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Friday, April 23, 2021

Explained: Why Harry and Meghan’s Oprah Winfrey interview is in the spotlight

On Oprah with Meghan and Harry: A Primetime Special, which will be broadcast on CBS Sunday, the couple will talk about why they quit their royal roles.

Written by Surbhi Gupta , Om Marathe , Edited by Explained Desk | New Delhi |
Updated: March 5, 2021 10:15:45 am
meghan markle, prince harry, oprah winfrey, sussexes oprah, meghan markle bullying row, meghan markle privacy lawsuit, princess diana, indian expressThis image provided by Harpo Productions shows Prince Harry, from left, and Meghan, The Duchess of Sussex, in conversation with Oprah Winfrey. (Joe Pugliese/Harpo Productions via AP)

It has been almost a year since Prince Harry and his wife Meghan Markle decided to step back as senior members of the British monarchy, but feelings of ill will between the couple and the rest of the Royal Family seem to persist.

Speaking to American talk show host Oprah Winfrey on her show, Meghan has now accused Buckingham Palace of “perpetuating falsehoods” about her and her spouse, saying the royal couple would not be silent in telling their story. A clip of the interview was released on Wednesday.

Prince Harry, a grandson of Queen Elizabeth II and the younger son of heir apparent Prince Charles, is currently sixth in line to the British throne. After their marriage in 2018, Harry and Meghan assumed the titles of Duke and Duchess of Sussex (together referred to as “the Sussexes”).

On Oprah with Meghan and Harry: A Primetime Special, which will be broadcast on CBS Sunday, the couple will talk about why they quit their royal roles. “How do you feel about the Palace hearing you speak your truth today?” Winfrey asked Meghan. Meghan responds: “I don’t know how they could expect that after all of this time we would still just be silent if there is an active role that The Firm is playing in perpetuating falsehoods about us. And if that comes with the risk of losing things, I mean, there’s a lot that’s been lost already,” Meghan added.

Analysts have said that Meghan referring to the British royalty as ‘The Firm’– a term that the royal family sometimes uses to describe itself– is indicative of the bad blood between the couple and the remaining members of the monarchy, and not just their feud with the British press.

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What did The Times’ news report say?

This week, a report by the Times newspaper said that the assistants working for Meghan two years ago had been bullied by her. It cited unnamed sources and claimed that an aide to Harry and Meghan had raised a complaint in October 2018, alleging that Meghan had reduced some of her assistants to tears and treated others so badly that they had quit. The paper said Harry had urged the aide, who has now left their staff, to drop the complaint, and it never progressed. The Times said it had been contacted by former staff members who wanted the public to gain insight before the Winfrey interview aired.

Response to the report

In a statement, Buckingham Palace said it was “very concerned” about allegations in The Times following claims made by former staff of The Duke and Duchess of Sussex. It added that The Royal Household “does not and will not tolerate bullying or harassment in the workplace”, the HR team would look into the allegations, and that members of staff involved at the time would be invited to participate.

Harry and Meghan issued a statement denying that she had bullied anyone. A spokeswoman for Meghan said earlier that she was “saddened by this latest attack on her character, particularly as someone who has been the target of bullying herself and is deeply committed to supporting those who have experienced pain and trauma”, The Washington Post reported. The spokesperson called it “a calculated smear campaign based on misleading and harmful misinformation.”

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What did Prince Harry say on the show?

In another excerpt from the show, Prince Harry told Oprah Winfrey that he had worried about history repeating itself, referring to his mother Princess Diana, who was hounded by the British press and died at age 36 in a car crash in Paris after her divorce from Prince Charles. “I’m just really relieved and happy to be sitting here talking to you with my wife by my side,” Harry said. “Because I can’t imagine what it must have been like for her (Diana), going through this process by herself all those years ago… It’s been unbelievably tough for the two of us, but at least we had each other,” Harry added.

The Royal couple

Meghan and Harry, who married in May 2018, stepped back from their official duties in March last year to forge new careers and a financially independent life in California. That decision was confirmed last month when they also handed over all their royal patronages. They said their move was fuelled in part by intense press intrusion.

However, Meghan had also previously indicated that she felt she did not have the full support of the royal family. In court documents submitted as part of her successful privacy action against the mass-circulation Mail on Sunday, her lawyers said she had felt “unprotected” while she was pregnant with their son Archie.

Privacy and paparazzi

In March 2020, the couple had taken Splash UK to court after Meghan and her son were photographed without permission during a “private family outing” while staying in Canada. The case was settled later with Splash UK agreeing to no longer take unauthorised photos of the family. In April 2020, the Duke and Duchess announced that they would no longer cooperate with the Daily Mail, the Sun, the Mirror and the Express, and in July that year, Meghan launched legal action against an unidentified individual for taking pictures of their son in Los Angeles.

She had also sued  The Mail on Sunday and MailOnline for alleged breach of privacy, infringement of copyright, and breach of the Data Protection Act 2018 over the publication of a letter she had sent to her father in 2019.

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