LONDON — The printing presses cranked into the night as British newspapers pored over the words of Meghan Markle and Prince Harry in their much-anticipated interview with Oprah Winfrey, which was broadcast on Sunday night in the U.S.
The interview’s awkward timing — it began at 1 a.m. London time — did nothing to stop the editors at the tabloids and broadsheets from pouring multiple cups of coffee, and making room for the late-breaking news.
Almost all major newspapers in Britain referenced the interview, in some form, on the front page, while the revelations made during the Winfrey sit-down dominated online news channels and radio stations, including the BBC.
The interview overshadowed some other news in the U.K. — that schools are back in action; that people can begin visiting relatives in care homes, and that the National Health Service is running out of money to treat COVID-19 patients — and will likely dominate headlines in the days to come.
The interview even worked its way into Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s COVID-19 update on Monday. Johnson and his medical advisers were updating the nation on the vaccine program and children’s return to school when a journalist asked Johnson about Markle and Prince Harry’s allegations of racism at the Palace.
“I have always had the highest admiration for the Queen and the unifying role that she plays in our country and across the Commonwealth,” Johnson said. “But I’ve spent a long time not commenting on royal family matters, and I don’t intend to depart from that today.”
The Prime Minister has not yet seen the interview, which airs in the U.K. on Monday evening. No doubt it will be an anti-climax for many Britons as the media has covered it in such detail already.
The Times, which like many British papers was packed with pre-interview commentary over the weekend, did not put Markle and Prince Harry on its front page. Instead, it opted for an image of Queen Elizabeth II talking about “selfless dedication” in her Commonwealth Day speech on Sunday.
The headline read: “Queen Highlights Duty as Meghan Speaks Out,” while inside another story read: “Palace Braces for Racial Issue to Hit Global Royal Image,” referring to Markle’s statement in the Winfrey interview about racist comments made to Prince Harry by a palace insider, whom she declined to name.
On the web, Sky News ran with the headline, “Meghan Tells Oprah There Were ‘Concerns’ About Archie’s Skin Colour [sic] and She Felt Suicidal.” It also ran a story saying “World Awaits Palace Response After Damning Revelations in Meghan and Harry’s Oprah Interview.”
Buckingham Palace has not commented on the interview. Winfrey has since clarified that the comments about Archie’s skin color did not come from the Queen or from her husband Prince Philip.
The BBC opted for a story saying “Meghan ‘Didn’t Want to Be Alive Any More,’” with another headline mentioning “12 Things We Learned From Meghan’s Oprah Interview.”
The website listed “’Discussions about how dark Meghan’s baby might be’; Kate ‘made Meghan cry,’ and ‘Meghan said she was on the verge of suicide but was refused help.’”
According to the BBC, the main points to come out of the interview were Meghan’s allegations of racism within the palace; her statement that she was on the verge of suicide, but was refused help after joining the royal family, and her claim that Kate Middleton, the Duchess of Cambridge, made her cry during a spat the two had ahead of her wedding to Prince Harry regarding Princess Charlotte’s flowergirl dress.
The British press had previously reported that it was Markle who made Middleton cry about the dress.
During the interview, Prince Harry said he felt “let down” by his father Prince Charles, although the couple’s relationship with Queen Elizabeth II remains on good terms, according to the BBC report. He also said that in the first quarter of 2020 his family “literally cut me off financially.” The couple also revealed they are having a baby girl.
The tabloids offered up more dramatic headlines and commentary.
“Kate Made Me Cry,” said The Daily Mail on its front page, which also carried takeaways such as “Meghan tells Oprah how row led to wedding tears”; “Royal officials lied to protect themselves — not me,” and “She married Harry in secret, three days early.”
The couple have a particularly strained relationship with The Mail, and Markle recently won a lawsuit against the paper in the British High Court. As reported last month, Markle had sued the publisher of the Mail on Sunday for breach of copyright and infringement of privacy.
The Mail on Sunday had published a handwritten letter from Markle to her father Thomas Markle, prompting the lawsuit in late 2019, shortly before the Duke and Duchess of Sussex relinquished their royal duties and moved to North America.
Last month, Mr. Justice Warby granted the Duchess of Sussex “summary judgment,” meaning the case has been resolved with no need for a trial.
Prince Harry has also taken legal action against other papers in the past, and railed against what he perceives to be the papers’ unfair pursuit of him and Markle.
As reported last April, the couple said they planned to cease engaging with the British tabloids, and were looking forward to working with media organizations all over the world, including “grassroots media, regional and local media, and young and up-and-coming journalists, to spotlight issues and causes that so desperately need acknowledging. And they look forward to doing whatever they can to help further opportunities for more diverse and underrepresented voices, who are needed now more than ever.”
The Daily Mirror led with “Oprah Interview Bombshell: ‘They Asked How Dark Archie’s Skin Would Be,’ while the tabloid wrote: “Prince Harry’s family raised concerns over baby Archie’s skin colour [sic] before he was born, Meghan sensationally claimed last night.”
Inside, the headline ran: “Monarchy in Crisis: Bombshell TV Interview: Crying Shame…,” referring to the reports that Middleton made Markle cry ahead of her wedding to Harry.
“Mexile,” screamed The Sun in gigantic letters across its front page, with bullet points crying, “Meghan may never return here”; “Whingey chat dubbed, ‘Moperah’” and “Queen won’t even watch show.” The story said “Meghan Markle may never come back to Britain after her bombshell Oprah Winfrey interview angered the royal family.”
The Daily Star plastered “Fights…Camera…Action!” on its front page, with the lead story saying: “A publicity-shy couple appear to be auditioning for ‘Notting Hill 2’ in a TV chat with Oprah Winfrey. Zzzz.” Inside the headline read: “Publicity-Shy Pair: ‘Our Notting Hell.’”
The Daily Express also put Markle’s allegations of pre-wedding tears on its front page. “Meghan’s Bombshell: Kate Made Me Cry!” Inside, another headline read: “A Loyal Nation Stands With Its Queen.”
The big broadsheets put the news on their front pages, but the headlines were less shouty. The Guardian focused on the money angle, with the headline “Royal Catch: Broadcasters Bank on Harry and Meghan’s Ratings Boost.”
The paper said the Oprah interview could be “television’s biggest money spinner, with broadcasters looking to cash in on guaranteed television ratings,” and pointed to “furious bidding wars, totaling tens of millions of dollars.”
ITV will show the interview in the U.K. at 9 p.m. local time Monday, with The Guardian saying the network paid a reported 1 million pounds for exclusivity.
The Daily Telegraph’s headline was “Harry and Meghan Embody the Woke Generation,” a quote from an opinion piece by Nick Timothy, who had served as former Prime Minister Theresa May’s joint chief of staff.
Inside, his column carried the headline: “Harry and Meghan Are the Natural Leaders of the New Woke Global Elite.” His critical column said that “victimhood, sanctimony and hypocrisy are the new markers of class in our postmodern landscape.”