Meghan Markle, Prince Harry’s Oprah Winfrey sit-down caught palace courtiers ‘off-guard,’ royal expert claims

Buckingham Palace may have allegedly been caught “off-guard” by Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s recent announcements as independent royals.

On Feb. 15, CBS announced the Duke and Duchess of Sussex would be interviewed by Oprah Winfrey in a special titled “Oprah With Meghan and Harry: A CBS Primetime Special.” The interview will air on Sunday, March 7. It will also be the couple’s first sit-down since their engagement.

Then on Feb. 19, Buckingham Palace confirmed they won’t be returning to royal duties, and Harry will give up his honorary military titles. Soon after, a spokesperson for the pair hit back at suggestions they were not devoted to duty by releasing their own statement.

“As evidenced by their work over the past year, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex remain committed to their duty and service to the U.K. and around the world, and have offered their continued support to the organizations they have represented regardless of official role,” the spokesperson said in a statement. “We can all live a life of service. Service is universal.”

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It was previously announced that Prince Harry will be partnering with Oprah Winfrey to create a documentary series on mental health for Apple's streaming service.

It was previously announced that Prince Harry will be partnering with Oprah Winfrey to create a documentary series on mental health for Apple’s streaming service.
(Getty)

Royal author and Vanity Fair correspondent Katie Nicholl recently appeared on True Royalty TV’s “The Royal Beat” and described how the palace may not have been expecting the couple to push back at their statement or to announce a televised sit-down.

During her appearance, Nicholl pointed out it was originally reported that Buckingham Palace was supposed to make a decision about Markle and Harry’s royal status on March 31. However, their decision came much sooner than expected.

“You know, the timing was interesting,” she explained. “It came just off the back of the Oprah announcement. I think the palace felt caught off-guard about… the Oprah announcement. It was clear that the Sussexes were working as a machine in their own right. They weren’t working with the palace. They had their own team and they had made their minds up.”

“They didn’t need until the 31st of March to make that announcement,” Nicholl continued. “From my understanding from the sources I’ve spoken to, the palace was like, ‘Well, why not make the announcement earlier? Let’s tie up these loose ends. Let’s bring an end to all of this speculation if this was their decision and they had made it.”

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Meghan Markle and Prince Harry are currently residing in California with their firstborn Archie. The Duke and Duchess of Sussex are expecting their second child.

Meghan Markle and Prince Harry are currently residing in California with their firstborn Archie. The Duke and Duchess of Sussex are expecting their second child.
(Getty)

Nicholl claimed the palace was already aware that Markle and Harry are expecting their second child. That announcement was made on Valentine’s Day to the public – a day before the interview was revealed. However, she alleged that the palace had no idea about the upcoming sit-down with Winfrey, 67.

She also claimed that the Sussexes were compelled to respond after the palace released their statement to debunk any misconceptions that they didn’t want to live a life of service.

“I think the point that really stuck for the Sussexes was that suggestion – that they were not going to be able to continue public service,” she explained. “Now, when they moved to America and set up this foundation and pledged to dedicate their new lives to philanthropy, albeit on their terms – that’s what got them. And that enraged them. And that is why that statement was sent deliberately without that preface… And I don’t know about you, but that statement reads like it came straight from the couple.”

When Harry and Markle stepped away from full-time royal life in March 2020, unhappy at media scrutiny and the strictures of their roles, it was agreed the situation would be reviewed after a year.

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Left to right: Duchess Kate, Prince William, Meghan, Duchess of Sussex and Prince Harry. In early 2020, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex announced they were going to take a step back as a senior member of the British royal family.

Left to right: Duchess Kate, Prince William, Meghan, Duchess of Sussex and Prince Harry. In early 2020, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex announced they were going to take a step back as a senior member of the British royal family.
(Reuters)

Now it has, and the palace said in a statement that the couple has verified “they will not be returning as working members of the Royal Family. “

It said Queen Elizabeth II had spoken to 36-year-old Harry and confirmed: “that in stepping away from the work of the Royal Family, it is not possible to continue with the responsibilities and duties that come with a life of public service.”

The palace said Harry’s appointment as captain general of the Royal Marines and titles with other military groups would revert to the queen before being distributed to other members of the family.

Harry served in the British army for a decade, including on the front line in Afghanistan, and retains a close bond with the military. He founded the Invictus Games competition for wounded troops, which first was held in 2014 at London’s Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park.

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Meghan Markle and Prince Harry originally tied the knot in 2018.

Meghan Markle and Prince Harry originally tied the knot in 2018.
(AP)

The Invictus Games Foundation said Harry would remain its patron. But he is relinquishing positions as patron of the Rugby Football Union, the Rugby Football League and the London Marathon Charitable Trust.

Meghan, 39, will be stripped of her role as patron of Britain’s National Theatre and the Association of Commonwealth Universities.

“While all are saddened by their decision, the Duke and Duchess remain much loved members of the family,” the palace statement said.

Markle, a former star of the TV legal drama “Suits,” married the queen’s grandson Harry at Windsor Castle in May 2018. Their son, Archie, was born a year later.

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Meghan Markle and Prince Harry have expressed their desire to be financially independent and live a life of service.

Meghan Markle and Prince Harry have expressed their desire to be financially independent and live a life of service.
(AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth)

In early 2020, Markle and Harry announced they were quitting royal duties and moving to North America, citing what they said were the unbearable intrusions and racist attitudes of the British media toward the duchess, who identifies as biracial.

The couple agreed to no longer use the title “royal highness” or receive public funds for their work, although it was unclear at the time if those decisions would stand.

They retain their titles of duke and duchess, and Harry is still sixth in line to the British throne. Harry and Meghan now live in Santa Barbara, California.

‘The Royal Beat’ is currently available for streaming on True Royalty TV. The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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