I've supported Harry and Meghan's decisions - but Oprah interview feels wrong: Christa Ackroyd

It hasn’t escaped my attention that ITV has cancelled the latest episode of its TV drama Unforgotten on Monday night, in order to schedule what they hope will be a blockbusting, ratings winning interview with Harry and Meghan.

Harry and Meghan on their wedding day. Picture: PA
Harry and Meghan on their wedding day. Picture: PA

Or perhaps that should be Meghan and Harry, as she appears to be the main focus of the two hour programme. How ironic. Unforgotten? Well, it is better to be forgotten than remembered for all the wrong reasons.

Look, I have always supported the Royal, or now not quite so Royal, couple in their decision to live their lives how they want to, and where they want to, as long as they don’t rely on the public purse to pay their bills. I understood that the constant attention must have been wearisome to say the least.

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I have never believed it was all Meghan’s decision to run away and seek a new life in the sun. I even agreed that the publication of a personal letter from The Duchess to her father, written in anguish after he flogged photos to the papers just before her wedding, was one step too far.

The Oprah interview will be shown on ITV on Monday.

Well, she won that battle and there she should have left it. Now they are in danger of losing the war, a war that will see no victors. Once again I ask myself who is advising them? Some fancy pants Hollywood PR company no doubt. But they have completely missed the point. No-one has ever gained respect by airing their dirty laundry in public. Not in this country anyway. Sometimes silence really is golden.

I had no problem with the posed photograph of Meghan pregnant with her second child lying, head on Harry’s lap, in the Californian sunshine after her victory in the courts. It was a bit cheesy, rather staged, but it was sweet enough, the message being that they are getting on with their lives and they are happy, with or without our Royal patronages.

Even Harry’s predominantly jokey interview with his old mate James Corden last week didn’t offend. I thought it looked like the old Harry back on track and having fun. Though I do think his comment that he didn’t walk away from the Royal family, that he had merely stepped back, was splitting hairs.

But two hours of navel gazing with the Queen of TV, Oprah Winfrey, might potentially be a step too far, although I am prepared to wager that behind the headlines the vast majority of the interview will be fairly benign.

That is Oprah’s style, to tease out the story behind the story. That is what she is so good at doing. And if, as is reported, the couple have not been paid, it is her company that will make millions from the interview not them.

But will it do them any good? Not in this country I suspect. My concern is whatever they have to say, in whatever context, if this is their attempt at rehabilitation and reconciliation it will backfire spectacularly. Just as it did for Charles, and to some extent for Diana, and certainly for Andrew.

There is not a family in the land that has not had its disagreements where relatives fall out with one another. I have always said everyone’s personal story could make a front page lead in the newspapers if they are famous enough. But just the mere announcement of this lengthy extended interview with Meghan and Harry has already led to hundreds of column inches, headlines on practically every news outlet the world over and of course an explosion of social media comment, which in the past I have agreed has sometimes been unfair and often downright cruel. I just don’t understand the decision to stoke the fire now.

So will I be watching tomorrow in the States, or on Monday here in the UK? Of course I will. I will be glued. From the clips that have been published by CBS so far, do I think it is a mistake to have agreed to it in the first place? Yes I do. It made me cringe. Because behind the headlines is a family. One of the most senior members of that family Prince Philip is currently ill in hospital. And no they couldn’t have got the network to drop the interview, that would have been out of their control.

However, their timing has been dreadful and they should have put others before themselves. Because that is the definition of service, official or unofficial. And that is the definition of family, titled or not. Now reconciling their differences with those they profess to love has just been made that much harder, whatever they say and however they say it. It is just sad and all so unnecessary.

In the interview, Meghan is seen asking whether ‘The firm’, by that she means the Royal family, really expected the couple to stay silent. Well yes, they did and so did I. At least until the dust has settled. Put simply now is not the time. It is not reflective of the mood of the nation, both here and in US.

I am afraid there are more important matters to consider than the hurt of a couple who should know they are very privileged to live a life of luxury in a country where half a million people have died from a worldwide pandemic, and where people are worrying about how they will put food on the table, or worse still pay their Covid 19 medical bills. They are the ones they could be helping now.

Do we really need another ‘poor me’ story from a couple who, despite their past traumas and disappointments still have the world at their feet? No, we do not. As my mother always used to say, “now is the time to count your blessings”.

Or to put it another way, I don’t care who started it. It’s time to finish it. And move on.

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