Given how much hype there was surrounding Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s tell-all interview with Oprah Winfrey, many were assuming the conversation wouldn’t live up to the hype. What could the Duke and Duchess of Sussex possibly have to say that we hadn’t heard already through the tabloids? A lot, it appears.
During the two-hour interview, Markle and Prince Harry spoke openly about the relationship the palace has with the British press, despite the firm never publicly speaking out in support of the couple. Prince Harry noted that he released three different statements about the maltreatment of his wife, but that the rest of his family stayed completely silent about the matter, despite Markle’s deteriorating mental health, and despite the fate of Prince Harry’s mother, Princess Diana.
Furthermore, and perhaps most damning to the institution, were the racist claims made by senior members of the royal family towards the couple’s then-unborn son. Markle said there were “concerns […] about how dark [Archie’s] skin might be,” but when pressed by Winfrey about who voiced the concerns, Markle refused to name the person, saying instead, “I think that would be very damaging to them.”
Following the TV broadcast, many looked to London, eager to find out the conversations happening inside the walls of Buckingham Palace. According to those close to the royal family, the senior members did not stay up to watch the interview live and were instead briefed by their team in a no doubt tense meeting on Monday morning UK time.
On Monday evening, there were reports that officials in Buckingham Palace had a prepared statement highlighting the family’s love and concern for the couple, but that it had not been signed off by the Queen. According to The Times newspaper, the monarch wanted more time to consider her response.
By Tuesday, pressure was building for the palace to release an official statement from the Queen with royal correspondents saying, this time “silence is not an option.”
“When you are talking about mental health, alleged racism and alleged bullying, you can’t dismiss them. There are some things you can leave to one side, but these are not issues that can possibly be ignored, and a response does need to be made,” Joe Little, managing editor of Majesty magazine, told The Guardian.
Labour shadow cabinet ministers Diane Abbott and Jonathan Ashworth both called for a response from the monarchy as well. “The Palace needs to come forward with a response – I think people would expect them to make a response,” Mr Ashworth said, per The Telegraph.
There were also parallels drawn, once again, to Princess Diana. After her untimely death in 1997, the palace refused to release anything further than its first initial statement which was released in the hours following the car crash. This resulted in a huge backlash from the British public with more people turning on the Queen and monarchy than ever before. At the time, newspaper headlines read, “Show us you care.”
At 6pm UK time on Tuesday evening, the palace finally responded. A statement from the Queen reads in full: “The whole family is saddened to learn the full extent of how challenging the last few years have been for Harry and Meghan. The issues raised, particularly that of race, are concerning. Whilst some recollections may vary, they are taken very seriously and will be addressed by the family privately. Harry, Meghan and Archie will always be much loved family members.”
A senior palace source added: “At the heart of all of this there is a family. They should be given the opportunity to discuss the issues raised privately, as a family. It has been important for us to carefully consider any response before issuing; and of course releasing something today meant viewers in the UK had the opportunity to watch the interview, if they wished to, first.”
They continued, “Diversity, equality, inclusion and mental health are important issues and highlighting that has formed part of the work of Members of the Royal Family for many years.”
More to come.