From top: Last week’s Prince Harry and Meghan Markle interview with Oprah Winfrey; Grace Garvey
A week is a long time in lockdown. Last Monday evening, some 725,000 of us tuned in for the RTÉ broadcast of Oprah’s interview with Harry and Meghan, while a further 100,000 watched on Player the following day. The prospect of a squabble in someone else’s family was a welcome diversion, but a mere week later, it’s wall-to-wall plague again.
Not so for royal biographer and New York-based Brit, Tina Brown, who said on CBS the morning after, that we will be talking about the landmark interview in 20 years’ time. ‘Let’s all bow down to the real queen here: Oprah!’ she said.
Oprah is certainly a dab hand at the celebrity interview but had it been a legal setting, we’d be calling for a cross-examination to move things along. Questions were left unasked, and it seemed to go on. Although the host said at the outset that no subject was off limits and Meghan hadn’t been primed, it felt somewhat staged. The battle lines had been drawn under the neighbour’s pergola.
None of this would matter if such damaging accusations hadn’t emerged. Oprah managed to weave together the threads of the story but left some niggling knots behind.
Why, for instance, hadn’t she asked why Harry couldn’t access mental healthcare for his wife? He himself has been in therapy for years, and is patron of a mental health charity. He had spoken previously of the importance of getting help. Surely it would have taken but a quick call.
Shortly after the interview went live, I got an email from a London friend calling Meghan a despicable witch. She pronounced her a con woman who had pulled off a heist. Clothing herself in Diana’s weeds, she had manipulated Harry, before making off with fame and fortune to the Santa Barbara sun. Behold Meghan the villain!
Furthermore, my friend had a ready answer to the mental health conundrum. Approaching HR was all about the optics. It wouldn’t have served Meghan’s purpose to arrange help privately as no one would know. She had to be seen to make the request and be rebuffed.
But what if HR had said yes? I asked, momentarily donning Oprah’s boots. Would that not have scuppered the plan?
My sister took the opposing view. Any couple who had a rescue dog and chickens was fine by her. The Palace had done nothing to protect Meghan from the vitriol of the tabloid press, and Harry had been quite the prince in freeing himself of the straitjacket and getting his family out. She was glad the Queen had come up smelling of peonies, but felt the royal legacy of dysfunction speaks for itself.
So, having invested almost an hour-and-a-half in this bonus episode of The Crown, I felt a little let down by Oprah’s approach. Due to her nonchalance on a few crucial issues, I simply didn’t know what to believe. I wasn’t expecting Frost Nixon, but a more interrogative style might have nailed things down.
On the racism allegation, a bit of context wouldn’t have gone amiss. Meghan mentioned ‘concerns and conversations’ about how dark their baby’s skin might be. Racism is someone being disadvantaged or denigrated because of their race; a discussion about a person’s race or skin hue is not. Was their child to be denied a title because he might not be lily white? That was implied but never actually said.
A London contact with bi-racial children, who has previously lived in LA, questions the wisdom of swapping life in the UK for ‘the race-relations pressure cooker that is America, now contaminating the UK with its racial-tribal politics’. But clearly for Meghan, it was an informed move.
How seriously the issues raised will be taken, who can say. The Palace issued a short, conciliatory statement two days later, the Queen reportedly having rejected an earlier draft. “Recollections may vary,‘’ it said – someone’s telling porkies, let’s find out more? And promising that matters would be dealt with ‘by the family privately’. That sounds promising as long as it doesn’t amount to sweeping it under the Aubusson rugs.
Whether or not Oprah is the real queen, she’s the only winner here. CBS paid her production company $7 million for the interview rights, and the fallout continues to make news. On this side of the pond, we’re eyeing Michael D with fresh regard. He costs the Irish taxpayer a puny €3.5 million a year, as opposed to the £350 million per annum it takes to maintain the relic to an imperial past.
We can now return to our own domestic strife knowing at least that we’re all created equal and none of us is born to rule. It’s also liberating to be able to pop out for a pint of milk without worrying that the security detail has been pulled.
Grace Garvey is a Communications and Content Marketing Strategist. Grace can be reached at email@example.com.