Harry and Meghan podcast review: Archie’s first public words, Zoom jokes and a very unroyal broadcast

In January 2020, Prince Harry and Meghan had just returned from a Christmas spent camping out in Vancouver – the first holiday period with their son Archie. It was undoubtedly a time spent privately mulling over their royal future, for the couple knew that top of their 2020 itinerary was a realignment of their relationship with Harry’s grandparents, the firm.

On 20 February, the late night Instagram exit message posted by the Sussexes – made yet more dramatic by the retort from Buckingham Palace, which stated that “these are complicated issues that will take time to work through” – seemed like it would dictate the news cycle for the coming year. Little did we all know what was right around the corner.

After nine months of the pandemic, the Sussex story dropped down the news agenda, and they were largely left alone to make plans for their new non-profit Archewell, to join charity events of their choosing, and to set up their new permanent home in Santa Barbara. 

Now, in a fitting bookend to their year, the family of three have been given the chance (with the help of a multi-million pound Spotify deal) to present themselves in their own words. Well, sort of. 

It seemed only a matter of time before Harry and Meghan got themselves a podcast. As they reestablished the long-held unwritten royal code of “never complain never explain” with a series of high profile media lawsuits, it made sense they would capitalise on a medium that gives an unedited voice. Trailed in mid-December, Archewell Audio joins the estimated 1.68 million podcasts already out there (the number on Apple Podcasts as of Dec, 2020). At 33 minutes long, the first “Holiday Special” episode is a perfect example of PR gold.

The episode opens with a welcome worthy of the best regional DJs – “I’m Harry, and I’m Meghan” – and goes on to show just how in tune the couple have become with the language of the internet (Harry’s “As we all know, it’s been a year” springs to mind). Not only does it successfully demonstrate Meghan’s beautiful Hollywood podcast voice, and their attempts at relatability (Harry even tries a joke about being on mute on Zoom), but also how much of an asset the couple could have potentially been to the royal household.

Mind you, if you’re looking for the podcast to be a behind-the-scenes discussion about Meghan’s in-laws, rogue family members and palace Megxit infighting, you will be left disappointed. The only veiled comments come towards the end when discussing George The Poet’s engagement, Meghan says: “And from us I will say no matter what life throws at your guys, trust us, when we say, love wins.” Corroborated by her husband who quickly says: “Love always wins.” 

For a podcast hosted by two of the most famous people in the world, the rest of the episode is fairly slim pickings on Harry and Meghan

For a podcast hosted by two of the most famous people in the world, the rest of the episode is fairly slim pickings on Harry and Meghan. Instead they chose to pass the mic to a catalogue of celebrity “friends and other folks”, including, but not limited to: James Corden, Matt Haig, Naomi Osaka, Elton John, Stacey Abrams, Christine Adane, Rachel Cargle, Deepak Chopra, Hussain Manawer, Tyler Perry, and more.  

Given the extensive guest catalogue, it’s probably good that they weren’t made to compete for airtime in a video call interview format, instead each guest was asked to record an audio diary on their thoughts, reflections and lessons from 2020, and a toast to the next 12 months.  

You can see the Archewell mission statement “to build community through shared experiences, narratives, and values” practically dripping off the page, their marketing manager punching the air in joy, and feeling satisfied that this could be the vehicle to position their future careers.

And there are indeed moments of earnest joy – when Naomi Osaka describes playing Playstation with her sister as a way to feel in touch, or when George The Poet recalls a video call with all of his six siblings, feeling the same connection they had as children at home, but now adults each in different rooms – the small universal moments we all have our own version of from 2020. 

I also found myself enjoying the hype moments that both Meghan and Harry give their guests when they feel they are being “too humble” about their CV. They seem earnest and sincere in all of their cheerleading for their fellow celebrities as well as in their admiration for healthcare workers and those on the frontline, who they praise in a synchronised “thank you”.  

But overall I’m not sure what to take away from the podcast. For the everyday listener looking for an entertaining snippet in their day, the sentiments shared by guests do – as promised by Meghan in the introduction – bring a little “warmth, a smile and something to think about” – but that something in my case was whether I would bother tuning in again.  

One moment of redemption came after the other guests had warmed up the stage, when Meghan and Harry decided to offer those who’d stuck around something a little more personal – their son Archie. The now-18-month old (who we last saw publicly in the UK when he was basically a newborn) can not only speak (he says “Happy New Year” guided by his doting parents) but also laughs infectiously.  

There are moments when the California couple do try to bring more of themselves to the party: Harry joking about a wedding proposal “hopefully a yes, and if it’s not then this is kind of awkward…”, the song they share from their own nuptials, and the palpable chemistry between Harry and Meghan (that many might have worried would be diminished by the turmoils they have faced), are what will keep listeners coming back for more. Let’s only hope they don’t edit themselves out.  

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