Why Meghan Won't Make the Same Mistakes as Princess Diana in Her Tell-All
The former actor has a better grasp on television than Diana ever did.
Duchess Meghan and Prince Harry's tell-all interview with Oprah Winfrey is set to premiere in a week, which has the royal family "deeply concerned" about just what the couple will reveal about their tumultuous time as senior members of the House of Windsor. Royal insiders tell Best Life that Prince William and Duchess Catherine are "bracing for the worst," while Queen Elizabeth is "worried" that the couple's version of what went on behind Palace walls could be detrimental to the Crown. Winfrey's best friend, CBS anchor Gayle King, has said "nothing is off-limits" as far as the questions Winfrey will be asking the couple, sending shivers down the spines of Palace courtiers. According to several sources, the Palace has already begun preparing a strategy to deal with the fallout.
Historically, royal tell-all interviews have been disastrous for all concerned. When the announcement was made about Meghan and Harry's sit-down with Oprah, there were inevitable comparisons to Princess Diana's explosive 1995 Panorama interview with Martin Bashir. No one had been informed about Diana's plan to tell her side of the story, which left the Palace reeling and ultimately led to the Queen demanding that the princess and Prince Charles divorce. Prince Andrew made his own decision to do a catastrophic interview with the BBC in 2019 in an attempt to distance himself from convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein. It got him striped of all his patronages and booted from Buckingham Palace.
There are conflicting reports over whether Harry and Meghan told Her Majesty about their tell-all before sitting down with Oprah, but their position could not be more different. The couple is not playing defense and they are not trying to save their status within the royal pecking order; they have already chosen to free themselves from any constraints that the Palace could have tried to impose. They had no obligation to tell anyone about their plans (which is why they wanted to quit before the scheduled one-year review of their Megxit agreement). Meghan and Harry are done with Palace protocol and now have no one to answer to but themselves.
Their Mar. 7 interview on CBS will be a 90-minute broadcast presented in two parts, with the first focusing mainly on Meghan, who is expected to discuss why she and Harry left royal life, motherhood, and her pregnancy news as well as their new life in Montecito, California. Harry will join Meghan and Oprah during the second half of the tell-all. While anything could happen in the hour-and-a-half-long interview, we can be sure Meghan won't make the same mistakes with Oprah that Diana did during her BBC interview. Read on to find out how the two compare, and for more on the latest struggles the royals are facing, find out how Prince Harry Is Preparing to Rush to Prince Philip's Side, Say Insiders.
Meghan is fully aware of the potential impact of her interview; Diana had not fully thought out the implications of hers.
Former actor Meghan has a far better grasp on what makes for a successful television interview than Diana ever did. Meghan knows that being a celebrity in America means sharing a story in which the star overcomes the odds and emerges victorious—and her unique experience is all that and more. She wisely decided (along with her husband) that doing a television interview with one of the biggest names in the medium (who would be quite sympathetic) is the best way to be heard.
The duchess also understands how important the optics are. Meghan chose to do the interview just as her second pregnancy was announced and when she is glowing with happiness. The tell-all will, no doubt, be beautifully lit by Oprah's skilled production crew. Meghan instinctively knows this interview will, in all likelihood, catapult her to the next level of stardom in the States, where people are less fixated on the fact that she's no longer a working member of the royal family.
Princess Diana, meanwhile, did not think about the long-term repercussions of doing her BBC interview. Diana had no assistance from a trusted aide or friend. She looked nothing like the glamorous princess people thought they knew. Instead, she looked haunted and drawn with kohl-lined eyes and dressed mostly in black. Under the harsh lights that were hurriedly set up, Diana depicted herself as a victim and she looked it. The princess reportedly told friends years later that she regretted doing the interview. And for more royals news delivered right to your inbox, sign up for our daily newsletter.
Oprah is a friend of Meghan and Harry's and wants them to succeed; Diana was reportedly tricked into doing her interview with Martin Bashir.
Meghan and Oprah first met when the soon-to-duchess reportedly invited the television icon for tea at Kensington Palace in Mar. 2018. By the time Oprah attended the royal wedding in May of that year, she had established a fledgling friendship with both Harry and Meghan. Now neighbors in Santa Barbara, California, the world's best-known television personality has become something of a mentor to Meghan and Harry. It was reported that she interviewed them for two days in mid-February while their separation from the royals was being finalized. While Oprah will undoubtedly be looking for Meghan to spill some royal tea during the tell-all, she will also be mindful to present the duchess in a favorable light.
Diana's brother Charles, Earl Spencer has claimed Diana was tricked into doing the BBC interview largely because she was fed false claims by Bashir about her closest aides spying on her. According to several news reports, Bashir had a staffer create some false bank records that showed people were being paid to spy on her. In Dec. 2020, the BBC revealed they are investigating these claims. And for more on the connection between Oprah and the Sussexes, here's The Real Story Behind Meghan Markle's Friendship With Oprah.
Meghan and Harry have already spoken about leaving the royal family; the first time Diana publicly revealed her issues with the royals was during her tell-all.
Ever since Meghan and Harry told ITV's Tom Bradby back in Oct. 2019 how miserable they were living in the royal fishbowl, the world has come to know much more about why the couple decided to step away from royal life. Harry recently appeared on James Corden's late night talk show where he revealed he and Meghan left largely due to what they felt was a toxic environment created by the British media. Oprah will go deeper, but much of their story is already widely known.
Diana's BBC interview, meanwhile, came out of the blue. While the "War of the Wales" was splashed across the front pages of the British tabloids for months, none of the revelations had come directly from Diana until her Panorama interview aired in Nov. 1995. The royals were blindsided. Even Patrick Jephson, who handled her media relations, didn't know "The Boss" (as Diana's staff called her) was doing the sit-down. The fallout from Diana's interview remains a nightmare for the royals to this day. And for more on this difficult time in Diana's life, check out Princess Diana's Friends and Fans Say "The Crown" Is Hard to Watch.
Meghan seems to be on the other side of her struggles; Diana was in the thick of one of the hardest times in her life.
Diana was at a low point in her life when she agreed to sit down with Bashir. Feeling isolated and alone as well as battling reports she was mentally unwell, Diana felt she had no choice but to go public with her story. She was being edged out by Palace courtiers with little support from the Royal Family and was worried about losing her sons.
Meghan, once a little-known actor, found love and worldwide fame marrying Harry. She is the mother of an adorable baby son, Archie Mountbatten-Windsor. After suffering a miscarriage, she is now expecting a second child. Having known that royal life was not for her almost from the start, she and Harry carefully planned their exit and ultimately landed in Meghan's home state of California (living in a $14.7 million mansion) where they have been hugely successful in starting their new life.
With royal life in her rear view mirror, Meghan is now an international star with a limitless future. Diana was the world's biggest celebrity loved by millions, but in the end, she paid the ultimate price. Her quest for independence outside the royal circle wound up costing the princess her life. And for more on the tragedy of her passing, check out The 6 Biggest Unanswered Questions Surrounding Princess Diana's Death.
Diane Clehane is a New York-based journalist and author of Imagining Diana and Diana: The Secrets of Her Style.