Netflix’s The Crown often depicts ways in which the royal family must repress their true feelings and opinions from the public. But in the season 4 episode “The Hereditary Principle,” Princess Margaret (Helena Bonham Carter) seeks therapy as she works through her transition away from senior royal duties, health issues, and the discovery of a dark family secret. She also finds out that Prince Charles (Josh O’Connor) and Princess Diana (Emma Corrin) have sought treatment for personal problems.
In real-life, the royals’ approach to mental health has evolved over the decades. Princess Diana was the first royal to speak openly about seeking therapy for both bulimia and postpartum depression. That opened the door for her children, Prince Harry and Prince William, to spearhead the mental health initiative Heads Together alongside Kate Middleton. Behind the scenes, several other royals have reportedly gone to therapy. A royal source even told Australian magazine New Idea (via The Express), that Queen Elizabeth wants her brood to participate in “a family counseling session” to ease reported tensions amongst some of its members. Ahead, a look at every royal who has reportedly gone to therapy or opened up about their mental health journey.
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“Well, maybe I was the first person ever to be in this family who ever had a depression or was ever openly tearful. And obviously that was daunting, because if you’ve never seen it before how do you support it?” Diana said during her BBC Panorama interview in 1995. She was open about seeking treatment for post-partum depression, bulimia, and marital problems. “You’d wake up in the morning feeling you didn’t want to get out of bed, you felt misunderstood, and just very, very low in yourself,” the princess said of this time, adding, “I received a great deal of treatment, but I knew in myself that actually what I needed was space and time to adapt to all the different roles that had come my way. I knew I could do it, but I needed people to be patient and give me the space to do it.”
According to royal reporter and biographer Sally Bedell Smith (via The History Channel), Prince Charles attended sessions with Dr. Alan McGlashan for 14 years after seeking help in the early years of his marriage. “Charles’s friend Laurence Van der Post says McGlashan perceived Charles as ‘misunderstood and starved’ of ‘really spontaneous, natural affection,’ and provided the prince with ‘the respect his own natural spirit deserves,’” Bedell Smith reports.
Prince Harry has long been open about attending therapy to cope with the loss of his mother Diana at age 12. “I have probably been very close to a complete breakdown on numerous occasions when all sorts of grief and all sorts of lies and misconceptions and everything are coming to you from every angle,” he revealed in 2017 on Telegraph reporter Bryony Gordon’s podcast Mad World. Harry went on to say that the death of his mother caused “shutting down all of my emotions for the last 20 years.” He added, “My way of dealing with it was sticking my head in the sand, refusing to ever think about my mum because why would that help?” But at age 28, with the help of his brother William, Harry says he saw a therapist “more than a couple of times.” He continued, “The experience I have had is that once you start talking about it, you realize that actually, you’re part of quite a big club. I can’t encourage people enough to just have that conversation because you will be surprised firstly, how much support you get and secondly, how many people literally are longing for you to come out.”
Since stepping down from senior royal duties in early 2020, Meghan has been candid about her personal struggles in the public eye. In October, she and Harry were interviewed for the podcast Teenager Therapy, where Meghan referred to herself as “the most trolled person in the entire world,” and spoke to the power of journaling for her mental health. The following month, Meghan penned an emotional op-ed for The New York Times revealing she suffered a miscarriage in July. “Sitting in a hospital bed, watching my husband’s heart break as he tried to hold the shattered pieces of mine, I realized that the only way to begin to heal is to first ask, ‘Are you OK?'” she wrote. The Duchess of Sussex also addressed the stigma that surrounds miscarriages. “Losing a child means carrying an almost unbearable grief, experienced by many but talked about by few,” she wrote. “Some have bravely shared their stories; they have opened the door, knowing that when one person speaks truth, it gives license for all of us to do the same.”
William and Kate haven’t opened up about going through therapy directly, but they’ve alluded to mental health challenges while promoting their organization Heads Together. Kate opened up about the “overwhelming experience” of becoming a mother in 2017. “There is no rule book, no right or wrong; you just have to make it up and do the very best you can to care for your family. For many mothers, myself included, this can at times lead to a lack of confidence and feelings of ignorance,” she explained. “Sadly, for some mothers, this experience can be made so much harder due to challenges with our very mental health.” She went on to address the stigma associated with therapy, saying, “If any of us caught a fever during pregnancy, we would seek advice and support from a doctor. Getting help with our mental health is no different. Our children need us to look after ourselves and get the support we need.”
For the future King of England, he says his time in the Armed Forces impacted his mental health. “When I started feeling issues myself, it was from my air ambulance work,” he revealed at a Heads Together event in 2019. “I was dealing with a lot of trauma on a day in, day out basis, stuff that your body is not programmed to deal with, there’s just no way it is.” William added, “For some reason, we’re all embarrassed by emotions—British people, particularly—we’re very embarrassed by revealing our emotions.”
As depicted on The Crown‘s fourth season, Margaret reportedly sought treatment after her divorce from Antony Armstrong-Jones in the 1970s. According to The Guardian, the royal “suffered a nervous breakdown” during the breakup and sought treatment for depression with psychiatrist to the stars Mark Collins. However, Princess Margaret never opened up about her private struggles or attending therapy to the public.
While not a direct member of the royal family, Kate Middleton’s younger brother James has been candid about his mental health journey. In a Daily Mail op-ed in 2019, he opened up about undergoing a year of cognitive behavioral therapy for depression. James later told the Telegraph that every member of his family, including the Duchess of Cambridge, attended therapy with him. “That was so important because that helped them understand me and how my mind was working,” he told the outlet. “And I think the way the therapy helped me was that I didn’t need my family to say, ‘What can we do?’ The only thing they could do was just come to some of the therapy sessions to start to understand.”
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