Harry and Meghan: The week that shook the monarchy to its core - and what happens next

Rebecca Taylor
·Royal Correspondent
·13-min read

Watch: The key revelations from Meghan and Harry’s Oprah interview

It's been quite a week for the royal family.

When news emerged that the Duke and Duchess of Sussex were set to sit down with Oprah Winfrey to talk about life as senior royals, parents, and their plans for the future, speculation was intense about what they would say and any potential fallout.

Teaser clips released before the programme aired gave an indication it would be open and honest, with Winfrey asking Meghan "were you silent or were you silenced?", while Harry spoke of fears of "history repeating itself".

But no one expected the bombshells that were dropped to cover allegations of racism, and ignorance of a suicidal duchess.

Yahoo News UK recaps the week that was and asks what's next for Harry, Meghan, and the Royal Family.

Sunday: The interview airs in the US

The interview was shown first on US television on Sunday evening, in a primetime slot with some 17m people tuning in.

It started with Meghan sitting down in a one-on-one with Winfrey, where she revealed she'd suffered suicidal thoughts during her time as a royal; claimed she had been denied support to cope with them; and said a member of the Royal Family raised "concerns" about what colour Archie's skin might be before he was born.

When Harry joined the two women, he said he had felt "awkward" when he had the conversation with the family member, but refused to go into more detail.

He also said the family had cut him off, that his father had stopped taking his calls, and described his relationship with his brother as "space".

The first part of the interview will be Meghan one on one with Winfrey. (CBS)
The first part of the interview featured Meghan one on one with Winfrey. (CBS)

Read more: 5 most explosive claims about Royal Family from Meghan Markle’s Oprah interview

The pair concluded they would still be senior royals if they'd been given the support they needed.

The interview was jaw-dropping.

Chris Ship, ITV's royal editor, said: "When the show was over, it dawned on me that the couple had effectively loaded up a B-52 bomber, flew it over Buckingham Palace and then unloaded their arsenal right above it, bomb by heavily-loaded bomb."

Camilla Tominey, The Telegraph associate editor said: "In allowing his wife to throw a grenade under the Duchess of Cambridge and detailing how his father stopped taking his calls, Harry lit the fuse on a slow burn stick of dynamite that arguably promises to cause the greatest devastation of all in the long run."

Monday: The interview airs around the world

With coverage through the night, the interview ran as the main story for breakfast shows across TV networks - including Good Morning Britain, with Piers Morgan.

Morgan caused outrage when he said he "didn't believe a word" of Meghan's interview with Winfrey.

More than 41,000 people complained to Ofcom about his comments.

Although news websites ran stories all day, more than 12m people in the UK tuned into the interview when it aired on ITV on Monday evening.

Speculation began to mount as to how the Queen would respond.

As the palace initially remained silent, there were calls for an investigation into the issues Meghan and Harry raised.

Labour MP Nadia Whittome tweeted: “When Meghan Markle was accused of bullying, Buckingham Palace immediately announced an investigation.

“Now that Meghan has revealed comments about her child’s skin colour, will they investigate racism in the Palace? I won’t be holding my breath."

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said the allegations should be taken seriously, but Boris Johnson refused to be drawn on the interview.

As to the public's reaction, a YouGov poll showed that the row did not appear to be helping anyone, with people saying they had little sympathy either with the duke and duchess or with the rest of the Royal Family.

The poll of 2,111 British adults on 8 March showed that from what they had heard and read, 47% of people thought the interview was inappropriate, and about a fifth (21%), said the interview was appropriate.

The Society of Editors, which represents large parts of the UK press, issued a statement which refuted Harry's claim that the press was "bigoted", saying: "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."

Society director Ian Murray added that it was “unreasonable” for the couple to “conflate the legitimate coverage provided by the edited and regulated UK media with the wild west of social media.”

Watch: How Are People Reacting to the Harry and Meghan Interview?

Tuesday: The palace responds

Some reports suggested the Queen had wanted more time to respond to the claims made in the interview by Harry and Meghan. Others said she had wanted to sleep on the comment prepared on her behalf by aides.

Eventually, at nearly 6pm, a statement was released on behalf of the Queen.

It read: "The whole family is saddened to learn the full extent of how challenging the last few years have been for Harry and Meghan.

"The issues raised, particularly that of race, are concerning. While some recollections may vary, they are taken very seriously and will be addressed by the family privately.

"Harry, Meghan and Archie will always be much loved family members."

Within moments of the palace statement, another was released. This time from ITV confirming that Morgan had stepped down from his presenting role at Good Morning Britain, after the comments he made about Meghan.

