Prince Harry’s split from the royal family was years in the making. In a Thursday episode of actor Dax Shepard’s “Armchair Expert” podcast, the Duke of Sussex opened up about the privileges and the drawbacks of royalty — and why he had to step away from it.
Over the course of the 90-minute conversation, Harry delved deeper into the claims he and his wife Meghan Markle made in their bombshell interview with Oprah in March. Namely, that his prince privilege did not shield him from mental health struggles, but rather amplified them.
Monica Padman, Shepard’s co-host, inquired whether the Duke ever felt as if he lived in a “cage” and had to conceal any personal struggles in favor of putting on a happy face for the Commonwealth.
“It’s the job, right? Grin and bear it, get on with it,” Harry replied. “When I was in my early 20s, I had a case of, ‘I don’t want this job. I don’t want to be here, I don’t want to be doing this. Look what it did to my mom. How am I going to settle down and have a wife and a family when I know that it’s going to happen again?'”
Harry explained that the “stiff upper lip” approach to trauma took a major toll on him.
“The three major times that I felt helpless — one, as a kid in the back of a car while my mom was being chased by paparazzi, two was in Afghanistan in an Apache helicopter and the third one was with my wife,” he said. “Those are the moments in my life where, yeah, feeling helpless hurts. It really hurts. And that’s when you think to yourself, ‘Sh—, I have the privilege, I have the platform, I have the influence and even I can’t fix this. I can’t change this.’ And when you start getting in your head about it, that’s when it starts taking a toll.”
Prince Harry was 12 years old when his mother, Princess Diana, was killed in a car accident following a high-speed chase with paparazzi. Harry explained that the crown and the press still engage in a symbiotic relationship, often at the expense of the people behind the fancy titles.
“I’ve seen behind the curtain,” he said. “I’ve seen the business model and seen how this whole thing works and I don’t want to be part of this.”
The intense media surveillance reminded Shepard of “The Truman Show,” a 1998 film in which the life of Jim Carrey’s character is monitored by hidden cameras at all times and broadcast internationally.
“It’s a mix between ‘The Truman Show’ and being in a zoo,” Harry agreed. “I think the biggest issue for me was that being born into it, you inherit the risk that comes with it… without choice.”
Harry sought to regain a sense of agency for the sake of his wife, his children and himself, leading to his high-profile exit from the monarchy last year. He explained that starting therapy was the turning point that led to that decision.
“Once I started doing therapy, it was like the bubble was burst,” he said. “I plucked my head out of the sand and gave it a good shake off and I was like, you’re in this position of privilege, stop complaining and stop thinking you want something different. Make this different, because you can’t get out. How are you going to do these things differently, how are you going to make your mum proud and use this platform to really affect change?”