With Oprah Winfrey’s explosive interview with Prince Harry and Meghan Markle airing in the early hours of Monday morning in the UK, there was little the nation’s press could do to get the couple’s comments on the front page of their papers.
But after Monday’s fallout from the interview, and its airing on ITV, the fallout was predictably splashed across front pages.
The Daily Mail which, alongside its online division the Mail Online has covered the Sussexes in minute detail, screamed: “WHAT HAVE THEY DONE?”
The paper’s royal editor Rebecca English said the “bombshell” interview left Buckingham Palace “paralysed with ‘horror and dismay’, adding: “The Queen, Prince Charles and Prince William were all locked in crisis talks over how to react to a string of incendiary accusations unleashed by Harry and wife Meghan during (the) two-hour special”.
The Mirror, meanwhile, identified the interview as the “worst Royal crisis in 85 years” – drawing a number of comparisons online with the coverage of Prince Andrew’s car-crash Newsnight interview about his friendship with paedophile Jeffrey Epstein in November 2019.
In a front page opinion piece, Daily Telegraph columnist Allison Pearson says the interview represented a “devastating insult” to the Queen which would not only affect the royal family but could destabilise the Commonwealth.
She wrote: “Above all, many of us will have felt the insult to the Queen. However loudly Harry and Meghan may have proclaimed their affection for the monarch there is no question that their interview was a devastating act of lese-majeste. The couple unleashed demons which could destabilise her beloved Commonwealth and threaten the future of the monarchy itself.
“Harry once reportedly said: What Meghan wants Meghan gets. But is this really what she wanted?”
Describing a “weird, reeling ride of an interview”, Pearson said its timing – with the Duke of Edinburgh in hospital – made it look “vengeful, self-absorbed and attention-seeking”.
Several papers, including The Times, The Guardian and The Independent focused on Meghan’s statement when she was pregnant with Archie a member of the royal family raised “concerns and conversations about how dark his skin might be when he’s born”.
The couple have not identified the member of the royal family who made the comments, but Winfrey confirmed on Monday that it was neither the Queen nor Prince Philip who had made the racist remarks.
A leading article in The Times said the racism allegation “could hardly be more damaging to the royal family”.
Meanwhile Daily Express columnist Stephen Pollard criticised the Sussexes for electing to air their grievances on “prime time TV”.
He compared the interview with the Queen’s earlier Commonwealth address, writing: “Meghan and Harry took to the airwaves for a two-hour long interview in which they spoke about themselves, their feelings and their wishes to the exclusion of all else.”
The Daily Star took a rather different direction, featuring a cartoon picture of a TV set on its front page with the headline: “Our telly broke at 8.59pm last night. Did we miss anything?”
While the interview aired in the US on Sunday night, it was shown on British televisions by ITV at 9pm on Wednesday night.
The Metro used a full-page picture of the couple with their son Archie, released on Monday in the wake of the interview, to lead their coverage with the headline “Just The Four Of Us Now”.
The Society of Editors (SoE), which represents almost 400 members in senior journalism positions, was met with criticism on Monday after it published an article with the headline: UK media not bigoted: SoE responds to Sussexes’ claims of racism”.
It stated: “The UK media is not bigoted and will not be swayed from its vital role holding the rich and powerful to account following the attack on the press by the Duke and Duchess of Sussex”.
A 2016 study by City University London found that the British journalism industry is 94% white, with just 0.2% journalists Black.
In February Meghan won her High Court privacy case against the Mail on Sunday over the newspaper’s publication of extracts of a “personal and private” handwritten letter she had written to her estranged father Thomas Markle.
On March 5 a High Court judge ruled that Associated Newspapers, which runs both The Mail on Sunday and MailOnline, must print a front-page apology to Meghan on both tabloids.