The royal family will attempt to present a united front hours before the Duke and Duchess of Sussex’s much-anticipated interview airs on Sunday - for which the host Oprah Winfrey will receive a reported $7m (£5m).
The Queen and her family have not been given advance previews of the two-hour show and Royal insiders are keen not to enter into a war of words, according to reports. In any case, the monarch will not watch the programme and is instead focusing on national issues, The Sunday Times reported.
It is the couple’s first televised interview since they stepped down from their royal duties a year ago.
The production company of Oprah, a close friend of the couple who attended their wedding, is being paid between $7m to $9m with CBSViacom, according to the Wall Street Journal.
In return, the network was allowed to negotiate worldwide syndication rights and has reportedly doubled its advertising rates for what is likely to be one of the major TV events of the year, charging roughly $325,000 (£234,000) for a 30-second advertising slot. The interview will go head-to-head in the ratings war with the popular NBA All-Star game.
On Sunday the Queen, the Prince of Wales and the Duke of Cambridge, along with the Duchess of Cornwall and the Duchess of Cambridge, will appear in a special broadcast celebrating the Commonwealth, paying tribute to the world’s frontline healthcare workers. The broadcast will present the Royal family as a unified entity, although the timing of the message is probably a coincidence, say observers.
“The coronavirus pandemic has affected every country of the Commonwealth, cruelly robbing countless people of their lives and livelihoods, disrupting our societies and denying us the human connections which we so dearly cherish,” Charles will say.
While reports of a PR blitz by the palace have been played down, the Commonwealth broadcast comes amid heightened tensions between Royal family members which this week saw Buckingham Palace announce it was opening an investigation into whether Meghan had bullied staff members.
There were also calls to postpone the Oprah interview as the Duke of Edinburgh, 99, remains in hospital following an infection and treatment for a heart condition.
"The interview is a form of revenge," royal commentator Richard Fitzwilliams said. "The link in people’s minds can only be the constant attacks on each other by Charles and Diana, which were so damaging to the monarchy in the 1990s."
However, Omid Scobie, the co-author of Harry and Meghan’s biography, told Entertainment Tonight the interview was planned before his hospital admission and that it is unlikely the couple will speak ill of the Queen or Prince Philip.
“For Harry and Meghan, they have kept a great relationship with Philip and the Queen. We heard Harry talking very warmly about his grandfather on James Corden’s show not so long ago, and I think we’ll hear more of that when they sit down with Oprah.”
In the most recent trailer for the interview, Meghan says it is “liberating” to be able to “speak for herself” after the couple’s exit from Britain for a new life in California.
Meanwhile, the proxy wars between Meghan’s supporters and critics reached fever pitch, as TV presenter Piers Morgan attacked Meghan’s former Suits co-star Patrick J Adams over his defence of her.
Adams claimed Meghan was a victim of relentless bullying, and hailed her as an “enthusiastic, kind, cooperative, giving, joyful and supportive” person.
But Morgan, a consistent critic of the star, hit back and said: “Actually, what's obscene is your friend trashing her husband’s family on global TV as the Queen’s 99-yr-old husband lies in hospital.”
He added: “Meghan Markle’s showbiz mates who flew over and grovelled up to the Royals at her wedding now publicly trashing the Monarchy - and suggesting it be abolished. Disgusting.”
Two YouTube pranksters also sought to make hay amid the media frenzy, saying they had convinced several royal commentators to give detailed opinions on camera about the interview - without having seen it.
Josh Pieters and Archie Manners uploaded the video of four commentators giving detailed opinions on specifics of the interview, despite only limited trailers being released.
Two of the commentators involved responded strongly when contacted by The Independent. Dickie Arbiter called the interview request by the pair a “scam”, while Richard Fitzwilliams said pre-recorded interviews are normal, adding: “There is nothing whatever dishonourable in it.”