Prince Harry Says He Already Wanted To Leave Royal Life In His 20s

In a podcast interview, the Duke of Sussex compared his life to a cross between The Truman Show and a zoo.

Prince Harry touched on nearly every major aspect of his life during a wide-ranging interview on the Armchair Expert podcast with hosts Dax Shepard and Monica Padman.

In the one-and-a-half hour episode, which was released on Tuesday, the Duke of Sussex talked about myriad disparate topics, including Joe Rogan, Princess Diana, the benefits of therapy, nude pictures taken of him in Las Vegas, his first incognito supermarket date with Meghan Markle, unconscious bias, and his military service.

Harry also discussed his “biggest issue” with royal life, which he compared to being a cross between The Truman Show and a zoo, and explained why he disliked it even in his early 20s.

Prince Harry on royal duty in Nottingham in 2016.
WPA Pool via Getty Images
Prince Harry on royal duty in Nottingham in 2016.

“I think that the biggest issue for me was that, being born into it, you inherit the risk. You inherit the risk that comes with it ― you inherit every element of it without choice,” Harry said.

“Because of the way that the UK media are, they feel an ownership over you. Literally, like, full on ownership. And then they give the impression to some of their ― or most of their readers ― that that is the case. But I think it’s a really dangerous place to be, if you don’t have a choice.”

“But then, of course, then people quite rightly, will turn around, and be like ‘So what if you didn’t have a choice? It’s privilege!’” he added.

“I was in my early 20s and I was a case of, ‘I don’t want this job, I don’t want to be here. I don’t want to be doing this,’” Harry said later in the interview. “Look what it did to my mum. How am I ever going to, you know, settle down, have a wife and family, when I know that it’s going to happen again?”

The Duke of Sussex said he had those thoughts because he’s “seen behind the curtain” and “seen the business model.”

Meghan Markle and Prince Harry in December 2017, shortly after they got engaged.
Max Mumby/Indigo via Getty Images
Meghan Markle and Prince Harry in December 2017, shortly after they got engaged.

“I know how this operation runs and how it works. I don’t want to be part of this. And then once I started doing therapy, suddenly it was like the bubble was burst,” he said. “And I plucked my head out of the sand, gave it a good shake off. And I was like, ‘Okay. You’re in this position of privilege. Stop complaining or stop thinking as though you want something different ― make this different. Because you can’t get out.’”

Through his relationship with Meghan, he began to examine what was really hurting him.

“She could tell that I was hurting and that some of the stuff that was out of my control was making me really angry,” he said. “For me prior to meeting Meghan, it was very much a case of ― certainly connected to the media ― this anger and frustration of ‘this is so unjust.’

Harry and Meghan in January 2018.
Chris Jackson via Getty Images
Harry and Meghan in January 2018.

Harry said “helplessness” is his biggest weakness, and listed off the three times when he’s felt “completely helpless.”

“One when I was a kid in the back of the car with my mom being chased by paparazzi; two was in Afghanistan in an Apache helicopter; and then the third one was with my wife,” he said.

“And that’s when you think to yourself: ‘Shit. I’ve got the privilege, I’ve got the platform, I’ve got the influence and even I can’t fix this, I can’t change this.’ And you start getting in your head about it and that’s when it starts taking a toll.”

While the duke said he’s been overly self-critical in the past, “the good thing is the course is being altered now.”

Harry’s interview with Shepard and Padman comes on the heels of the duke opening up to two friends, Late Late Show host James Corden and media mogul Oprah Winfrey, in extremely candid interviews earlier this year.

Supporters of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, who stepped back as working members of the royal family in January 2020, will likely hear more candour from the royals in the months to come.

Harry has a new multi-part docuseries about mental health coming out in partnership with Winfrey later this month, in which the two will interview stars like Lady Gaga and Glenn Close, as well as regular people who face mental health struggles.

Last year, Harry and Meghan signed major deals with Spotify and Netflix, which have them producing and appearing in content for both platforms.

For more of the duke’s Armchair Expert interview, listen below: