In 2019, when the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, went on an official visit to South Africa, behind the scenes, they were processing a horrifying incident that they had to keep under wraps.
Now, Meghan has revealed in the premiere episode of her ‘Archetypes’ podcast, with special guest Serena Williams, that their son Archie, who was four months old at the time, had nearly been injured when his nursery caught fire.
"When we went on our tour to South Africa, we landed with Archie," Meghann told the tennis champion who just recently retired. "Archie was what, four and a half months old. And the moment we landed, we had to drop him off at this housing unit that they had had us staying in."
"He was going to get ready to go down for his nap. We immediately went to an official engagement in this township called Nyanga, and there was this moment where I'm standing on a tree stump and I'm giving this speech to women and girls, and we finish the engagement, we get in the car and they say, 'There's been a fire at the residence.' What? 'There's been a fire in the baby's room.' What?"
Speaking about the couple’s nanny, a Zimbabwean woman named Laura, Meghan called her “amazing,” for her instincts that surely saved little Archie’s life.
"She was supposed to put Archie down for his nap, and she just said, 'You know what? Let me just go get a snack downstairs.' And she was from Zimbabwe, and we loved that she would always tie him on her, her back with a mud cloth, and her instinct was like, 'Let me just bring him with me before I put him down.'”
“In that amount of time that she went downstairs, the heater in the nursery caught on fire,”she revealed. “There was no smoke detector. Someone happened to just smell smoke down the hallway, went in, fire extinguished," the Duchess continued.
"He was supposed to be sleeping in there!"
The former Suits star (and former resident of Toronto) continued, “As a mother, you go, 'Oh, my God, what?' Everyone's in tears, everyone's shaken. And what do we have to do? Go out and do another official engagement!”
"I was like, Can you just tell people what happened?”
The Duchess then went on to explain what seems to be another reason why her and Harry’s withdrawal as senior members from the Royal family in 2020 was so important for them - because the optics of withdrawing from a scheduled engagement were seen by “The Firm” as worse than revealing that the family had nearly suffered a catastrophic loss.
“And so much, I think, optically. The focus ends up being on how it looks instead of how it feels," she said. "And part of the humanizing and the breaking through of these labels and these archetypes and these boxes that we're put into is having some understanding – on the human moments behind the scenes – that people might not have any awareness of and to give each other a break. Because we did — we had to leave our baby."
She went on, "And even though we were being moved to another place afterwards, we still had to leave him and go do another official engagement."
That’s when the 23 Gram Slam title winner Serena responded very matter of factly, "I couldn't have done that. I would have said, 'Uh-uh.'"
You might recall that it was during the Sussex’s official visit to South Africa in 2019 that Meghan gave this revealing interview to the UK’s ITV where she revealed she was “not okay,” an interview that first touched on her mental health struggles and the pressures of being in “The Firm.”
"Any woman, especially when they're pregnant, you're really vulnerable, and so that was made really challenging. And then when you have a newborn, you know. And especially as a woman, it's a lot," she said at the time. "So, you add this on top of just trying to be a new mom or trying to be a newlywed. It's um…yeah. I guess, also thank you for asking because not many people have asked if I'm okay, but it's a very real thing to be going through behind the scenes."
When ITV’s Tom Bradby, who is a friend of Prince Harry, pressed her to confirm she was not okay and she was struggling, she solemnly nodded on the verge of tears, “yes.”
Five months later, the Sussexes withdrew from the royal family and relocated to California.
Elsewhere in the podcast episode, the duo discuss the double standards women face especially when they’re hard-working, ambitious, tough, and know what they want. “'I don't remember ever personally feeling the negative connotation behind the word ‘ambitious’ until I started dating my now husband,” Meghan revealed. Amen to that.
Serena also details how it was Prince Harry that helped her come to the decision to retire from tennis, and that those conversations were happening long before she officially announced it earlier this month. You can listen to the entire episode above.