The Duchess of Sussex has renewed calls for compulsory paid family leave in America, in her first major TV appearance since her notorious tell-all with Oprah Winfrey.
Meghan Markle told close friend and chat show host Ellen DeGeneres on Thursday that she would do ‘everything’ in her power to make paid family leave law for all Americans.
The duchess recently stepped outside of royal protocol with a letter to US Congress asking them to consider making the proposal compulsory. However, she has come under fire for calling Republican senators and using her royal title to urge them to vote in favour of paid leave.
Republican Representative Jason Smith of Missouri, who has previously condemned Meghan for interference in American politics, even suggested she should be stripped of her title to stop her using it to gain political leverage.
Meghan told The Ellen Show: ‘I think that people truly forget, or don’t even know that in this country, it’s one of the only six countries in the entire world and the only wealthy nation in the entire world that does not mandate and have a federal paid leave programme.
‘Everybody knows, especially if you have had a child and even if you haven’t, you know how hard it is and how critical it is in those first few weeks if not months to be together as a family.
‘And the fact that we don’t offer that here is something that now as a mom of two, I will do everything that I can to make sure that we can implement that for people.’
Meghan, a former Suits actress who is living in a $14million mansion in California with husband Prince Harry and their children Archie and Lilibet, also promoted her children’s book The Bench, which she said she wrote as a poem for Harry on Father’s Day.
In her appearance on The Ellen Show:
- Meghan revealed how Archie ‘loves being a big brother’ to her daughter Lili and calls her husband ‘H’;
- Prince Harry loves living in California because of the weather, the duchess told DeGeneres;
- Archie dressed as a dinosaur for Halloween, while Lili was a ‘little skunk like Flower from Bambi’;
- Meghan vowed to do ‘everything’ in her power to make paid family leave compulsory for all Americans;
- The duchess then took part in an Ellen prank – and even ate a taco like a chipmunk in public.
The Duchess of Sussex during a taping of The Ellen DeGeneres Show at the Warner Bros lot in Burbank
Ellen DeGeneres (right) and Meghan Markle during a taping of The Ellen DeGeneres Show at the Warner Bros lot in Burbank
Meghan and DeGeneres looking at the audience during a taping at the Warner Bros lot in Burbank, California
DeGeneres (right) and Meghan during a taping of The Ellen DeGeneres Show at the Warner Bros lot in California
Meghan Markle walking on stage as she made her appearance on The Ellen DeGeneres Show on Thursday
Meghan and close friend DeGeneres on the Warner Bros lot, with a photo behind them showing Meghan and Prince Harry as the royal couple announced their engagement to the world
Meghan Markle’s appearance on The Ellen Show: The highlights
PAID FAMILY LEAVE
I think that people truly forget, or don’t even know that in this country, it’s one of the only six countries in the entire world and the only wealthy nation in the entire world that does not mandate and have a federal paid leave programme.
Everybody knows, especially if you have had a child and even if you haven’t, you know how hard it is and how critical it is in those first few weeks if not months to be together as a family.
And the fact that we don’t offer that here is something that now as a mom of two, I will do everything that I can to make sure that we can implement that for people.
We wanted to do something fun for the kids and then the kids were not into it at all. Archie was a dinosaur for maybe five minutes. Still not even five minutes, Harry talked him into putting the head on.
But Lilibet was a skunk and it was so cute. She was the flower from Bambi.
HARRY IN CALIFORNIA
He loves it (living in California).
We moved here during lockdown so everything was shut down, so we have been able to spend a lot of time at home and creating our home, but it’s a lifestyle and the weather is pretty great. We’re just happy.
ON HER BOOK ‘THE BENCH’
It was about my observation of him (Harry) and him being a dad, which was the most beautiful thing to watch.
Once it was shared with a couple of friends and people that we were close with, they said, ‘No this resonates for me too because it feels really inclusive and there’s representation and it’s just like a sweet love story between a family’, and so I said, ‘OK let’s turn it into a children’s book’.
ON SELLING SCRUNCHIES AT SCHOOL
My mom would take me down to downtown LA where all the fabrics are, you can buy them really affordably and I would get some of the remnants and I would buy the elastic and tied the knot and I had a sewing machine, and I made scrunchies and sold them at school, this is when I was at elementary school.
It was a thing at the time and I guess they are back now, people are wearing scrunchies again.
Meghan previously insisted she is not playing politics by calling for paid family leave for all, which she says is a ‘humanitarian issue’, during an appearance at the New York Times DealBook summit.
Speaking to Andrew Sorkin, who edits DealBook, the Times’ financial newsletter, and appeared alongside Mellody Hobson, co-CEO and President of Ariel Investments, a Chicago-based investment firm, she said: ‘I don’t see this as a political issue frankly. There is a precedent among my husband’s family, the royal family, of not having any involvement in politics. From my standpoint, this is a humanitarian issue.’
The duchess’s latest intervention heightens speculation that she sees herself in a political position in the future, like her heroines Angelina Jolie and Amal Clooney.
In a October 20 letter to US congressmen Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer, Meghan wrote: ‘I’m not an elected official, and I’m not a politician. I’m writing to you at this deeply important time – as a mom – to advocate for paid leave.’
The extraordinary 1,030-word letter asked the two Democratic leaders to consider her plea ‘on behalf of my family, Archie and Lili and Harry’.
The duchess depicted humble beginnings, saying that her family struggled when she was young – despite her well-documented middle class upbringing in which she attended private primary and secondary schools on her Emmy award-winning lighting director father’s $200,000-a-year salary.
