering that perhaps my father or my parents had suffered,” he explained.
Harry admitted that Charles was simply “treating me the way that he was treated.”
After stepping down as a working member of the royal family, Harry realized that the generational parenting methods of the royal family played a much bigger role in his own mental health struggles than he originally thought.
“How can I change that for my own kids?” He’d asked himself. “Well, here I am.
I’ve now moved my whole family to the US. Sometimes you’ve got to make decisions and put your family first and put your mental health first.” All this said, Harry made two things very, very clear.
First, Harry asserted that if anyone can take away something out of his conversations about mental health, he hopes that it’s the realization that talking about it makes you stronger, not weaker. “Once you’ve suffered, you don’t want anybody else to suffer,” he said of his own mental health journey.
His second point was directed at his own family.
“There’s no blame,” he said of the "generational pain" he'd described. “I don’t think we should be pointing the finger or blaming anybody.”
Despite this, many people have criticized Harry’s comments about his father and grandparents, claiming that he’s being ungrateful for the sacrifices his family made for the sake of their royal duties.