Harry and Meghan Return to the Spotlight With Oprah Interview

LONDON — Prince Harry and his wife, Meghan, chose Valentine’s Day to announce they were expecting their second child, confirming the happy news with a dreamy black-and-white photo of themselves posed under a tree — a barefoot Harry stroking Meghan’s hair, her baby bump only slightly smaller than her smile.

Within a day, Britain’s tabloids were griping. It was an undignified display for a prince who is still sixth in line for the throne, they said. A podiatrist consulted by the Daily Mail went so far as to say that Harry’s feet looked mildly deformed, with bunions that could be the result of his rigorous military training.

As Harry and Meghan mark the first anniversary of their acrimonious split with the British royal family, it is clear that the wounds have yet to heal — between them and the tabloid press or even, according to people with ties to Buckingham Palace, between them and members of the House of Windsor.

Harry will soon be stripped of his honorary military commands and patronage appointments, the outcome of a 12-month review of the agreement that codified the couple’s withdrawal from duties as full-time royals. Meghan will also lose her appointments, which include patron of the National Theater.

None of this is surprising to people who follow the royal family. Queen Elizabeth II made clear she would not tolerate a half-in, half-out arrangement with the couple, who have begun a lucrative new life in California with podcasts and programming deals. But it is still bruising to Harry, who served as a helicopter pilot in Afghanistan and reveres his military ties, according to a person with ties to the palace who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss palace affairs.

“Anyone with any sense knew this was inevitable,” said Valentine Low, royal correspondent of the Times of London. “They’ve done these commercial deals with Netflix and Spotify. But this confirms the permanence of the split.”

Under the terms of the severance agreement, hammered out in January 2020 at the queen’s country residence, Sandringham, the couple agreed to give up the titles His Royal Highness and Her Royal Highness. They also dropped the royal from their charitable foundation and social media accounts. But they continue to be known as the duke and duchess of Sussex, titles bestowed on them by Elizabeth.

As if to reinforce their new independence, the couple agreed to a prime-time interview with Oprah Winfrey, which will air in the United States on March 7. Palace officials are steeling themselves for embarrassing disclosures about how Meghan, a 39-year-old American former actress, felt isolated and unwelcome after her fairy-tale wedding to Harry at Windsor Castle in 2018.

Tell-all interviews have tended to be train wrecks for the royal family, going back to Prince Charles’s confession in 1994 that he had been unfaithful to Princess Diana, Harry’s mother. A year later, Diana told an interviewer, “there were three of us in this marriage.” In 2019, Prince Andrew’s clumsy defense of his friendship with the convicted sexual predator Jeffrey Epstein hastened his banishment from public life.

Ms. Winfrey is friendly with Harry and Meghan, so her questions are unlikely to be as probing as those posed to Andrew by the BBC journalist, Emily Maitlis. Still, their choice of arguably the most famous American celebrity interviewer for their big post-royal reveal has set teeth on edge in London’s media establishment.

The timing could also be awkward after news that Prince Philip, the queen’s 99-year-old husband, had been admitted to a London hospital on Tuesday with an unspecified illness. Buckingham Palace said Philip, the duke of Edinburgh, did not have the coronavirus and that his hospitalization was precautionary. He and the queen were given their first doses of the coronavirus vaccine in January.

It also didn’t help that CBS announced the interview only days after the duchess won a legal victory in a privacy case against the Mail on Sunday. A High Court judge ruled that the tabloid had illegally published a letter that Meghan sent to her estranged father, Thomas Markle. The decision was a victory over those who “create their business model to profit from people’s pain,” she said in a statement.

“They don’t have a huge reservoir of affection among the tabloids because they essentially declared war on them,” said Mr. Low of The Times. “There’s also a generational thing that goes on.”

Younger people, who get their news from social media, tend to be more enthusiastic about the couple than the older people who read the tabloids, he said. For many, Meghan’s biracial background and acting career breathed fresh air into a musty institution. But to some older, more traditional Britons, the couple’s abrupt departure for California was a repudiation of the queen herself.

The British media was genuinely excited about Meghan’s pregnancy, particularly given that she had suffered a painful miscarriage last July, an experience she wrote about in stark terms in The New York Times last November. But the slick way this happier news was announced played into criticisms that the couple abhor intrusive press coverage, unless it is on their own terms.

To shoot the photo under the tree, they hired a Nigerian-born British photographer, Misan Harriman, who has photographed Black Lives Matter protests as well as a cover of British Vogue. He is a friend of the couple.

“They left Britain ostensibly to get away from the relentless publicity,” said Penny Junor, a royal biographer. “They couldn’t stand the lack of the privacy; yet at every turn, they seem to have sought publicity for themselves.”

Royal watchers say tensions between the couple’s old and new lives were inevitable — and have actually been masked by the pandemic. Travel restrictions have spared Harry any questions about why he did not show up for the wedding of his cousin, Princess Beatrice, a daughter of Andrew, last July.

But after sheltering in their castles and palaces over the last 11 months, the royal family is turning out in the summer for a series of celebrations that will be hard for even a prodigal prince to miss: the queen’s 95th birthday and Prince Philip’s 100th birthday, both celebrated in June; and the installation of a statue of Princess Diana at Kensington Palace on July 1, what would have been her 60th birthday.

Even before news of Meghan’s pregnancy, the couple’s summer travel plans were uncertain. Several papers reported that Harry might go to Britain but the duchess would stay home to take care of their son, Archie Mountbatten-Windsor.

“If they came back and did lovely shots for the press with their babies, I think the press could be very favorable,” Ms. Junor said. “Fundamentally, he was very much loved. But there are lot of people who think she led him astray.”

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