The ‘fire’ that broke out in the room where Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s son Archie was meant to be sleeping in South Africa involved an incident with a heater that started smoking, sources have confirmed.
Archie, then four months old, was not in the room in Cape Town when the heater began to smoke – but the incident left the Duchess of Sussex ‘shaken’ and ‘in tears’, she told tennis star Serena Williams in her new podcast.
Others are understood to recall the incident which took place on September 23, 2019 – and while they do not remember there actually being a fire, the heater was certainly smoking and was unplugged and dealt with.
Despite the upset, Meghan said in the Spotify podcast released yesterday that she was obliged to continue with official engagements, accusing those running the tour of concentrating on ‘how it looks, instead of how it feels’.
And sources have defended the Duchess over the incident, saying it would have understandably caused concern to any parent. The Sussexes were subsequently moved to different accommodation as the tour continued.
There would undoubtedly have been an expectation for Harry and Meghan to go on with their engagements after months of planning on the ground – but as senior royals, the couple would have had the final say on continuing.
And one source told the Daily Telegraph that any announcement about Archie being at risk of fire – or having to cancel an event about people forcibly removed during Apartheid – would have overshadowed the couple’s work.
Harry and Meghan with what is thought to be Archie’s nanny in South Africa, named only as Lauren, on September 23, 2019
Meghan makes a speech as she visits a Justice Desk initiative in Nyanga township in South Africa with Prince Harry during their royal tour of South Africa on September 23, 2019. Just minutes later, she was told that Archie’s bedroom was on fire
Harry and Meghan watch dancers as they leave the Nyanga Township in Cape Town, South Africa, on September 23, 2019. Meanwhile, back at home, Archie’s bedroom was on fire, she revealed in her new Spotify podcast with Serena Williams
Meghan, 41, described how the event played out during the couple’s tour of South Africa in September 2019.
She and Prince Harry were visiting the township of Nyanga – South Africa’s ‘murder capital’ – shortly after arriving in Cape Town with Archie. They left their son with his nanny at the British High Commissioner’s residence.
‘We immediately went to an official engagement in this township called Nyanga,’ Meghan said. ‘And there was this moment where I’m standing on a tree stump and I’m giving this speech to women and girls.
What did Meghan Markle and Serena Williams say in the podcast about the fire in Archie’s room?
SERENA WILLIAMS: ‘I would drop anything at any time to whatever I had to do for Olympia. Middle of a Grand Slam final. I would leave if I had to.’
MEGHAN MARKLE: ‘And yet you still show up and do the match. You still get the thing without people having any sense of what was happening behind the scenes. And I think what’s so key and for us as women and just not just women, I think our husbands are really good at this. Other men need to get even better at this as well as recognizing what people don’t see. Right. So when you went and played that match the next morning, no one knew what your night had been like the night before. They forgot that human piece of it. Just like when we went on our tour to South Africa, 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?’
MEGHAN: ‘Oh my God, I can’t believe we haven’t talked about this.’
MEGHAN: ‘And so we’re in the car. We had just landed, what, an hour or two 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.’
SERENA: ‘Oh, my gosh.’
MEGHAN: ‘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. 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. Can you just.’
SERENA: ‘How did you not bring him?’
MEGHAN: ‘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.’
MEGHAN: ‘And even though we were being moved to another place afterwards, we still had to leave him and go do another official engagement.’
SERENA: ‘I couldn’t have done that. I would have said uh-uh.’
MEGHAN: ‘Oh. Well.’
‘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.’
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.
Writing about the incident, royal commentator Angela Levin tweeted today: ‘Meghan outraged that she had to go on another royal engagement in South Africa after she heard there was a fire in baby Archie’s room.
‘Nasty to hear but as an actress doesn’t she know the show must go on. Luckily he wasn’t there but odd it was never leaked to the press.’
And royal commentator Richard Fitzwilliams told MailOnline he does not think the Palace will be ‘unduly concerned’ at what Meghan said about the fire incident.
He said that while some may conclude the Duchess was being critical of palace staff that she had to continue her schedule after the incident, ‘she and Serena were discussing the public face when in the public eye and contrasting this with private trauma’.
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.
‘He was trying to knock some sense into me,’ Williams said.
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.’
Later on September 23, 2019, after the fire, the couple 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
The Duke and Duchess of Sussex are pictured a reception at the British High Commissioner’s Residence in Cape Town, South Africa, on September 24, 2019. This is where the heater began smoking in the nursery one day earlier, on September 23, 2019
The 23-time grand-slam champion told Meghan she wanted her know what it meant to have ‘your support, and for H’s support, for everything because … it’s been hard’.
Meghan holds Archie at the Desmond and Leah Tutu Legacy Foundation in Cape Town two days after the fire incident, on September 25, 2019
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.’
During their Oprah Winfrey interview, Harry and Meghan accused the monarchy of failing to help a suicidal Meghan while she was pregnant with their son.
Archetypes aims to ‘investigate, dissect and subvert the labels that try to hold women back’.
The duchess said: ‘I know a thing or two about those labels myself. My hope is that my own lived experience will help other women open up.’
Harry also makes an appearance in the episode, with Meghan and Williams greeting Harry with ‘Hello’ in British accents, and the duke telling Williams: ‘I like what you’ve done with your hair. That’s a great vibe.’
As Harry leaves, Meghan remarks: ‘Thanks my love.’
Meghan also discusses her friendship with Williams, calling her ‘my girl’, with the pair offering plaudits to one another.
The tennis champion tells Meghan: ‘You’re way more fearless than I am.’
In a promotional video released on Twitter, Meghan vowed to be ‘unfiltered’ in her series, saying ‘People should expect the real me in this’ rather than what they see through the lens of the media. She added: ‘I’m just excited to be myself and talk and be unfiltered.’
The next Archetypes podcast – part of the Sussexes’ £18million deal with Spotify – will feature Meghan in conversation with singer Mariah Carey. Buckingham Palace declined to comment last night.