Royal tensions erupt into 'all-out war' ahead of Harry and Meghan's 'liberating' Oprah interview

Yasmine Salam
·3 min read

LONDON — Sunday evening had promised to be the main event.

But the week leading up to Prince Harry and Meghan's interview with the media mogul Oprah Winfrey has instead delivered daily episodes of royal drama in the shape of leaks, counterstatements and well-timed preview clips.

The latest saw Meghan, the Duchess of Sussex, say it was "liberating" for the couple to be able to speak out after leaving the family.

The sprinkling of preview clips throughout the week may have been designed to build tension ahead of the interview, which is set to air on CBS on Sunday night.

And so they did.

But for a royal family accustomed to keeping matters private, the extraordinary public battle marks a notable break from tradition.

"The Sussexes appear to be going public about their experiences in an effort to take control of the narrative," Carolyn Harris, a royal expert and author based in Canada, said.

While royals have given many interviews before, she said, the decision to invite such public scrutiny on the tensions that have played out behind palace doors will have been "controversial" with the family.

Meghan accused the palace of "perpetuating falsehoods" about the couple in a 30-second excerpt from the interview that was released Thursday.

"I don’t know how they could expect that after all of this time, we would still just be silent if there’s an active role that 'The Firm' is playing in perpetuating falsehoods about us," she tells Winfrey.

Buckingham Palace told NBC News it would not be commenting on the clip.

Using the name that the royal family sometimes uses to describe itself, Meghan once again set the couple apart in comments that further fueled the growing public rift.

"I think it's got to the point now where you can see that the gloves are off," Roya Nikkhah, a royal expert and Sunday Times correspondent, told BBC Radio on Thursday.

"There is so much ill will on both sides historically about what has happened that timing is just one small thing," she added.

The clip was released just hours after the palace said it would conduct an internal investigation into bullying allegations against Meghan that were published by a U.K. newspaper earlier this week.

"We are clearly very concerned about the allegations," the statement said, referring to the report in the Times newspaper, which quotes unnamed sources and contains details not independently verified by NBC News.

“The Duchess is saddened by this latest attack on her character," a spokesperson for Meghan and Harry said.

News of the bullying probe dominated front pages in the United Kingdom, with headlines declaring "all-out war at the palace" and "unhappy families."

Local morning shows on radio and television were similarly dominated by the royal saga.

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Harry and Meghan have made their issues with U.K. tabloids well-known over the past few years.

In an interview with the TV host James Corden last week, Harry, grandson of Queen Elizabeth II, said that Britain’s "toxic" press was one of the things that drove him to move his family to California last year to live a more independent life.

"It was a really difficult environment, as I think a lot of people saw. We all know what the British press can be like and it was destroying my mental health," he said.

The Sussexes finalized their split from the royal family last month a year after "stepping back" from public duties following a tabloid onslaught, which Meghan's supporters say often veered into racist harassment and bullying.

The couple announced on Valentine's Day they were expecting their second child, months after Meghan revealed that she had suffered a miscarriage.

The Winfrey interview has been billed as an opportunity for the couple to speak candidly about their reasons for breaking from the family.

"If that comes with risks of losing things," Meghan says in the teaser clip released Thursday, "I mean, there's a lot that's been lost already."