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'History repeating itself': The striking similarities between Meghan and Diana

Rebecca Taylor
·Royal Correspondent
·10-min read

Watch: Prince Harry says mother Princess Diana influenced royal exit

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle's interview with Oprah Winfrey has sparked a significant fallout, plunging the royal family into a crisis.

At the heart of the fallout has been Meghan's claims that senior figures in 'The Firm' have failed to protect her – either when she was experiencing suicidal thoughts or when false stories about her were printed in the media.

Her criticisms are reminiscent of accusations levelled by Princess Diana, and they are ones that Harry brought up in the interview. explaining that becoming aware of them was part of why he wanted to step back from royal life.

Harry spoke about his fear of "history repeating itself", stating: "What I was seeing was history repeating itself, but definitely far more dangerous – because then you add race in, and you add social media in."

For the second son of Diana, there are always going to be heightened levels of interest around the similarities between his mother and bride.

Yahoo UK looks at what the Duchess of Sussex and the Princess of Wales have in common.

They felt isolated

Meghan said that she entered the Royal Family naively but that people did not help her with any training or advice on her new life.

It's a sentiment her late mother-in-law would have sympathised with.

Meghan said she didn't research the Royal Family much beforehand, and that she had not grown up following them.

She said: "I didn’t fully understand what the job was, what does it mean to be a working royal, what do you do?

“I didn’t romanticise any element of it, but I think as Americans especially – what you know about the royals is what you read in fairytales.

“It’s easy to have an image of it that’s so far from reality and that’s what was really tricky over those past few years, when the perception and reality are different things and you’re being judged on the perception but you are living the reality of it, there’s a complete misalignment and there’s no way to explain that to people.”

Meghan Markle, the US fiancee of Britain's Prince Harry, attends an Anzac Day dawn service at Hyde Park Corner in London on April 25, 2018. - Anzac Day commemorates Australian and New Zealand casualties and veterans of conflicts and marks the anniversary of the landings in the Dardanelles on April 25, 1915 that would signal the start of the Gallipoli Campaign during the First World War. (Photo by Tolga AKMEN / various sources / AFP)        (Photo credit should read TOLGA AKMEN/AFP via Getty Images)
Meghan said she felt isolated. (AFP)

She also recalled learning how to curtsy just moment before she first met the Queen.

Asked if she felt she had been left alone, Diana said in 1995: "Yes I do, on reflection. But then here was a situation which hadn't ever happened before in history, in the sense that the media were everywhere, and here was a fairy story that everybody wanted to work.

"And so it was, it was isolating, but it was also a situation where you couldn't indulge in feeling sorry for yourself: you had to either sink or swim. And you had to learn that very fast."

Everything changed on a Royal tour - in Australia

Harry touched in the interview on how the situation changed when they were in Australia.

Diana, in 1995, said: "We had a six-week tour – four weeks in Australia and two weeks in New Zealand – and by the end, when we flew back from New Zealand, I was a different person. I realised the sense of duty, the level of intensity of interest, and the demanding role I now found myself in."

Diana, Princess of Wales  (1961 - 1997) and Prince Charles in Newcastle, Australia, March 1983. Diana is wearing a Catherine Walker dress and a hat by John Boyd.  (Photo by Jayne Fincher/Princess Diana Archive/Getty Images)
Diana and Prince Charles in Newcastle, Australia, in March 1983. (Princess Diana Archive/Getty Images)
Britain's Prince Harry and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex on Bondi Beach during their visit to Sydney on the fourth day of the royal couple's visit to Australia. Friday October 19, 2018. Dominic Lipinski/Pool via REUTERS     TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Harry suggested the aides saw how well Meghan did on tour in Australia, here in October 2018. (Pool via Reuters)

Read more: Meghan Markle compares privacy to putting a family photo on work desk

Harry said the 2018 tour in the same nation for them was where aides recognised how good Meghan could be.

He said: "They saw how good she [Meghan] was at the job.

"That brought back memories."

They both battled depression - but the palace reacted differently

The Duchess of Sussex revealed she had dealt with suicidal thoughts when she was five months pregnant with Archie, even explaining she had gone to an engagement because she did not want to be left alone.

Diana also battled depression after she had her children, telling Martin Bashir in her 1995 Panorama interview that she had to take extreme measures to get help.

But while Diana said she did get lots of treatment, Meghan said she was not offered that.

Meghan said: "I just didn’t want to be alive anymore.

“And that was a very clear and real and frightening constant thought. And I remember, I remember how he just cradled me and I was… I went to the institution, and I said that I needed to go somewhere to get help. I said that I’ve never felt this way before and I need to go somewhere. And I was told that I couldn’t, that it wouldn’t be good for the institution.”

Watch: Meghan reveals she had suicidal thoughts

Read more: Friend of Meghan Markle claims texts will prove she's not a bully – and insists she didn't plan to 'nuke royals'

In her 1995 interview, Diana said: "I was unwell with postnatal depression, which no one ever discusses, postnatal depression, you have to read about it afterwards, and that in itself was a bit of a difficult time. You'd wake up in the morning feeling you didn't want to get out of bed, you felt misunderstood, and just very, very low in yourself."

