It might seem like a lifetime ago now, but in the very first weeks of 2020, Prince Harry and Meghan Markle announced they would be stepping back as senior members of the British royal family, kickstarting the process infamously dubbed by the British tabloids as “Megxit.” And over the course of the year, the pair not only negotiated with Harry’s family to establish their new-found responsibilities outside of the typical protocols expected of royals, but also closed a number of high-profile deals—most notably with Netflix and Spotify—to secure their financial independence and open a new chapter in their careers.
Until now, just what those deals would lead to has been kept largely under wraps. But the first of their new media-oriented projects dropped earlier last week in the form of a podcast on Spotify titled Archewell Audio. With the first episode serving as a reflection on the trials and tribulations of living through the pandemic, the couple invited an eclectic mix of voices to join them and express their experiences of an unprecedented year and their hopes for the future as 2021 draws ever closer. As Meghan explains at the beginning of the episode: “We thought, what if we could bring together some people that inspire us and people we admire, and get their thoughts on what they learned from 2020.”
Here, find the five things you need to know from Harry and Meghan’s new podcast.
It features a number of Harry and Meghan’s high-profile friends
It’s been widely documented that Harry and Meghan’s connections in Hollywood have been instrumental to pivoting into their new career in entertainment, with their move to California in the summer serving as the first step in the process. And many of these friends and acquaintances appear on the podcast to share their experiences of the past year, including filmmaker Tyler Perry, pop superstar Elton John, and tennis pro Naomi Osaka.
It isn’t just the starry line-up of figures from across the worlds of film, sport, and literature that impress, however, but also the number of important political voices they invited to share their visions for change in the world. There’s an appearance from politician and voting rights activist Stacey Abrams, who recounts a conversation with her 14-year-old niece about healing during a year marked by a pandemic and a new civil rights movement, as well as author and academic Rachel Cargle, whose charity The Loveland Foundation provides much-needed resources to support Black women and girls. It’s a sign that Harry and Meghan won’t be shying away from expressing their strongly-held beliefs in environmental causes, mental health advocacy, and racial equality as they enter this new chapter.
It offers a rare insight into the couple’s intimate rapport
The podcast consists mostly of audio submitted by the participants they invited, with the couple choosing not to interview their subjects directly. Still, they offer an extended introduction, welcome each guest individually, and occasionally interject with anecdotes to flesh out the points they feel most important. It’s these moments that provide a surprisingly intimate peek into the couple’s relationship and rapport, with the ease of their back-and-forth patter obvious from the very beginning of the episode. Harry explains that they opted for audio to avoid “navigating the sometimes awkward dance of a video chat, meaning no one having to say, ‘you’re on mute’ over and over again, which is probably one of the defining phrases of 2020.” “It’s so true,” Meghan laughs in response.
A particularly charming moment comes after one of their guests, the spoken word performer George the Poet shares on his segment of the podcast that by the time it’s released, he will be engaged. “George and Sandra, congratulations,” Markle says, before Harry continues: “Congratulations guys, although George if it wasn’t a yes, then this is kinda awkward.” “We’re gonna go with it’s a yes,” Meghan adds, ever the diplomat.
Yes, baby Archie also makes a surprise appearance
While Harry and Meghan’s first child, Archie Mountbatten-Windsor, was born in May of 2019, they have been keen to avoid media overexposure in the hope of protecting their son’s childhood outside of the unforgiving glare of the British press. (The couple even refused the earldom he was eligible for in the hopes of providing an upbringing that could feel as close to that of a private citizen as possible.)
Still, with his parents being some of the best-known people on the planet, it only makes sense that any appearance from Archie would be fervently anticipated. And upon the release of the podcast, the first recorded audio of the 19-month-old speaking instantly made headlines, even if it came only as a brief (if, admittedly, very cute) epilogue to the podcast. “Archie, is it fun?” Harry asks his son in the final minute of the show. “Speak after me: happy… new… year.” As Archie recites his mom’s words, Harry breaks out into giggles, with Archie and Meghan swiftly following.
It featured one of the couple’s favorite songs
Just before Archie’s cameo, there was another intimate moment shared between the couple—they played one of their favorite songs, “This Little Light Of Mine” as performed by Etta James, to mark the end of the year and their transition into the next. The track holds particularly sentimental value to Harry and Meghan, as it was played while they exited St George’s Chapel in Windsor Castle at their 2018 wedding.
“It was the music we wanted when we started our lives together because as we all know, darkness cannot drive out darkness,” Markle says. “Only light can do that.” The couple made it clear it was a song they felt resonated with the present moment, too. “It’s a song that means so much to us,” adds Harry. “The message of this song is one we hold so dearly. It’s about using the power we each have within us to make this world a better place.”
It served as a tribute to the “power of connection”
For Meghan and Harry, the intention of this specific episode is to provide an insight into the experience of living through 2020 by people from “all walks of life,” as they explained at the beginning of the podcast—but most importantly, as Meghan puts it, it “all came back to one thing—the power of connection.”
“We asked [our friends and collaborators] to record audio diaries and send them back to us because we were curious to hear what they reflected on when they had a moment to themselves,” Harry says. And it did just that: A segment towards the end of the podcast sees Harry and Meghan raise a toast to 2021, with their guests sharing their wishes for a more positive future in the new year—or, in the words of Elton John, to move “onwards and upwards.”
Originally published on Vogue.com