Harry and Meghan aim to avoid embarrassing Queen in Oprah interview

‘Tell-all’ interview announcement has prompted reports it will lead to couple being stripped of patronages

The Duke and Duchess of Sussex will not wish to embarrass the Queen despite frenzied speculation over their planned “wide-ranging” interview with Oprah Winfrey, it is understood.

The announcement by CBS of a “tell-all” intimate account by Harry and Meghan of their “Megxit” departure from the UK has led to reports it is the final straw for an exasperated Buckingham Palace who will strip the couple of their royal patronages.

The couple are said to have the greatest respect and love for the Queen and will not say anything to undermine that, according to a source. They are determined to fight to retain their patronages.

Reports that the interview will directly result in Harry being stripped of his honorary military titles, and of Meghan losing her patronage of the National Theatre, personally bestowed by the Queen, are understood to have conflated two issues. Rather, practical considerations, such as the couple living thousands of miles away, are likely to see them being forced to relinquish them under palace pressure.

Harry’s military titles were put on hold for a year when Megxit was thrashed out at the Sandringham summit one year ago. The agreement stipulated the position would be reviewed ahead of 31 March. He is currently captain general of the Royal Marines, honorary air force commandant of RAF base Honington and honorary commodore–in–chief of small ships and diving.

Royal patronages are entirely in the gift of the palace, so the Sussexes have no control over them. The couple believe they have made their commitment clear to each of the organisations concerned, it is understood. Had it not been for the Covid-19 pandemic, it is said they would have regularly returned to the UK to support those organisations. They still hope to be able to promote and represent them on the world stage.

Buckingham Palace declined to comment.

One source said of the planned interview that as the duke and duchess were no longer working members of the royal family, any decisions they took with regard to media commitments were matters for them. As non-working royals, they were under no obligation to inform the royal household of such plans, the source said.

Winfrey is a close friend and neighbour in southern California. She attended their 2018 wedding, and recently promoted a vegan latte business Meghan has invested in. Royal observers say the interview is unlikely to be hostile, and will have been carefully choreographed before recording.

But the announcement has led to a backlash against Meghan in the UK press, with accusations she is invading her own privacy just days after victory in the high court in her privacy battle against the Mail on Sunday.

There was no official comment from the Sussexes. One source indicated that the duchess’s victory established that individuals had the right to agency over their own lives, and it was not for others to decide which elements of their private lives could be made public.

There are also questions over whether the interview will further strain relations between Harry and his brother, Prince William.

The 12-month review of the couple’s status had been seen as a safety net while they explored whether they could achieve their ambition of being independently funded. Huge contracts with Netflix and Spotify have shown they have the potential to establish lucrative careers in the US.

The 7 March interview will be staged in two parts, with the duchess – who announced on Sunday she was expecting her second child – first being interviewed about “stepping into life as a royal, marriage, motherhood ... to how she is handling life under intense public pressure”, according to CBS.

Later, they will be joined by Harry and the couple will speak about their move to the US last year and their future plans. Oprah with Meghan and Harry: A CBS Primetime Special has been described as an “intimate conversation” by the US television network.

“This isn’t going to be an unscripted interview. It’s going to be carefully thought out and choreographed,” said Joe Little, the managing editor of Majesty magazine. “But looking at the history of royal interviews, you just wonder if this will trip them up.”

“The timing is obviously significant because the [privacy] judgment had to take place before they could finalise the interview,” he added.

“I think Harry will lose his patronages, but not as a consequence of the interview. The 12 months is up and given he isn’t going to be returning to the UK any time soon, his appointments with the military and other patronages have lost their importance as far as the organisations are concerned.”

The Sussexes would not be happy at the prospect of losing their patronages, he said, before adding: “But finding freedom comes at a price.” Plans by Harry to fly back and forth from the US to support those organisations could be seen as hypocritical and undermine his “climate change credentials”, added Little.

Even without the royal patronages, the couple remain indelibly royal. “As long as they retain their royal styles and title, that is validation in itself. Harry, grandson of the sovereign, will be son of the sovereign, then brother of the sovereign. So that proximity to the throne is never going to change,” said Little.


Caroline Davies

The GuardianTramp

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