As the royal family puts on a united front to mark Commonwealth Day, with the Queen expected to focus on themes of unity and community in her nationwide address on Sunday evening, Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s relationship with The Firm is hanging by a thread.
Harry has reached out to family members, including a conversation with the Queen last week, to discuss the interview with Oprah Winfrey that will air hours after the Commonwealth Day event. “I know he has spoken to the Queen and he has been in regular email contact with his father,” according to a well-placed source. “Depending on what he and Meghan say, this could be very damaging for family relations and possibly the nail in the coffin for his relationship with William, who is beyond livid over the interview.”
With hours to go until the interview between the Sussexes and Oprah airs on CBS in the United States, UK papers reported Sunday that palace aides are threatening to hit back with full force if Harry and Meghan use the interview to attack the monarchy and individual family members. Buckingham Palace is not officially commenting, and aides are hoping the storm will eventually blow over. At the moment, their biggest concern is the health of Prince Philip, who remains hospitalized after a heart procedure last week.
“We do not want to get involved in a media circus when there is so much else going on,” a senior aide told Vanity Fair. But given that Meghan has already implied some accusations against the palace in previews of the interview, there is concern that the interview could be damaging to the monarchy, and devastating to relationships within the royal family.
According to Daily Mail editor-at-large and royal expert Richard Kay, “I think the feeling is it’s going to be as big and as impactful as the Panorama interview which led to the end for Diana’s relationship with the royals. You have an awful feeling this is a bridge too far. Can Harry rebuild the trust with his family?”
Trailers for the interview have already revealed Meghan accusing “The Firm” of “perpetuating falsehoods about us” and saying that she has felt “liberated” since her exit. Though Meghan and Harry have been embraced to some extent as American celebrities since their move to Santa Barbara, the interview could reveal much more to American audiences about the inner workings of the palace. Los Angeles-based broadcaster KJ Matthews told Vanity Fair, “People here weren’t aware that conversations would involve palace officials listening in. It shows that Americans don’t know how the institution works. We don’t have a Royal Family—we admire it, we love it, but we haven’t seen the inner workings, until now.”
After allegations that Meghan bullied her Kensington Palace staff were published by The Times of London last week, Sussex representatives called it a “smear campaign,” and Meghan’s former Suits co-star Patrick J. Adams came to her defense on Twitter. Buckingham Palace announced they would investigate the allegations, and former palace aides have continued to share their side of the story, sharing further examples of Meghan’s allegedly difficult behavior. The Daily Telegraph published a report that several aides threatened to resign in the lead-up to Harry and Meghan’s wedding.
Valentine Low, who broke the bullying allegations story in the Times of London, told Good Morning America that he was “shocked” by what he heard, and had uncovered an “intensely difficult working environment.”
Sources told the Sunday Times that the Queen will not watch the Oprah interview, which will air later in the United Kingdom, and will instead be briefed by aides on Monday morning. And though the bullying allegations broke after the interview was recorded, palace aides are bracing for more. A royal source with close knowledge of the bullying allegations told the Times, “the actual worst incidences haven’t come out. There are some harrowing stories to tell.” Another palace source said, “They are playing with fire because there’s a lot that could come out in the wash that hasn’t been told before.”
There are also concerns that Meghan will confirm there was a rift between her and Kate, the Duchess of Cambridge, and that Kate did not make her feel welcome as a newcomer, something Kensington Palace aides have always denied. Other sources, however, have suggested that’s one potential rift that will remain private.
More Great Stories From Vanity Fair
— Why Kensington Palace Just Can’t Let Go of Meghan Markle
— On With the Show! See the 2021 Hollywood Portfolio
— In Conversation: Roxane Gay and Monica Lewinsky on Trauma
— Reply All’s Implosion Reveals the Limits of One-Sided Internet Relationships
— Harry and Meghan Have “No Regrets” as Royal Exit Becomes Official
— Barack Obama and Bruce Springsteen on Their Friendship’s Origins
— Proust Questionnaire: Watch Michael B. Jordan Answer Personality-Revealing Questions
— Can This Photographer Save Beirut’s Architectural Treasures?
— Seven Fashion Brands to Shop for a Fresh Start This Spring
— From the Archive: How Tobacco Heiress Doris Duke Got Away With Murder
— Not a subscriber? Join Vanity Fair to receive full access to VF.com and the complete online archive now.