Why Meghan Markle and Prince Harry Chose Tyler Perry to be Lilibet’s Godfather
While the bulk of the bombshells dropped by Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s Netflix docuseries Harry & Meghan were about the royal family and British tabloid press, the couple did share one big secret about their one-year-old daughter Lilibet “Lili” Diana: that Tyler Perry is her godfather.
In the sixth episode of the docuseries, Meghan and Perry touch on their history. Perry let Harry and Meghan stay in his Beverly Hill home when they first moved to the U.S. and needed to get out of Canada, where they had been staying amid their transition out of their senior royal roles. Their location on Vancouver Island had been exposed at a point where Meghan said their security was also being taken away.
Perry explains he sent Meghan a letter years earlier, as she was about to get married to Harry. He had been disturbed by the drama surrounding Meghan’s father Thomas Markle leading up to the wedding. “You know I’m not a royal watcher. I don’t really pay attention to a lot of stuff, but I saw something about her father,” he says in the series. “I found it to be hurtful if he were my father. And I couldn’t even imagine this woman finding the man that she loved, the man of her dreams and him being a prince, and then to walk into all of that madness and need the security of family and then have, you know, your father do some horrible things.”
“When my life changed and success started to come, family members became different people. And I know how hurtful and how horrible it can be,” he continues. “I immediately empathized with her. This was before the wedding, and I sent her a note, just praying for her to just be able to move through it and hold on, and let her know that everything in her life had prepared her for this moment or so I thought.”
Meghan adds of their leaving Canada, “That’s where Tyler came into the picture. I’d never met him before. He sent me a letter before the wedding just saying he was praying for me. And that if I ever need anything, he would be there. Months and months and months went by. And then one day when we were in Canada, I had called him.”
“Finally, after years at that point, first time we ever spoke, and I was just a wreck. I was just crying and crying,” she says. “Sometimes it’s easier to just open up to someone who knows nothing at all. And that was that moment with me and Tyler.”
Perry says of the phone call, “I could hear the fear. It was palpable. I mean I could hear it. So I asked her, what was she afraid of? And she took a deep breath, and she started listing the things, ‘I’m afraid of…’ And I said to her, every one of your fears are valid….She was afraid of them destroying her or going crazy or them making her think she was crazy.”
He adds that the situation with the palace seemed abusive to him, and he could see signs of it from having a mother who was abused. With the royal family, “this woman [Meghan] was abused and so was he [Harry],” Perry says. “To use the institution to try and do all the things a batterer would do, like here’s what we’re going to do, we’re gonna cut off the money. We’re gonna not leave you security. We’re gonna do all those things to make you comply and come back. And for the both of them to have the wherewithal to say ‘I don’t give a damn if it’s the palace. I’m out of here.’ I applauded that.”
Perry let the couple use his home and they all became close friends—close enough that Meghan was filmed talking to Perry the day after her and Harry’s Oprah interview aired. Perry himself said there was more they could’ve shared but didn’t to Oprah.
Later in the episode, Perry recalls when Harry and Meghan called him, asking him to be Lili’s godfather. “We’ll call and we’ll chat and we’ll talk about silly things,” Perry says of their relationship generally. With that call, “they were pretty serious on the phone. I go, ‘Okay, what’s going on?’ And they said, ‘Well, we’d like for you to be Lili’s godfather.’ I go, ‘Whoa.’ I had to take a minute to take that in. And I thought, ‘I’d be honored. I’d be absolutely honored.’ And I got off the phone, took it all in, and then I called them back. I go ‘Uh, hold on a second. Does this mean we got to go over there and do all of that in the church with them and figure all that out? ‘Cause I don’t want to do that. Maybe we can do a little private ceremony here and let that be that, and if you have to do it there, then it’s okay.’”
Lili ultimately didn’t have a baptism in the UK although she celebrated her first birthday there, as the family was in town for the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee. Details about her baptism have been kept private, along with who her godmother might be.
Of Lili herself, Harry shares that his one-year-old reminds him of his mother. “I think at the moment I see a lot of my wife in Archie, and I see a lot of my mom in Lili,” he says in the doc. “She’s very Spencer-like. She’s got the same blue eyes.” The also couple shared many new photos and videos of her in the series.
You can watch the full series here on Netflix.
Senior News and Strategy Editor
Alyssa Bailey is the senior news and strategy editor at ELLE.com, where she oversees coverage of celebrities and royals (particularly Meghan Markle and Kate Middleton). She previously held positions at InStyle and Cosmopolitan. When she’s not working, she loves running around Central Park, making people take #ootd pics of her, and exploring New York City.