LONDON — After more than 40 hours of silence, Buckingham Palace has finally spoken Tuesday on the tell-all interview with Prince Harry and Meghan Markle that brought out damaging allegations against the royal family.
In a rare statement from the palace that normally refrains from commenting on media reports, the royal family said it was "saddened" to learn of the full extent of how challenging the last few years have been for Harry and Meghan. It also said the issues raised by the couple, especially those involving alleged racism, are "concerning" and "are taken very seriously."
But just hours before the statement was issued, members of the royal family carried on with their jobs as usual.
Prince Charles offered smiles during a visit to a vaccination clinic earlier on Tuesday.
Kensington Palace released a video of Kate, Prince William's wife, speaking with the youngest female to row the Atlantic Ocean solo, for International Women’s Day.
The royal family social media account posted a message signed by Queen Elizabeth II to the Commonwealth.
Meanwhile, Harry and Meghan's claims of racism on the part of insiders, as well as Meghan's comments about suicidal thoughts, have absorbed the nation. Nearly every national newspaper splashed the interview across the front pages, and largely knocked off any other news, including the return of millions of children to school Monday.
“Palace in crisis following devastating racism claim,” reads the Guardian.
“What have they done,” wrote the Daily Mail tabloid.
“Worst royal crisis in 85 years,” said the Daily Mirror tabloid.
The tabloids also didn’t hold back in their coverage of the interview inside the papers, with The Sun devoting 16 pages, plus a 12-page pullout to the news, while the Daily Mail’s first 25 pages covered it.
Harry has long been critical of the U.K. press and said in a clip of the interview released Monday that the “U.K. press is bigoted, specifically the tabloids.”
The Society of Editors, an industry organization which promotes press freedom, strongly pushed back on his comments.
“It is not acceptable for the duke and duchess to make such claims without providing any supporting evidence,” Ian Murray, the group's executive director, said in a statement released Monday. “If it is simply the case the Sussexes feel that the press by questioning their actions and commenting on their roles when working as royals funded by the taxpayer were being racist then they are mistaken.”
The crisis has also drawn in U.S. politicians, including President Joe Biden’s press secretary who was asked about the interview Monday.
“For anyone to come forward and speak about their own struggles with mental health and tell their own personal story, that takes courage,” press secretary Jen Psaki said at a briefing. “That's certainly something the president believes.”
U.S. climate change envoy John Kerry was also asked about the claims on the BBC on Monday.
“I think that we have a strength in our relationship that is much, much bigger than an interview or a moment in a family, and I think it’s important to put that family and the relationship that we have between our countries in its proper perspective,” said Kerry, who also complimented Charles’ work on climate change.
In the United Kingdom, the monarch is the head of state. The queen and other members of the royal family have spent much of the pandemic thanking health care workers, and more recently, promoting the Covid-19 vaccination program.
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Despite the monarchy’s official role, senior government figures declined to get drawn into commenting on the personal allegations.
“I’ve spent a long time now not commenting on royal family matters, and I don’t intend to depart from that today,” Prime Minister Boris Johnson said at a press conference Monday.
Britain's morning shows also covered the interview, with drama ensuing on the set of "Good Morning Britain," when co-host Piers Morgan, who often speaks negatively of Meghan, stormed off Tuesday morning. His co-presenter brought up Morgan’s former personal relationship with Meghan and said “yet you continue to trash her.” Morgan stepped down from his job Tuesday.
The show later interviewed Meghan's father, Thomas Markle, who said he has not spoken to Meghan or Harry since their May 2018 wedding. He said that it “really did upset” him to watch his estranged daughter speak about her suicidal thoughts during her time with the royal family.
While the Winfrey interview aired Sunday in the U.S., viewers in the U.K. were only able to watch it in full Monday evening. Short clips and the more surprising content from the interview made their way around social media and the press Monday, with newspaper websites running live blogs detailing the allegations made in the interview and the local reaction.
Attitudes to the couple in the U.S. and the U.K. seem to differ, with 47 percent of U.K. respondents to a YouGov poll released Monday saying that Harry and Meghan’s interview was inappropriate, compared to 21 percent who said it was. In the U.S., the nearly reverse was true: 44 percent said the couple's interview was appropriate, while 20 percent said it wasn't.
When it came to sympathy for the couple, 56 percent said they had none or not much, compared to 29 percent who said they had a lot or a fair amount, according to a separate YouGov poll in the U.K. released Monday.