It is hard to overstate just how unusual Prince Harry and Meghan Markle's media war with Buckingham Palace is

  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
Mia Jankowicz
·6 min read
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
Prince Harry and Meghan Markle during sit-down interview with Oprah Winfrey.
Prince Harry and Meghan Markle during a sit-down interview with Oprah Winfrey. CBS
  • Prince Harry and Megan Markle are engaged in a fierce back-and-forth with Buckingham Palace ahead of their Oprah interview.

  • Tit-for-tat statements reveal tensions and bitterness rarely made public in royal life.

  • The furore has been worsened by a bombshell report that accused Markle of bullying.

  • Visit Insider's homepage for more stories.

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle are at open war with Buckingham Palace as tensions over their departure from royal life exploded into the open this week.

It's hard to overstate how unusual this is for an institution that studiously avoids confrontation, and favors silence in the face of controversy.

The trigger appears to be the impending broadcast of an interview the couple gave to Oprah Winfrey, which was recorded last week and is being gradually teased in increasingly dramatic clips.

The rift between the couple and the Palace is well-known, and was widely reported both while the Duke and Duchess of Sussex were working royals and through their process of separating from the family and relocating to the US.

But tit-for-tat statements released by both the Sussexes and the Palace are airing their tensions in an extraordinarily overt fashion rarely seen in royal life.

On Wednesday, the normally tightlipped royal household took the unprecedented step of announcing that it would launch an investigation into newly-reported allegations that Meghan bullied palace staff.

The Sussexes have painted the allegations as a smear campaign, which it accuses Buckingham Palace itself of having helped to instigate. Regardless of the truth of the allegation, it is a low point in royal relations not seen in decades, if ever.

UK royal family 2018 markle
Britain's Queen Elizabeth is joined by members of the Royal Family on the balcony of Buckingham Palace in summer 2018. Chris Radburn/Reuters

Gloves off

Spokespeople for both Sussexes and for Buckingham Palace declined to comment for this article.

Since the Sussexes left the UK and ended their duties as working royals, two competing narratives have emerged.

One holds that Harry and Meghan are entitled and greedy weaklings, who disdained the sacrifices of royal life to become celebrities in the US.

The other is that they are escapees from an archaic and uncaring institution which belittled and mistreated Meghan, an outsider and a royal family member of color.

Late February saw a glut of royal news which set the stage for confrontation.

Meghan and Harry officially sealed their exit as working members of the royal family, losing their patronages and any clear route back to royal life. Foreshadowing conflicts to come, the two sides of the dispute could not agree over whether "a life of public service" was still possible outside of the fold.

Around the same time, the Oprah interview was announced, a high-profile chance for the couple to establish themselves on their own terms.

Meanwhile in the UK, Prince Phillip was hospitalized with heart problems and appeared in serious condition.

Piers Morgan, a longtime critic of Markle typified a scathing vein of commentary in the UK, writing for MailOnline that the couple were "professional victims" burnishing their image while the Queen's husband was badly ill.

Meanwhile it became clearer how personal the Oprah exchange would be. In one early teaser clip, Harry said that he feared "history repeating itself" had he and Meghan stayed in the UK, a reference to the ruthless media scrutiny and later death of his mother, Princess Diana.

Meghan Markle pregnant with baby Archie and Princess Diana pregnant with Prince Harry.
Meghan Markle pregnant with Archie and Princess Diana pregnant with Prince Harry. Samir Hussein/Getty Images, Jayne Fincher/Princess Diana Archive

A nervous palace and damning claims

With public speculation about the Oprah interview on a high, a bombshell was dropped.

On Tuesday night, The Times of London published a report citing current and former senior palace staff who said they were "humiliated" and "reduced to tears" while working for the duchess.

Markle has denied the report and said she was "saddened" by it - and their lawyers went a step further by claiming that Buckingham Palace had planted the story to embarrass them.

The couple's lawyers released a statement saying that The Times was "being used by Buckingham Palace to peddle a wholly false narrative."

"It's no coincidence that distorted several-year-old accusations aimed at undermining The Duchess are being briefed to the British media shortly before she and The Duke are due to speak openly and honestly about their experience of recent years," the spokesperson said.

Hours later, a move from the Palace gave the story a new level of weight.

Meghan Markle

The Palace strikes back

The day after the Times story was published, Buckingham Palace took the extraordinary step of announcing that its HR department would investigate the claims.

Peter Walker, a political writer for the Guardian, reflected the incredulity of many in the British press, tweeting: "Buckingham Palace, whose PR people have keyboard shortcuts for, 'We have no comment [to] make', have broken a lifetime habit of never discussing unsourced media stories to stir the pot some more on Meghan. Fancy that."

This content is not available due to your privacy preferences.
Update your settings here to see it.

The elephant in the room

An obvious comparison is the palace's lack of reaction to Prince Andrew's association with the late financier and pedophile Jeffrey Epstein.

As of last summer, Andrew had refused to cooperate with law enforcement in their Epstein investigation - despite saying he would - and stands accused by Virginia Giuffre of having sex with her when she was 17 at one of Epstein's properties. Andrew denies the allegations.

Prince Andrew appearing on BBC Newsnight with Emily Maitlis.
Prince Andrew appearing on BBC Newsnight with Emily Maitlis. BBC Newsnight

Even when the prince stepped back from royal duties following a disastrous interview with the BBC, the palace denied any role in the decision. And now that Meghan is accused of a much lesser offense, royal-watchers have noticed the discrepancy.

Online comment outlet Jezebel summed it up with the headline: "While the Windsors Investigate Meghan Markle's Rudeness, Perhaps They Could Look Into Prince Andrew's Alleged Pedophilia."

Royal-watchers at fever pitch

meghan markle oprah interview
Meghan Markle during a sit-down interview with Oprah Winfrey. CBS/Twitter

On Wednesday, the Sussexes released another clip ahead of the Oprah interview. This time, Markle pulled no punches, suggesting that Buckingham Palace has lied about her in the past.

Asked how she thought the Palace would react to the interview, she told Oprah: "I don't know how they could expect that after all of this time we would still just be silent if there's an active role that The Firm is playing in perpetuating falsehoods about us.

"And if that comes with risk of losing things, I mean, there's a lot that has been lost already."

This content is not available due to your privacy preferences.
Update your settings here to see it.

The two-hour Oprah interview airs on NBC on Sunday - four more days for the dispute to escalate further.

Read the original article on Insider