By Laura Elston, PA Court Reporter
Meghan Markle has shared the trauma of how son Archie narrowly escaped a fire in his bedroom on their royal tour to South Africa.
Meghan recounted the experience on her long-awaited Archetypes podcast, released on Spotify on Tuesday, in a conversation with her close friend, tennis great Serena Williams.
She spoke of her distress after learning of the near-miss soon after delivering an empowering speech to girls in the Nyanga township in Cape Town, before rushing back to see Archie and then having to leave him to carry out another official engagement.
“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,” she said.
Meghan added: “We came back. And, of course, 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 said, ‘This doesn’t make any sense’.”
The Sussexes had dropped their young son off at the housing unit they were staying in for a sleep straight after flying in for their official tour in 2019, with the couple then leaving to kick start their royal visit with their first engagement.
Archie’s then nanny, named only as Lauren – a Zimbabwean who liked to tie him on her back with a mud cloth – had taken him downstairs with her instead while she went to get a snack, just as the heater in the nursery caught fire.
Meghan said: “In that amount of time that she went downstairs, the heater in the nursery caught on fire. There was no smoke detector. Someone happened to just smell smoke down the hallway, went in, fire extinguished. He was supposed to be sleeping in there.”
The duchess described how she wanted to tell people what had happened.
“I was like, Can you just tell people what happened? And so much, I think, optically, the focus ends up being on how it looks instead of how it feels,” she said.
She stressed the need for more understanding of the “human moments behind the scenes”.
The duchess added: “We had to leave our baby… and even though we were being moved into another place afterwards, we still had to leave him and go do another official engagement.”
Williams replies: “I couldn’t have done that.”
Later the same day, the couple had visited Cape Town’s historic District Six neighbourhood, met residents in its Homecoming Centre and heard from people who were forcibly removed to a township during the Apartheid era, with the Sussexes also carrying out an impromptu walkabout.
Meghan and Harry’s controversial African tour took place in the autumn of 2019, just months before they quit as senior working royals.
During the trip, the US born former Suits star filmed an interview with ITV in which she told of her struggles with royal life, and how she had tried to cope with the pressures by putting on a “stiff upper lip”.
In the podcast, which discussed the double standards women face when they are labelled “ambitious”, Meghan said: “I don’t remember ever personally feeling the negative connotation behind the word ambitious until I started dating my now husband.”
Williams reveals Harry helped her with her decision to retire from tennis long before it was announced, spending around an hour discussing the issue with her.
Meghan, who stepped away from the monarchy with the Queen’s grandson for a new life in California, says to Williams: “I think, you know, I think both of us, or the three of us, really know that sometimes the right decision isn’t the easiest decision.”
As they discussed Williams’ retirement, Meghan adds: “It takes a lot of courage, I think, too, to stop something in many ways than to keep going sometimes.”
Meghan also admitted to being “so tired” during pregnancy, with Williams saying: “You were under a lot of stress”, and the duchess saying: “Yeah it’s true.”
Harry and Meghan revealed in their Oprah Winfrey interview that the monarchy’s institution failed to help a suicidal Meghan while she was pregnant with their son.
The next Archetypes podcast by Meghan – part of the Sussexes; multimillion-pound deal with Spotify – will feature singer Mariah Carey.