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Meghan & Harry have spoken – what now for the monarchy?

Meghan Markle and Prince Harry's Oprah interview is a devastating blow to the decades of work Prince Charles and his team have put in towards rehabilitating his post-Diana image
Tue, Mar 09, 2021

Not since the wedding of Meghan Markle to Prince Harry had there been a more hotly anticipated royal event.

But unlike that day's festivities, the one thing royal watchers the world over knew for certain was that when the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, Harry and Meghan, sat down for an interview with Oprah Winfrey, this was one event 'The Firm' would not be able to stage produce and manage showing the British royal family in the best light possible.

In the week prior to it airing, with Oprah promising in a promo that "there is no subject that is off limits", interest in the interview only increased.

Interest turned to drama when, in what the Sussexes in a statement called "a calculated smear campaign based on misleading and harmful misinformation", the British press reported that Meghan had worn earrings gifted by the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, a global pariah who had ordered the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, and had bullied her staff, leading to Buckingham Palace announcing there would be an investigation into the bullying allegations.

So when all was said and done after the two-hour interview had aired (on M-Net for those in Africa), was all the fuss worth it?

Maybe. And maybe not.

Meghan and Harry certainly said a lot.

Meghan let the world know it was Kate who had made her cry and not the other way around, as had widely been reported. But that issue between the two had been ironed out and all was forgiven.

Harry dropped the news that for a while, his father Prince Charles would not speak to him after it was announced the Sussexes would be stepping back as senior members of the Royal Family and that the Royal Family cut off financial and security support.

But those were the appetisers, with the main courses to come.

In the first bombshell reveal of the interview, much like Harry's mother Princess Diana had said about her time in the Royal Family, Meghan announced that she had found royal life so difficult that at times she "didn't want to be alive anymore". But the real clanger – which has led to global speculation – was that there had been conversations within the palace about "how dark" Meghan and Harry's then-unborn child's skin would be when he was born.

But while they dropped some bombs, they also left a lot unsaid.

While Oprah has since announced that Harry told her that it was neither his grandmother Queen Elizabeth nor his grandfather Prince Philip, during the interview Harry and Meghan declined to name just who had raised these concerns about their baby's complexion, with Harry adding that it would be "very damaging to [that person]" before he closed that line of questioning by saying: "That conversation, I am never going to share."

While speculation is rife about what these disclosures will mean for the Royal Family, the basic fact is that the monarchy is an institution that has weathered many damaging interviews and revelations.

The most famous of course was the tit-for-tat spat between Harry's parents, dubbed the 'War of the Waleses', which came to a tragic end in a Parisian tunnel in 1997.

But the most recent was in 2019 when Prince Andrew, trying to clear his name of sexual misconduct allegations in the fallout of the Jeffrey Epstein revelations, sat down with the BBC. That car-crash of an interview only ended up getting him into even more trouble and his stepping back from his official duties and essentially going into hiding despite American authorities seeking to speak to him in relation to the allegations.

How the Palace will react to Harry and Meghan's interview, nobody can say for sure.

Whatever the real story is behind The Palace vs the Sussexes, whether it's aides coming after them or actual members of the family, what is clear is that Prince Charles is going to be a terrible King for the Monarchy as an institution.

Yes, the Queen is the titular Family Head, but with her nearing 100 years old, Charles has increasingly been running things for close to a decade now. This mess, however large or small it may end up being, is Charles' problem.

But of course you look at how he has led his life since adulthood – and you don't even have to include his marriage, affair, divorce and second marriage – and it is not at all surprising. Whether it is irritating the world of architecture or how often he is accused of meddling in politics, the one arena royals are never (openly at least) meant to be active, he clearly does not have the ability to lead his family with the iron rod his mother and father have.

In 2012, at the Queen's Diamond Jubilee, years before Meghan met Harry, the "slimmed down" Royal Family Charles had long wanted was unveiled when only Queen Elizabeth, Prince Philip being in hospital, Prince Charles and Camilla, Prince William and Kate, and Prince Harry stepped out on the balcony to wave to the crowds.

The choice to cut Harry and Meghan off is not that surprising since their decision to step back as senior royals was a blow to his "slimmed down" Royal Family scheme and shows Prince Charles to be the small, petty, man he's often been rumoured to be.

How or if Charles can fix this only time will tell.

If, however, as Harry and Meghan said in their interview, what the royals fear most is the media, Prince Charles must be wishing for the post-Princess Diana era where, correctly or not, he came to be seen as a loving, protective father to the point that what once had been impossible, his marrying Camilla, was accepted by the press and public.

While the world waits to see how and frankly if – because just as they have with Prince Andrew's problems they may try to ignore the whole thing – the Palace will publicly react to the few tantalising tidbits into royal life Harry and Meghan gave, the only thing we can be sure of is that the drama and turmoil that for centuries has been synonymous with British Royals continues to be the most dependable of royal traditions.

  • CBS presents Oprah with Meghan and Harry will be repeated on M-Net (DStv channel 101) on Saturday 13 March at 4pm
  • Watch Dynasties: The Windsors on DStv Catch Up 
  • You can stream the Naomi Watts film Diana on Showmax 

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