LONDON – Oprah Winfrey’s sensation-causing interview with Prince Harry and the former actress Meghan Markle isn’t scheduled to air in Britain until Monday evening, but that hasn’t stopped the British commentariat from breathlessly weighing in after seeing clips and reading about it.
Royalists expressed polite dismay, while Britain’s notorious tabloids were livid — hardly a surprise, since the Duke and Duchess of Sussex have been vocal in blaming them for being intrusive, mendacious and downright racist. The palace itself is keeping mum.
In the interview, Harry and Meghan were candid in their description of an unfeeling palace machine that provided little support for a newcomer to the royal family and of the rifts that have opened up, particularly between Harry and his father, Prince Charles, the heir to the throne.
A sampling of reaction so far:
“It was a very soft-serving, soapy interview in Meghan’s favor,” royal biographer Anna Pasternak told the BBC. “Nobody asked her about her relationship with her father. Nobody asked her [about] the astonishing fact that she only had one member of her family at her wedding. This is a woman who seems to make a habit of falling out with people. But none of Meghan’s real behavior was questioned. It was an absolute exercise in torching the House of Windsor.”
“They’ve trashed everything the Queen has worked so hard for, and we’re supposed to believe they’re compassionate?” Piers Morgan said on “Good Morning Britain.” He declared himself “sickened” while watching the interview but apparently recovered enough to tweet: “I expect all this vile destructive self-service nonsense from Meghan Markle — but for Harry to let her take down his family and the Monarchy like this is shameful.”
A column in the Sun tabloid, which alleges that palace staff have dubbed the interview “Moperah” because of all the complaining, called the interview the “biggest theatrical performance of [Meghan’s] life.” Trevor Kavanaugh, former political editor of the paper — which made its name featuring topless women every day on Page 3 — says the British public will not be swayed by “the hypocrisy of a couple who trash the royal family while basking like billionaires in the Californian sunshine, enriching themselves beyond the dreams of avarice.”
Robert Hardman, who covers the royal family for the Daily Mail, told BBC radio: “I’m not quite sure what the ultimate aim was, whether it was to clear the air or settle some scores. It certainly hasn’t cleared the air. In seeking to set out one set of truths, I think it’ll obviously invite a great deal of questions that people will want answered. … A great deal of this is just a family having the sort of rows that families have but obviously on a much bigger scale because we’re talking about the royal family.”
Columnist Clare Foges in the London Times said Harry and Meghan should have their titles removed. “The Oprah interview seems like the Sussexes’ own queen sacrifice: a strategic decision to burn bridges with the British in order to build them with the Americans,” Foges wrote.
The anti-monarchy group Republic renewed its calls for Britain to ditch the royal family. “We said a year ago, when Harry and Meghan quit the family, that this is going to be a bad decade for the royals,” the group tweeted. “The #OprahMeghanHarry interview is devastating at a time when we’re fast approaching a transition to King Charles and Prince of Wales William.”
Jennie Bond, a former royals correspondent for the BBC, wrote in the Daily Mirror that “all of this is a personal tragedy for Prince Charles. He has witnessed his sons suffer the trauma of losing their mother [Princess Diana] and seen their once strong and supportive brotherly relationship fall apart. It is tough for any parent to watch children feud. To see it happen in public must be gut-wrenching,” She added: “We have more to worry about than two very wealthy and privileged individuals complaining about their lot in life.”
Charles Anson, the queen’s former press secretary, told the BBC’s “Today” radio program: “It is very difficult marrying into the royal family, and I think particularly for women, for brides to come into the royal family. You come both into a new job as well as to a new relationship, and the level of scrutiny is something that is hard to believe until you actually see it. The level of scrutiny of everything they say, do, [being] commented upon, is a strain in itself.”
(Chu is a staff writer and Boyle a special correspondent.)