She continued: "I received a great deal of treatment, but I knew in myself that actually what I needed was space and time to adapt to all the different roles that had come my way. I knew I could do it, but I needed people to be patient and give me the space to do it."

Diana said of the family reaction: "Maybe I was the first person ever to be in this family who ever had a depression or was ever openly tearful. And obviously that was daunting, because if you've never seen it before how do you support it?

"When no one listens to you, or you feel no one's listening to you, all sorts of things start to happen.

"For instance you have so much pain inside yourself that you try and hurt yourself on the outside because you want help, but it's the wrong help you're asking for. People see it as crying wolf or attention-seeking, and they think because you're in the media all the time you've got enough attention, inverted commas.

"But I was actually crying out because I wanted to get better in order to go forward and continue my duty and my role as wife, mother, Princess of Wales.

"So yes, I did inflict upon myself. I didn't like myself, I was ashamed because I couldn't cope with the pressure."

They had a complicated relationship with the media...

Meghan recalled that on one occasion she was told to "lay low" because she was in the papers a lot despite not going out.

She said: "I said: ‘I have left the house twice in four months, I am everywhere but I am nowhere.’

“I continued to say to people: ‘I know there is an obsession with how things look, but has anyone talked about how it feels? Because right now I could not feel lonelier’.”

"There was very little that I was allowed to do. So of course that breeds loneliness."

Diana found it tricky dealing with the attention of the media, especially because she thought her husband, Prince Charles didn't like how much she got.

Martin Bashir interviews Princess Diana in Kensington Palace for the television program Panorama. (Photo by © Pool Photograph/Corbis/Corbis via Getty Images)
Martin Bashir interviewing Princess Diana in Kensington Palace for Panorama in 1995. (Corbis via Getty Images)

Read more: Meghan Markle 'formally complained to ITV' over Piers Morgan's reaction to Oprah Winfrey interview

She said: "The most daunting aspect was the media attention, because my husband and I, we were told when we got engaged that the media would go quietly, and it didn't; and then when we were married they said it would go quietly and it didn't; and then it started to focus very much on me, and I seemed to be on the front of a newspaper every single day, which is an isolating experience, and the higher the media put you, place you, is the bigger the drop."

Reflecting on the tour in Australia she said: We'd be going round Australia, for instance, and all you could hear was, oh, she's on the other side. Now, if you're a man, like my husband a proud man, you mind about that if you hear it every day for four weeks. And you feel low about it, instead of feeling happy and sharing it."

Explaining her "other side" comment she added: "They weren't on the right side to wave at me or to touch me."

... and they both criticised palace aides

Meghan caused some controversy and confusion by her use of the the term 'The Firm' in the interview with Winfrey.

The Firm has usually been understood to relate directly to members of the Royal Family, rather than palace aides or advisors.

However, her unauthorised biographer said she and Harry use the word to refer to the machinery of the Palace.

Meanwhile Diana used to refer to the 'Men in Grey', or 'Men in Grey Suits', when she wanted to share her criticism of the Palace aides.

Le prince William, la princesse Diana et le prince Harry assistant aux cérémonies du 50ème anniversaire de la fin de la Seconde guerre mondiale à Hyde Park, à Londres, Royaume-Uni le 7 mai 1995. (Photo by Laurent SOLA/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images)
William, Diana and Harry in May 1995. Harry drew a comparison with her experience and theirs. (Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images)

In her interview, addressing what she thought the palace might think of her speaking out, Meghan said: "I don’t know how they could expect that, after all of this time, we would still just be silent if there is an active role that The Firm is playing in perpetuating falsehoods about us.

“And, if that comes with risk of losing things, I mean… there is a lot that has been lost already.”

Diana used to refer to people around her as the "men in grey" or "grey men".

Her biographer, who she worked with secretly, Andrew Morton said: "Diana was paranoid about what she called 'the men in gray', shadowy establishment figures linked to Britain’s equivalent of the CIA. She was worried that one of us would be compromised in some way."

They both felt they had to 'perform' as working royals

Speaking about tours after she stopped being a working royal, Diana said: "The pressure was intolerable then, and my job, my work was being affected. I wanted to give 110% to my work, and I could only give 50. I was constantly tired, exhausted, because the pressure was just, it was so cruel."

She also said: "I felt compelled to perform. Well, when I say perform, I was compelled to go out and do my engagements and not let people down and support them and love them.

"And in a way by being out in public they supported me, although they weren't aware just how much healing they were giving me, and it carried me through."

Telling of her experience to Winfrey, Meghan said: "Those tours are — I'm sure they have beautiful pictures and it looks vibrant, and all of that is true. It's also really exhausting.

"So, I was fried, and I think it just hit me so hard because we were making it look like everything was fine. I can understand why people were really surprised to see that there was pain there."