Serving in the military “saved me,” Prince Harry told “60 Minutes” correspondent Anderson Cooper in a revealing interview that touched on his struggle to mourn the loss of his mother, his fight to defend his wife, his conflicts with his father and older brother and his experiments with using psychedelics for trauma therapy.
Harry, on the stump for his new memoir “Spare,” opened up to Cooper about his grief-induced delusion as a teenager, believing his mother, Princess Diana, who died in 1997 at age 36, was only in hiding and would eventually come back to him. He spoke openly of how he and his older brother, Prince William, have great disdain for the British press as being a tormentor of their mother during her short life.
“It was obvious to us as kids the British press’ part in our mother’s misery and I had a lot of anger inside of me that luckily, I never expressed to anybody. But I resorted to drinking heavily,” Harry said. “Because I wanted to numb the feeling or I wanted to distract myself from how… whatever I was thinking.”
Harry connected the dots between the inescapable pressure and scrutiny on his mother to that which greeted his wife, American actor Meghan Markle, after their marriage in 2018. Harry said his deeply emotional disclosures over the past two years have been part of an effort to defend Markle from the perception that she came between him and his family. The strain was there long before, given the nature of their lives.
“My brother and I love each other. I love him deeply,” Harry said. “There has been a lot of pain between the two of us, especially the last six years. None of anything that I’ve written, anything I’ve included, is ever intended to hurt my family. But it does give a full picture of the situation as we were growing up, and also squashes this idea that somehow my wife was the one that destroyed the relationship between these two brothers.”
Harry detailed a scuffle that he had with his brother over the family’s treatment of Meghan. When asked point blank by Cooper if he now speaks to his father and brother, Harry said no. He noting that he hadn’t been in touch with his father in “quite a while.”
Harry flatly accused his close family members of scheming against Meghan to plant unflattering items about her in the “British press.” He repeatedly cited Fleet Street et al as a menacing force in his life.
The rift with the close family that led Harry and Meghan to step back from royal duties in early 2020 “all started with them briefing daily against my wife with lies to the point to which my wife and I had to run away from my country,” Harry said.
Prince Harry also took aim at his stepmother, Camilla Parker Bowles, whose long-running affair with his father was a source of pain for his mother throughout her marriage to Charles.
Harry described his stepmother, now known as the Queen Consort following Charles’ ascent to the throne, as “dangerous” because she needed to rehabilitate her tarnished public image before she could marry Charles.
“That made her dangerous because of the connections that she was forging within the British press,” Harry said. “There was open willingness on both sides to trade information. And with a family built on hierarchy, and with her, on the way to being Queen Consort, there was gonna be people or bodies left in the street because of that.”
Harry told Cooper that he and his brother openly asked their father not to marry Bowles in 2005.
Harry described the royal family as highly influenced by the narratives about them that play out in the press.
“My family read the tabloids, you know? It’s laid out– at breakfast when everyone comes together. So, whether you walk around saying you believe it or not, it’s still leaving an imprint in your mind. So if you have that judgment based on a stereotype right at the beginning, it’s very, very hard to get over that. And a large part of it for the family, but also the British press and numerous other people is, like, ‘He’s changed. She must be a witch. He’s changed.’ As opposed to yeah, I did change, and I’m really glad I changed. Because rather than getting drunk, falling out of clubs, taking drugs, I had now found the love of my life, and I now had the opportunity to start a family with her.”
Among other highlights of the sit-down:
On the importance of his military service: “I was able to focus on a purpose larger than myself, to be wearing the same uniform as everybody else, to feel normal for the first time in my life. And accomplish some of the biggest challenges that I ever had. You know, I was training to become an Apache helicopter pilot. You don’t get a pass for being a prince.”
On holding out hope his mother wasn’t dead: “For a long time, I just refused to accept that she was gone. Part of it was, she would never do this to us, but also part of, maybe this is all part of a plan.” He confessed to Cooper that he waited at times for a phone call that would never come. “For a time (he believed) that she would call us and that we would go and join her.”
On trying psychedelic drugs in a controlled setting: “I would never recommend people to do this recreationally. But doing it with the right people if you are suffering from a huge amount of loss, grief or trauma, then these things have a way of working as a medicine….For me, they cleared the windscreen, the windshield the misery of loss. They cleared away this idea that I had in my head that I needed to cry to prove to my mother that I missed her. When in fact, all she wanted was for me to be happy.”