Meghan and Harry’s Oprah interview could be disastrous for royal couple

It was inevitable that Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, once she married Prince Harry and became a bona fide HRH, would face vigorous – and appropriate – comparison to her mother-in-law Diana, Princess of Wales: her innate style, her dynamic approach to her charity work, her willingness to happily dispense royal hugs to the public.

Now we can add to that list her willingness to sit down with TV cameras rolling to talk about palace life.

On Tuesday it was revealed that Meghan had agreed to an interview with chat show supremo Oprah Winfrey for a “wide-ranging” TV confab next month which will cover “everything from stepping into life as a royal, marriage, motherhood, philanthropic work to how she is handling life under intense public pressure” before the duo will joined by Prince Harry.

The 90-minute interview will air on prime time in the US on Sunday, March 7, which will be the afternoon of Monday, March 8 in Australia (AEST).

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Harry and Meghan have long been rumoured to be considering this sort of small screen soul-baring session and today’s announcement must surely strike fear in the hearts of palace courtiers as much as man-made fabrics and any reminder that the Queen Mother once taught her daughters the Nazi salute.

However, it is not only the royal brand and the monarchy that could suffer badly when this tete-a-tete airs next month.

By the time Diana sat down across from the BBC’s Martin Bashir in 1995 for her infamous Panorama interview, her anger and hurt over her desiccated marriage and her treatment at the hands of various cold-blooded, mercenary elements in the monarchy had reached fever pitch.

When the camera crews and technicians arrived on the afternoon on that Sunday, November 5, – which was also ominously Guy Fawkes Day – to set up inside the princess’ apartment in Kensington Palace, the equipment was explained away to security as a new hifi system.

The first the Queen knew her daughter-in-law had gone spectacularly rogue – and via the national broadcaster no less – was when she ‘fessed up to the monarch. (Though later a press release did go out on November 14, 1995 which just happened to be Charles’ birthday.)

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Not so the Sussexes, the house of Windsors’ latest high-profile renegades, with US TV network CBS overnight on Tuesday (AEDT) smugly putting out a press release about what will most likely be the interview of the century.

This time, just over 25 years after Diana’s doe-eyed “there were three of us in the marriage” quip rocked Buckingham Palace on its foundations, the royal family can see this particular PR mortar incoming.

However, before Meghan and Harry ‘go nuclear’ and wear their hearts on their organic-cotton, fair-trade sleeves while billions of viewers around the world watch agog, it’s worth talking about what happened to Diana after the cameras stopped rolling.

While in the wake of the interview airing she was given vast, vast public sympathy and support, her short term win came with far longer-reaching, life-changing consequences.

A month to the day after her Bashir interview went live, the princess received a letter, delivered via a uniformed courier from the Queen informing her that it was time for she and Charles to divorce as it was “in the best interests of the country”.

The 34-year-old was reportedly not given a choice or any sort of say.

Only last year, Diana friend and biographer Tina Brown revealed that during a lunch just before the princess’ death in 1997, “she said … she would go back to Charles in a heartbeat if he wanted her”.

Sure, like Diana, the Sussexes’ interview might firm up the perception of them as monarchical victims; that they are just two big-hearted triers whose ambition and pep was squashed by the palace machine, but ultimately, what will this sort of media outing achieve longer term?

It is impossible to see how any sort of tell-all, or even the most tepid drawing back of the curtain on royal life, could not have some sort of impact on Harry’s relationship with his family. Surely the fastest way to end up on the wrong side of the Queen, aside from kicking a dorgi or nicking any of the 18th century silver, is engaging in exactly the sort of the sort complaining and explaining (to paraphrase the famous aphorism) that runs so contrary to Her Majesty’s sphinxlike dignity.

So just what is their end goal? What do they hope to achieve by giving Oprah unprecedented entree into their lives and their inner landscape?

In the same 2019 interview, Harry told journalist Tom Bradby that “every single time I see a camera, every single time I hear a click, every single time I see a flash it takes me straight back [to his mother’s death]”.

If intrusive lenses are so traumatising for him then for the love of god WHY? Why invite a whole raft of the damned things into their innermost private sanctum? They are already two of the most famous people in the world – it’s not as if they need to work on their name recognition.

Is there any way to spin this that is not about publicity? Between this TV announcement and their made-for-Instagram revelation yesterday that they were expecting their second child via a black and white barefoot’n’pregnant shot, all flowy white and Californian good vibes, today’s news only makes it harder to argue the case they are not two heat-seeking publicity missiles.

If they serve up a tepid recitation of already ran grievances and cast the Queen and her lot as a bunch of cold, unwelcoming Brits who didn’t dispense gold stars and encouragement as much as they would have liked, the logical response would be, so?

We’re talking about the royal family here, not Captain Von Trapp and his trusty guitar. What could they have reasonably expected? After all, ‘just get on with it’ may as well be the Windsors’ informal motto.

After Finding Freedom, after years of reports in the British and American press, after the couples’ own 2019 TV interviews in which Meghan famously opined “it’s not enough just to survive something … you’ve got to thrive,” what could they actually say that will really and truly take our breath away? The Queen farts during dinner? Princess Anne’s favourite book is American Psycho? The dorgis have fleas?

Unless Meghan and/or Harry unleash something truly devastating, some bombshell on par with Diana’s “three of us in the marriage” slam dunk then there is every chance this interview will only reinforce the perception held by some that the duo are privileged whingers par excellence.

No matter what the Duke and Duchess tells the reigning Queen of TV, going down this path is the equivalent to a nuclear strike – there is no going back and this particular genie can’t be stuffed back into the bottle as Diana found out the hard way.

Harry and Meghan will have to live with the repercussions of their decision to speak out for a lifetime to come, which is a mighty lot to wager on 90-minutes of tele.

As philosopher George Santayana famously wrote, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”

Will the Sussexes find themselves “condemned to repeat” the mistakes of the ’90s?

With the benefit of hindsight, did Diana’s short term palace retribution in fact end up hurting her most of all? That is one way that Meghan would be wise to not follow in the princess’ footsteps.

The only foregone conclusion here is that the viewing figures for Monday afternoon, March 8 are going to be unlike anything Australian TV bosses have seen in a very long time.

Daniela Elser is a royal expert and writer with more than 15 years experience working with a number of Australia’s leading media titles.

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