Meghan Markle and Prince Harry have launched the first episode of their label Archewell Audio podcast as part of their lucrative deal with Spotify.

The 34-minute episode has a theme of "2020: the year that changed everything", but also hopes to hit notes of "inspiration", "reflection", and compassion.

It features a packed, star-studded lineup of entertainers and self-improvement gurus, from Elton John and James Corden to Brene Brown and Deepak Chopra.

Having Sir Elton John as one of the guests was a moving gesture since he was a close friend of Harry's mother Diana, Princess of Wales, while James Corden was a guest at Harry and Meghan's wedding.

The episode, which features Harry and Meghan taking turns announcing their observations, also offers "perspective" on the often shocking events of 2020, including the coronavirus pandemic and the movement for racial justice.

The inaugural episode, titled "2020 Archewell Audio Holiday Special" went live on Tuesday, local time.

Meghan, 39, and Harry, 36, signed a £30 million deal with Spotify to host and produce podcasts.

 

To fit with the general wellness theme, Harry and Meghan began their broadcast by paying tribute to healthcare and frontline workers for their "sacrifices" during the pandemic.

They honored those who lost loved ones and lived through "uncertainty and unthinkable loss" during the coronavirus pandemic, says Meghan.

Harry emphasises the "lessons learned" this year, and "How important it is to take care of one another."

California, where the royal couple lives, is now the epicentre of the coronavirus pandemic in the US.

Meghan said the aim of the podcast was to bring together some people the couple admire and "get their thoughts "on what they learned from 2020."

Harry reveals they asked the diverse group to record "audio diaries" and send them back to the royals, so that no one would have to do video.

 

 

The podcast has an earnest and upbeat message, instilling listeners with hope. Meghan says: "No matter what life throws at you guys, trust us when we say love wins."

Harry agreed with his wife, saying, "Love always wins."

By way of introduction to the episode, Harry told listeners: "We're glad you're here. As we all know, it's been a year. And we really want to honour the compassion and kindness that has helped so many people get through it."

"...And in too many instances people weren't able to be at a loved one's side or say goodbye as they would have wished."

 

An unexpected delight to this episode was an improvised guest appearance from baby Archie who can be heard giggling in the background after repeating his parents' message wishing listeners a happy new year. Not a bad effort for a one-year-old.

But despite the earnest and heartfelt message, and the cuteness overload, not all listeners were fans.

 

 

Some accused the royal couple, who have complained about a lack of privacy, of hypocrisy.

Simon Oakden tweeted, "I hope others will join me in respecting the wishes of these people and decide not to invade their privacy by listening to it."

HARRY AND MEGHAN PLAN EXTENSION TO DEAL

Meghan Markle and Prince Harry are planning face-to-face talks over an extension to their 12-month Megxit deal.

According to The Sun, the couple want a more permanent agreement to continue as non-working royals in California despite sealing recent deals with Netflix and Spotify.

The Sun reports they will make video calls to senior royals next month before Harry heads back to the UK, possibly with Markle.

The deal with Buckingham Palace expires on March 31 and royal aides are expected to analyse their Netflix and Spotify deals to ensure they meet "the values of Her Majesty".

The Duke and Duchess reportedly said to be keen to hold on to their royal patronages, despite taking on more commercial commitments in the US.

It comes as royal biographer Andrew Morton told The Sun they want to return for the Queen's 95th birthday on April 21, the Duke of Edinburgh's 100th in June and the unveiling of a statue of Princess Diana on July 1 - which would have been her 60th birthday.

He said: "Although they will do some of it by Zoom, Harry wants to meet face-to-face to tie it all up.

"Things seem to have calmed down. Harry has been in contact with the Queen more often than you would think. But certain things you need to be there in person to sort. They will need a few weeks. That could be done after April, depending on Covid."

The couple angered royals in January last year by announcing on Instagram they would "step back as 'senior' members" of the Royal Family. A deal was subsequently agreed at Sandringham, including this 12-month review.

While William did not speak with Harry for "many months" after that deal, the "Mextension" will be hammered out by senior royals.

But a top aide warned: "Expect things to drag past March 31. The Sussexes have laid their stall out very clearly." As for Harry's military posts, an insider said: "Harry regrets losing those titles and keeping them open for as long as possible keeps that olive branch out.

"Don't be surprised if they are not filled even after March 31."

There were calls, too, for them to be replaced as president and vice-president of the Queen's Commonwealth Trust. But a spokesman for the charity said Harry and Meghan remain "as committed as ever."

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle on International Day of the Girl.
Prince Harry and Meghan Markle on International Day of the Girl.


Morton added: "You could see the trauma etched on their faces. They were barely on speaking terms with William and Charles.

"If Harry had a real regret, it was how he handled the announcement of stepping back.

"He pushed the Queen and his father into a corner and it made the whole thing far more dramatic.

"There was a period when Harry was uncertain, but not any more. He is loving life in the sunshine, the pace of life and lack of formality. This is what he has dreamt of for a long time.

"The rift between the two brothers is healing. It has been a good year and a bad year - court cases, paparazzi and, most difficult, Meghan having a miscarriage.

"But Covid has brought the family back together and forced Meghan and Harry to slow down and think. They have proved their point. Any conversation will be far more amicable.

"There are no plans to kick them out or get rid of their titles. Harry regrets the hasty statement last January that blindsided everyone."

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle during a televised Time 100 special. Credit: Time
Prince Harry and Meghan Markle during a televised Time 100 special. Credit: Time

 

The news comes as Markle and Harry's Christmas card surprised royal watchers, who got a glimpse into how their son Archie Harrison has grown.

The card was a painted sketch of the loved-up couple with their son at their California home with their two dogs a black Labrador retriever and a rescue beagle, which Markle brought to the UK with her when she first moved in with the Duke of Sussex.

The Labrador's name is Pula, while Meghan's beagle goes by the name Guy.

The sketch shows the them in their garden in front of what appears to be a cubby house for Archie.

Markle and Prince Harry's son Archie, who is 18-months old now, appears to have grown more ginger-coloured hair, following in the footsteps of his father.

Archie is the focus of the image, as Markle, Prince Harry and their two dogs look at him.

The card has the words "Wishing you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year".

The card, which was uploaded to a local animal charity's Instagram page known as the Mayhew.

 

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s Christmas Card. Picture: Instagram
Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s Christmas Card. Picture: Instagram

 

Mayhew is an animal welfare charity working to improve life for cats, dogs in London and across the world.

The sketch is based on a photo of the family taken by Meghan's mother Doria Ragland, that was "taken at their home earlier this month," according to a spokesman for the family.

"The small Christmas tree, including the homemade ornaments and other decorations, were selected by Archie, and the tree will be replanted after the holidays."

A statement from Markle on the charity's website states: "This year we, as a family, have made donations to several charities with you in mind.

"From a local California organisation that helps families transition out of homelessness, to two of our UK patronages: one that supports animal and community welfare, and the other, a memorial fund for a cherished friend that helps to educate children and fight poverty in Uganda, we have honoured their work on behalf of all of us."



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