Earlier in the day, Meghan's father Thomas Markle Snr had his say on the interview, revealing he had been upset to hear his daughter had suicidal thoughts.

WINDSOR, UNITED KINGDOM:  In this undated image released on March 6, 2021, Queen Elizabeth II walks past Commonwealth flags in St George's Hall at Windsor Castle, to mark Commonwealth Day, in Windsor, England.  (Photo by Steve Parsons - WPA Pool/Getty Images)
Queen Elizabeth II, before the interview, walking past Commonwealth flags in St George's Hall at Windsor Castle, to mark Commonwealth Day. (Steve Parsons - WPA Pool/Getty Images)

Read more: Why didn't Harry and Meghan's race claim go straight to HR?

Speaking to Morgan on GMB, he branded Prince Harry "snotty" and said he felt Meghan had let him down.

Prince Charles and Camilla were out in public for the first time since the interview, at a set of engagements in London.

Charles chuckled when he was asked about the interview, as he met people waiting to get their COVID-19 vaccine at a pop-up centre.

Following the divisive society statement, Murray appeared on BBC News where he had a heated exchange with Victoria Derbyshire.

He refused to say if headlines which Derbyshire raised during Meghan's time in the UK were racist.

Wednesday: Meghan's friend comes to her defence

Speaking publicly for the first time since the interview, and for many years, actor and musician Janina Gavankar appeared on This Morning to defend Meghan.

Addressing bullying allegations made against Meghan the previous week, Gavankar said there would be "texts and emails" which would show the duchess was "not a bully".

Gavankar said the duchess felt "free" after the interview had aired. She repeatedly said she spoke for herself, but acknowledged that Meghan and Harry did know she was appearing on the show.

NEW YORK, NEW YORK - MARCH 04: Actor Janina Gavankar attends the Build Series to discuss
Janina Gavankar, here in March 2020, came out to support her friends Harry and Meghan. (Jim Spellman/Getty Images)

Elsewhere, Murray stepped down as executive director of the Society of Editors after the fallout from his statement, and said: "While I do not agree that the Society’s statement was in any way intended to defend racism, I accept it could have been much clearer in its condemnation of bigotry and has clearly caused upset."

Meanwhile, Morgan continued to stand by his comments, saying he still did not believe what Meghan said in the interview.

He said: "If people want to believe Meghan Markle, that’s entirely their right.

“I don’t believe almost anything that comes out of her mouth and I think the damage she’s done to the British monarchy and to the Queen at a time when Prince Philip is lying in hospital is enormous and, frankly, contemptible.

“If I have to fall on my sword for expressing an honestly held opinion about Meghan Markle and that diatribe of bilge that she came out with in that interview, so be it.”

Journalist and television presenter Piers Morgan smiles in front of members of the media as he takes his daughter Elise to school, after he left his high-profile breakfast slot with the broadcaster ITV, following his long-running criticism of Prince Harry's wife Meghan, in London, Britain, March 10, 2021. REUTERS/Toby Melville
Piers Morgan smiles as he takes his daughter Elise to school, after he left his high-profile breakfast slot with the broadcaster ITV, on 10 March 2021. (Reuters/Toby Melville)

Read more: 'History repeating itself': The striking similarities between Meghan and Diana

It also emerged that Meghan sent a personal letter to ITV complaining about his comments.

It's understood the letter was not complaining about whether or not he believed her, but citing concerns that his comments "may affect the issue of mental health generally and those attempting to deal with their own problems".

Thursday: William breaks his silence

Prince William and Kate made their first appearance since the interview as they visited a school in east London as part of their work with the Royal Foundation on mental health.

Sky News reporter Inzamam Rashid called out to the Duke of Cambridge "Is the royal family a racist family, sir?" to which he got the reply: "We’re very much not a racist family."

William also said that he had not spoken to his brother yet, but added "I will do".

LONDON, ENGLAND - MARCH 11: Prince William, Duke of Cambridge visits School 21 in Stratford on March 11, 2021 in London, England. The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge visited the school in east London to congratulate teachers involved in the re-opening of the school following lockdown restrictions. (Photo by Justin Tallis - WPA Pool/Getty Images)
Prince William visited a school in East London where he told reporters his family was "very much not a racist family". (Justin Tallis - WPA Pool/Getty Images)

The remark was the first time a member of the family had spoken in public about the interview.

Reaction to Morgan leaving GMB also continued, with Alex Beresford - the GMB presenter who had been critical of Morgan during the show - saying he had always had a "lively, cheeky on-air relationship" adding "I didn’t want him to quit, but I did want him to listen".

