LONDON – Prince Harry and his wife Meghan’s feverishly anticipated interview with media mogul Oprah Winfrey on Sunday is expected to provide plenty of fodder for a hungry press, glued to the couple’s exit from the British royal family.
It is the latest change that redefines the relationship between British media and the Royal Family, from deference and removal of caps to closer scrutiny and soap opera-style narrative, according to some media experts.
A stream of preview clips and a war of words this week after newspaper accusations Meghan intimidated royal staff – denied and dismissed by her spokesperson as the latest personal attack – only fueled the fire medias. Buckingham Palace said on Wednesday it would conduct an internal investigation into the bullying allegations.
Royal interviews are historically rare and the family are scrupulously guarded in what they reveal to the public – but Harry and Meghan’s encounter with Winfrey comes after a period of change for the family, known to insiders as’ The Firm “.
Gone are the days when ‘never complain, never explain’ was the unofficial motto governing interactions between Britain’s stoic royal family and the robust national press.
“I think this will be the first time they can truly feel that this is an opportunity to make their authentic voices heard, together,” said Steven Barnett, professor of media and communications at the University of Westminster in London. , to NBC News ahead of the interview.
“I expect them to give the British press a real boost,” he added.
If so, it won’t be the first time.
In a separate interview last week, Harry told the TV host James corden that the “toxic” media coverage of Britain “was destroying my sanity” and partly prompted them to leave for the United States.
One of the clips released before the interview with Winfrey – who was invited to their wedding in Windsor in 2018 and also interviewed Duchess of York Sarah Ferguson – showed a photo of Harry’s late mother, Princess Diana, so that he was discussing the pressures she was facing.
Diana died in a car accident in Paris in 1997 while being chased by paparazzi. Harry said in the clip that he feared “history will repeat itself” with his wife undergoing intense media scrutiny.
When the couple were dating in 2016, Harry took the unusual step of asking the media to stop what he called a ‘wave of abuse and harassment’ against Meghan, in a strongly worded statement.
The entry of a biracial American actress into the bosom of a traditionalist family was initially heralded as a move to greater inclusiveness in Britain, but subsequently received media coverage that many deemed racist.
Harry and Meghan also got into a fight in the courtroom.
Meghan won a lawsuit against a British media company in February, which published parts of a letter she wrote to her former father, Thomas Markle.
NBC News did not receive a response to a request from the couple’s spokesperson for comment on what motivated Winfrey’s interview or its timing.
The last royal interview to make headlines was when Prince Andrew spoke to the BBC in the wake of the Jeffrey Epstein and Ghislaine Maxwell affair in 2019. It was called a “car accident “for the damage to the reputation of the Windsor family and for its failure. to tone down speculation about his ties to Epstein. Andrew subsequently stepped down from his frontline royal duties.
Media experts, however, say this weekend’s Winfrey interview has closer echoes of Princess Diana’s meeting with BBC reporter Martin Bashir in 1995, which has since been the subject of ‘a new review.
It left the royal family in shock after Diana shared intimate details and said: ‘There were three of us in this marriage’, referring to Charles’ relationship with his now wife, Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall.
British police on Thursday ruled out a criminal investigation into Diana’s interview after her brother’s complaints that she may have been misled.
Some observers say the Duke and Duchess of Sussex have challenged the media’s traditional relationship with the Royal Family, angering the media.
“Never complain, never explain” has sort of been the rule that has governed relations between the press and the royal family for many years, “said Nathan Sparkes, policy director at Hacked Off, a campaign group created. following a scandal surrounding telephone piracy by certain British newspapers.
“What this means in practice is that newspapers can publish whatever they like about the royal family … and the royal family just has to suck,” he added.
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Others criticized the timing of the interview, with Harry’s grandfather Prince Philip, 99, remaining in hospital. For some, the couple’s use of the media on their own, such as revealing Meghan had a miscarriage and later that they were expecting a second child, while simultaneously bemoaning the review, is hypocritical.
“They want to control their narrative. They will talk to the media but they will choose,” said Marlene Koenig, author of British and European royal biographies.
Koenig said viewers of Winfrey’s interview should remember “we haven’t heard their side of the story,” referring to other royals. She also predicted that Buckingham Palace would likely not post any comments in response to the interview.
If the couple have an ax to grind with the British press, she added, the papers are unlikely to take it to the ground.
“The tabloid press will absolutely go for the jugular,” if the war of words against the media escalates on Sunday, Koenig said.
“Most of the British royal family are not fighting back,” she added. “The ball right now is in Harry and Meghan’s court.”
Rachel Elbaum contributed.