““We have been horrified, scared and saddened … as false information has been taken as fact and that unfounded stories have spread.””
That was Japan’s former Princess Mako speaking to the press through written answers on Tuesday following her marriage to longtime love — and commoner — Kei Komuro.
Mako, Emperor Naruhito’s niece, wed Komuro in a quiet ceremony on Tuesday. The college sweethearts had endured a four-year engagement plagued by a money scandal, intense media scrutiny and a three-year separation from each other, before finally registering their marriage this week.
Mako, 30, forfeited her royal status by marrying Komuro, as female imperial family members only have titles — not family names — and must leave the royal family if they marry a commoner. She also declined a payment of 140 million yen ($1.23 million) to which she was entitled upon leaving the imperial family, palace officials said. Mako is the first family member to do so since World War II, and refused the money due to criticisms of the marriage.
What’s more, the former princess is recovering from what palace doctors diagnosed as post-traumatic stress disorder, which Mako developed after seeing negative media coverage of her engagement, and attacks on Komuro.
“Kei is irreplaceable for me. For us, marriage is a necessary choice to live while cherishing our hearts,” Mako said during Tuesday’s press conference, adding that “incorrect” reporting on her new husband caused her “great fear, stress and sadness.”
Soon after the pair announced their engagement in 2017, tabloids reported that Komuro’s mother was involved in a financial scandal, and the wedding was subsequently suspended. The dispute is over money that his mother received from a former fiancé, and whether it was a gift or loan. It is still unclear if the issue is fully resolved.
Komuro, 30, left for New York in 2018 to study law, and only returned to Japan last month. When he returned, his hair was tied in a ponytail, which drew even more criticism because the look was considered too bold for someone marrying a princess from the extremely traditional imperial family.
“The flow of arbitrary criticism of Kei’s actions, as well as one-sided speculation that ignored my feelings, made falsehoods somehow seem like reality and turn into an unprovoked story that spread,” Mako said during the conference.
The couple will relocate to New York once Mako gets her first-ever passport. Mako said that she would like “to just lead a peaceful life in my new environment.”
The couple’s story echoes that of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle. That pair also fled to the U.S. and left the British royal family after Markle (the “commoner spouse” in this case) received intense media scrutiny overseas.
Harry and Meghan announced they were “stepping back” from their royal family duties early in 2020, but soon moved to California and entirely left the British royal family across the pond. Harry explained the move was made to protect Markle and their son, Archie, from the British press — and to preserve his own mental health.
Markle endured what she described in an interview with Oprah Winfrey as racist attitudes from the British media and some members of the royal family, and claimed that her mental health also declined drastically after marrying into the House of Windsor.
“I just didn’t want to be alive anymore,” Markle told Winfrey, after experiencing what she described as years of stress and isolation in London. She also faulted the royal household for not protecting her family against tabloid attacks.
Reporting from the Associated Press contributed to this article.