Friday: Poll shows a dip in popularity for Harry and Meghan

After watching the fallout of the interview over the week, YouGov polled 1,664 British adults to see what they thought of Harry and Meghan between 10-11 March.

The ratings showed Harry's lowest ever popularity scores - with his net favourability down to -3 points.

YouGov found that 45% of Britons have a positive opinion of Prince Harry, but 48% regard him negatively, giving a net score -3.

The couple's popularity had dropped again, having slightly improved before the interview was aired. (YouGov)
The couple's popularity had dropped again, having slightly improved before the interview was aired. (YouGov)

The polling company said this was a drop of 15 points from 2 March - and the first time attitudes have been more negative than positive towards the prince.

Meghan's scores had dropped too, having been on the rise shortly before the interview.

Only three in ten people (31%) have a positive opinion of her, while six in ten view her negatively (58%), giving her a net rating of -27, down from -14 just over a week ago.

Meanwhile, a poll by Redfield and Wilton for The Times Redbox showed that 51% of people want the crown to pass straight to Prince William, skipping his father who is next in line.

About a third, 31%, support Charles becoming King as will happen when the Queen dies.

What's next?

The wording of the Queen's statement - and subsequent reports - suggests the Royal Family is desperate to keep this matter behind closed doors. It considers the issues private and should be dealt with between family members.

According to some reports, the Queen is preparing to speak to Harry in the next few days, and to quiz members of her family about the conversation about race.

She's also said to be supportive of William's comment that they are "very much not" a racist family.

But their efforts to keep things quiet may not be successful. There will be questions that are continued to be asked about the most famous family in Britain, and it will remain to be seen how much pressure they can withstand.

Already some Commonwealth realms, where the Queen is head of state, are reopening the frequently revisited conversation of keeping her as their monarch.

Polls have shown a stark generational divide in the response to the interview, with younger people siding with Harry and Meghan, which suggests there may be longer-term battles ahead for the House of Windsor.

LONDON,  UNITED KINGDOM - JUNE 08:  Prince William, Duke of Cambridge, Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, Prince Louis of Cambridge, Prince George of Cambridge, Princess Charlotte of Cambridge, Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, Prince Charles, Prince of Wales, Princess Anne, The Princess Royal, Queen Elizabeth ll, Prince Andrew, Duke of York, Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex stand on the balcony of Buckingham Palace following Trooping the Colour on June 08, 2019 in London, England. (Photo by Anwar Hussein/WireImage)
Questions about the future of the monarchy are being raised across the Commonwealth. (Anwar Hussein/WireImage)

Read more: What Commonwealth countries are saying about Harry and Meghan's racism claim

PR expert Anthony Burr said: "This interview has been massively divisive. I can’t think of a more divisive interview, ever.

"This has created chasms between countries, cultures, race, industries and tradition. We are now seeing arguments such as Generation X vs Gen Z’s; US vs UK; Celebrity vs Royalty, US media vs UK media, Black vs White, Republicans vs Royalists.

"It is playing out across the world through social media and almost every media platform."

He added: "Meghan could have been our ambassador for decades to come. Instead she has become our fiercest critic."

What next for Harry and Meghan?

The Duke and Duchess of Sussex appear to have laid out their grievances in full, and so this could be the final word for them.

Gavankar said the couple could now look to their work together, through Archewell, the non-profit organisation which they have founded in the US.

However, her appearance on British TV hours after the palace's statement in response to the interview might mean this is not over yet from the Sussex camp.

She said they were excited for a "new era" in which they could "tell the truth, we can finally validate them".

While they may be unconcerned about dropping levels of popularity from a personal point of view, there could be an impact on their future work if they cannot restore a public image.

Meghan referred to 'The Firm' as she sat down to talk to Oprah about life in the royal family. (CBS)
Meghan and Harry have set out their life as primarily being in the US now. (CBS)

The couple's main line of work is set to be making documentaries, children's programmes, and scripted series for Netflix as well as podcasts for Spotify.

Those all need viewers and listeners, and might need the couple to be popular in order to do well.

Burr told Yahoo UK: "With this interview, Meghan and Harry have confirmed their position of living and working in the United States. Their earning power there will surely remain, unless they make some huge missteps now. Harry proved that by sealing the deals with Netflix and Spotify.

"The dust will take a while to settle in the UK, and they will analyse what their popularity may be on this side of the pond after a period of time. But they will be welcomed in to US celebrity royalty and that is where they will prosper. Expect more deals like the ones they have already made."

Only time will tell.