Duchess of Sussex claims she was ‘made’ to leave baby Archie after his room caught fire on Africa tour

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Prince Harry and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, pose with their newborn son Archie - Dominic Lipinski/AP

Prince Harry and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, pose with their newborn son Archie – Dominic Lipinski/AP

The Duchess of Sussex has spoken for the first time of her trauma during her royal tour to South Africa, after a small fire broke out in her baby son’s bedroom while she was on an engagement.

The Duchess, who launched her first podcast aimed at battling sexism, said she had to carry on with her duties despite worrying about what could have happened to Archie had he been in the room.

In a discussion with her friend Serena Williams about the unfair labels placed on women, the Duchess gave an insight into her own “lived experience” in the public eye and the treatment she feels she has endured.

Speaking of how she had been called “ambitious” after dating Prince Harry, she added she knew a “thing or two” about misogynistic labels and hoped her example would help other women open up.

In the inaugural podcast, she spoke for the first time about an episode during her royal tour to South Africa, in which a small fire broke out in her son Archie’s room while he was downstairs with his nanny and the Duchess was expected to carry on with public duties.

The Duke and Duchess travelled to the country when Archie was four-and-a-half months old, taking him to meet Archbishop Desmond Tutu.

Hearing about how Serena had played a tennis match after a sleepless night with her own baby daughter, the Duchess remarked that those watching “forgot that human piece of it”.

“Just like when we went on our tour to South Africa,” she said. “We landed with Archie. 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?”

The Duke and Duchess of Sussex holding their son Archie during a meeting with Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Mrs Tutu at their legacy foundation in Cape Town - Toby Melville/PA

The Duke and Duchess of Sussex holding their son Archie during a meeting with Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Mrs Tutu at their legacy foundation in Cape Town – Toby Melville/PA

After the engagement, in which the Duchess met with disadvantaged women living in a township known as the country’s “murder capital”, she returned to the ambassador’s residence.

“And so we’re in the car,” she said. “We had just landed, what, an hour or 2 hours before racing back?

“We get back our amazing nanny, Lauren, who we’d had all the way until, um. In Canada here. Lauren in floods of tears.

“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.

“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.

‘Can you just tell people what happened?’

“And 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. 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.

“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. And even though we were being moved to another place afterwards, we still had to leave him and go do another official engagement.”

Prince Harry and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, attend public holiday celebrations in Cape Town, during their royal tour of South Africa in 2019 - Pool/Samir Hussein/Getty Images

Prince Harry and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, attend public holiday celebrations in Cape Town, during their royal tour of South Africa in 2019 – Pool/Samir Hussein/Getty Images

The Duchess also used the podcast, one of 12 she has recorded for Spotify, to take on stories about herself in the press.

She emphasised how she had not been born in Compton – one early headline in the Mail on Sunday before she married into the Royal Family – and re-told the story of her childhood letter writing campaign in which she got a washing up liquid advert changed from mentioning “women” to “people”.

The story of Meghan’s involvement in changing the advert had recently been questioned in a biography by Tom Bower.

Calling the experience “an awakening” which set her on the path to seeing how society “tried to box women in”, she said: “I’ve never lost touch with that reality.

“And in the last few years, my desire to do something about it has grown. My 11-year-old voice has also gotten a little more confident, maybe a little louder.”

The podcast also includes a cameo appearance from Prince Harry, with Meghan saying: “You wanna come say hi? Look who just popped in.”

Meghan and Williams greet Harry with “Hello” in British accents, with Harry telling Williams: “I like what you’ve done with your hair. That’s a great vibe.”

Williams replies: “Thank you. Good to see you too as always, I miss you guys.”

The duke responds “Well come and see us”, with Meghan saying they will make a plan.

As Harry leaves, Meghan remarks: “Thanks my love.”

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