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The Queen Will Give a Televised Address the Same Day as Harry and Meghan’s Oprah Interview

On Sunday, March 7, the Queen will broadcast a special TV message to celebrate Commonwealth Day—hours before Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s sit-down interview with Oprah Winfrey airs.

In a bizarre scheduling conflict, the Queen will deliver a personal message to the United Kingdom and the Commonwealth to mark Commonwealth Day, on the same day the Oprah interview airs in the States. The Queen will be joined by other senior royals, including Prince Charles, Camilla the Duchess of Cornwall, Prince William, and Kate the Duchess of Cambridge, who have agreed to film readings and reflections.

Commonwealth Day is one of the first dates to go into the Queen’s calendar; last year the service in Westminster Abbey was one of the last royal family events attended by Harry and Meghan, where there was visible tension among the family members. Because of Covid restrictions the in-person service can’t happen this year, so the BBC will broadcast the special service on Sunday, the day before Commonwealth Day on March 8.

Because of the time zone difference, there will be no actual clash between the two broadcasts; Harry and Meghan’s 90-minute sitdown with Oprah will air at 8 p.m. Eastern time, which is 1 a.m. in the United Kingdom; it won’t air in the UK until later in the day on Monday. But the interest in the interview, and what the couple reveals, is likely to dominate social media chatter. A source told Vanity Fair, “The palace is hoping the service will get plenty of media coverage because Commonwealth Day is incredibly important to the Queen, she won’t be happy if anything overshadows it.”

Palace aides have said that the date for the service was decided by the BBC “weeks ago” after extensive discussions with the Commonwealth Secretariat and the BBC. The scheduling conflict will be frustrating for palace aides who go to great lengths to avoid diary clashes and are already bracing themselves for what could be the royal family’s most explosive interview since Diana agreed to talk with Panorama.

Over the weekend it was reported that the Queen and her aides were blindsided by the announcement that Harry and Meghan had agreed to the Oprah interview. Just days later the palace announced that the Queen had written personally to the Sussexes to explain that it was not possible “to continue with the responsibilities and duties that come with a life of public service,” and that their decision to step down as senior royals was permanent.

While palace aides have stressed the announcement was not a direct result of the Oprah announcement, the instruction at Buckingham Palace was that loose ends needed to be tied up and there was no point in delaying the announcement after the Sussexes had decided not to return to royal life.

Harry and Meghan are said to be deeply disappointed by the Queen’s decision to strip them of their royal patronages, which include their roles as President and Vice President of the Queen’s Commonwealth Trust. They had hoped to have a long serving role within the Commonwealth and are said to be disappointed that the patronage has been taken away from them. According to The Mirror, the interview is now being re-edited following Buckingham Palace’s announcement about their patronages.

“When the Duke and Duchess spoke, it was never envisaged they would have their patronages taken away,” a source told The Mirror. “They didn’t see it coming and spoke as they still had roles to play. Now, however, other than their titles, they are to have no role in royal life – a point producers know was not discussed when Winfrey spoke to them. Neither the Sussexes nor the TV crew saw the fallout of their interview leading to this. Harry and Meghan thought they would retain their roles. But things have significantly changed for them since they eagerly sat for Winfrey and poured their hearts out.”

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