And she now lives in a $14million sprawling mansion in Montecito, California, complete with designer touches. She has also signed a series of lucrative deals with Spotify and Netflix thought to be worth well over $150million.
‘I grew up on the $4.99 salad bar at Sizzler,’ Markle wrote.
‘I knew how hard my parents worked to afford this because even at five bucks, eating out was something special, and I felt lucky. I started working (at the local frozen yogurt shop) at the age of 13.
‘I waited tables, babysat, and piecemealed jobs together to cover odds and ends,’ Markle said.
However, she failed to mention the $750,000 California state lottery win her father scooped in 1990, which funded her secondary education at $9,412-a-semester Immaculate Heart High School in Los Angeles.
Meghan also studied a private primary school – Hollywood’s Little Red Schoolhouse nursery, which she attended from the age of two.
The primary school now costs between $20,000 and $28,300-a-year, and was paid for by her father Thomas and her airline steward mother Doria’s salaries.
She went on to study at Northwestern, a college in Illinois, that would have cost $24,000-$28,000-a-year for tuition when Meghan studied there from 1999-2003.
But the duchess described working from the age of 13 doing several jobs ‘to cover odds and ends’ and said saving money was a ‘luxury’ in her family in her letter.
‘I worked all my life and saved when and where I could – but even that was a luxury – because usually it was about making ends meet and having enough to pay my rent and put gas in my car.
‘I expect many of your constituents have their own version of that story,’ she continued.
Speaking to The Ellen Show, the duchess revealed how son Archie dressed as a dinosaur for Halloween, while her five-month daughter Lili was a ‘little skunk like Flower from Bambi’.
Meghan spoke of how she celebrated the American holiday with DeGeneres and her wife, actress Portia de Rossi – her neighbours in the celebrity enclave of Montecito in California. But Meghan said two year-old Archie and his baby sister were ‘not into’ Halloween at all, with Archie only staying in his costume for less than five minutes.
Meghan has spoken of the difficulty of having two children compared with just one. She told DeGeneres that Archie ‘loves being a big brother’ to her daughter Lili.
The duchess said: ‘Someone told H (Harry) and I that when you have one kid it’s a hobby, and two children is parenting. Suddenly we realised, ‘oh right’, everyone talks about what it’s like for the second child but no-one talks about the adjustment for the first child when the second one comes along.
‘I think they have that moment of, ‘oh, this is fun, oh, this is how it is now’.’
She also said that Harry ‘loves’ the weather and lifestyle in California.
The former actress’ high profile appearance comes eight months after the Sussexes’ controversial sit-down with Oprah Winfrey which left the royal family in crisis.
Meghan and Harry have until now remained incredibly private about Lili, who was born in June and was named Lilibet after the royal family’s nickname for the Queen. They are yet to share a photo publicly of their daughter.
During the interview on The Ellen DeGeneres Show, Meghan also talked about how Lili was teething, saying ‘Anything to relieve that’, before DeGeneres jokingly suggested tequila.
Meghan replied: ‘That’s Auntie Ellen for you.’
Clips released ahead of the interview on Thursday showed the duchess in a lighthearted mood as she opened up about her children.
Meghan said: ‘We were home and we saw you guys, which was great. But no, we wanted to do something fun for the kids and then the kids were just not into it at all. Archie was a dinosaur for maybe five minutes. Not even five minutes.’
DeGeneres told how Harry persuaded Archie to put his dinosaur costume on, saying: ‘Finally Harry talked him into putting the head on. But Lili was a skunk… it was so cute.’
Meghan replied: ‘She was a little skunk. Like Flower from Bambi.’
Meghan took part in a prank skit – where she wore an earpiece and did and said anything DeGeneres told her to do
Meghan told one member of the public ‘can you feel my powers’ and a food vendor ‘mommy wants some heat’
Meghan approached a food vendor as part of the prank. She ate a nacho like a chipmunk and then asked for something even hotter. She then tried the hottest and sings ‘feeling hot hot hot’
The duchess also revealed how she and Harry once went to a post-apocalypse themed Halloween party disguised in costumes when they were dating to have ‘one final night on the town’ before it was revealed they were a couple.
They were joined by Harry’s cousin Princess Eugenie and her now husband Jack Brooksbank who were visiting them in Toronto, Canada.
‘The four of us snuck out in Halloween costumes to just have one fun night on the town before it was out in the world that we were a couple,’ Meghan said.
She added: ‘It was a post-apocalypse theme. So we had all this very bizarre costuming on and we were able to just sort of have one final fun night out.’
The news broke that they were a couple at the end of October in 2016.
The duchess also promoted her children’s book The Bench, which she said she wrote as a poem for Harry on Father’s Day.
‘It was about my observation of him and him being a dad, which was the most beautiful thing to watch,’ she said.
DeGeneres asked: ‘Does Archie know he’s in here? Does he know that’s him and what does he think of the book?’
Meghan replied: ‘He does. On that first page that you open and you see our dogs, he goes, ‘That’s Pula. That’s Guy’.’
The Sussexes have a black Labrador named Pula and a beagle called Guy.
Meghan is also said to have spoken of her and Harry’s happy new life in the US.
The pair quit as senior working royals in 2020 in a bid for personal and financial freedom, and have since signed multi-million pound deals with Netflix and Spotify.
When DeGeneres asked what Harry loves about California, the duchess replied: ‘We’re just happy.’
DeGeneres first met Meghan by chance at an animal shelter some years ago and encouraged her to adopt her first dog, Bogart.
She has previously described the Sussexes as ‘the cutest couple, so down to earth’ and defended them when they faced criticism after taking a run of flights on private jets.