Harry and Meghan Oprah interview to air hours after Queen's Commonwealth message

Awkward timing lays bare fractures in royal family

On the last Commonwealth Day, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex appeared in public with the Queen and other senior royals for a final time before they departed the UK for North America.

One year on, and the fracturing of the royal family is clearly marked as the Queen, Prince of Wales and Duke and Duchess of Cambridge appear in a special televised broadcast to celebrate the Commonwealth, while hours later the Sussexes appear on TV in the US for an “intimate” and “wide-ranging” interview with Oprah Winfrey about their experience of leaving the royal fold.

The Queen will share her annual audio message on BBC One on Sunday 7 March, after the annual Commonwealth Day service at Westminster Abbey was cancelled for the first time in half a century due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Her decision to share her message, pre-recorded at Windsor Castle, during the BBC’s A Celebration for Commonwealth Day, means it will be seen by millions ahead of the Oprah 90 -minute special on CBS at 8pm EST – at about 1am on Monday.

Other senior royals will support the Queen in the show, hosted by Anita Rani, sharing their perspectives on the importance of Britain’s Commonwealth links.

CBS announced its royal exclusive last week. The news was swiftly followed by the announcement that, following a 12-month review, the Sussexes had told the Queen they would not be returning to the UK as working royals.

The couple, who had initially hoped to create a half-in, half-out, self-funded, progressive royal role, were forced to relinquish their royal patronages by a “saddened” Queen, who said it was not possible to continue with the roles. These include Harry’s honorary military titles, which will have been a bitter blow to him, and their positions as president and vice-president of the Queen’s Commonwealth Trust.

In their statement, Harry and Meghan said: “We can all live a life of service. Service is universal”, prompting accusations they were sticking two fingers up to the institution of monarchy, and being disrespectful to the Queen.

The Commonwealth Day service, usually attended by about 2,000 people, is one of the highlights of the Queen’s diary. It was due to be held on Monday 8 March, as it has been every year since 1972.

The decision to replace it with a programme on 7 March was said to have been made at the start of February, before the Harry and Meghan interview with Oprah was announced. A Westminster Abbey spokesperson said: “The decision was taken jointly by the abbey, the BBC and the royal household about three weeks ago.”

The Oprah interview will focus on Meghan, who is expecting the couple’s second child, who will discuss “stepping into life as a royal, marriage, motherhood … to how she is handling life under intense public pressure,,” according to CBS. Meghan will later be joined by Harry to talk about their move to the US and their future plans.

The couple have shown they can fund themselves independently after signing lucrative contracts with streaming platforms Netflix and Spotify as they expand their Archewell brand.


Caroline Davies

The GuardianTramp

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