The Duchess of Sussex has accused Buckingham Palace of “perpetuating falsehoods“, alluding to her belief that royal aides leaked stories about her and Prince Harry and failed to defend them from untruths.
In a preview clip from their no-holds-barred interview with Oprah Winfrey the Duchess referred to the Royal family as The Firm, while she acknowledged that speaking out came with “risk” but said a lot had been “lost already” and that they should not be expected to remain silent.
It was the second excerpt of the interview released by US network CBS ahead of the two-hour special, which will be broadcast in the UK on Monday evening on ITV.
The 30-second clip was the first time the Duchess has been heard giving a full answer to one of Ms Winfrey’s questions.
It is thought to have been released in reaction to this week’s revelations that Meghan had been accused of bullying staff, although the interview was recorded before the allegations became public knowledge.
“They obviously want to maximise their content,” a source close to the Duchess said of CBS. “They are very clever at making intoxicating TV.”
The fact that the slickly produced interview is designed to shock has caused consternation in palace quarters, not least as it coincides with the Duke of Edinburgh’s longest ever hospital stay.
Aides have signalled their intention to distance themselves from the programme. One said: “We are trying to maintain a dignified silence. It’s a media circus and we do not want to be drawn into it.”
They point out that it was recorded two weeks ago, suggesting that any attempt to capitalise on the publicity surrounding the bullying allegations was “opportunistic”.
Members of the Royal Family have not requested, and have not been offered, advanced sight of the recording or a transcript and are expecting to watch it “like everybody else”.
The rights to the two-hour programme, which was extended by 30 minutes after the interview was conducted, have been sold across the globe, in more than 17 countries from Australia to Norway, as well as sub-Saharan Africa.
The Sussexes are not being paid for the interview, which will net a fortune for CBS and Ms Winfrey’s production company Harpo.
In the latest clip, Ms Winfrey asks the Duchess: “How do you feel about the palace hearing you speak your truth today?”
The Duchess replied: “I don’t know how they could expect that after all of this time, we would still just be silent if there is an active role that The Firm is playing in perpetuating falsehoods about us.
“And if that comes with risk of losing things, I mean, I’ve…there’s a lot that’s been lost already.”
This is an American term that has been used by the Duchess herself. Ms Winfrey is alluding to the fact that the Royal Family and the “grey suits” at Buckingham Palace will hear Meghan’s own version of events for the first time.
By speaking “her truth” the Duchess will be providing her own perspective and personal opinion.
But the use of the word suggests that other people’s versions of those events have not been truthful.
The Sussexes have become ardent followers of American self-help guru Brené Brown, taking to heart her guidance that: “You either walk into your story and own your truth, or you live outside of your story, hustling for your worthiness.”
When news of the Duchess’s pregnancy was announced recently, it was accompanied by a picture taken by their friend and photographer Misan Harriman, who said: “I always look for truth with my lens and this is what you see in this image, their truth, their love, it is undeniable.”
The Duchess’s reference to the perceived expectation that the couple would remain silent reflects her belief that she lost her voice when she married into the Royal Family.
She felt unable to defend herself from inaccurate reports and was frustrated with Kensington Palace’s communications policy of not commenting on press reports.
Specifically, she is understood to have been angry that stories about her relations with staff as well as criticism of her by members of her own family were ignored.
By comparison, as an actress she had a platform and a social media presence that allowed her to control her own image. The Duchess views this interview as the most effective way to regain her voice.
In another clip, Ms Winfrey asks her: “Were you silent, or were you silenced?”
A source close to the Duchess said she did not refer to individual family members when discussing the problems she encountered at the palace.
She has always blamed the wider institution for the way she was treated.
“She has never targeted individuals, that’s not what she’s about,” one aide said. “I’d be amazed if she names specific people in the interview, she has always believed this was an institutional issue.”
Court documents from the Duchess’s privacy action last year revealed that she felt “unprotected by the institution, and prohibited from defending herself”, references that are understood to refer to the palace machinery.
In the biography, Finding Freedom, the villains were “the men in grey suits” whom she believed were intent on reining in the Sussexes’ global popularity.
However, one of the complainants who spoke to The Times about allegations of bullying claimed that it was The Firm that protected her and criticised the palace for failing to act on the allegations.
One said: “The institution just protected Meghan constantly.
“All the men in grey suits who she hates have a lot to answer for, because they did absolutely nothing to protect people.”
This is a reference to the Duchess’s belief, robustly denied by the palace, that senior aides had leaked information about her to the media, as well as its failure to defend her.
Among the stories she is adamant were leaked by the palace is the story that first revealed she and the Duke were planning to step down as working royals.
While the interview was recorded before the bullying allegations came to light, their assertion that the claims were made as part of a “calculated smear campaign” reflect this narrative.
On Thursday night, it was reported that while she was still a senior royal, the Duchess felt briefings about her were being made to the media by the households of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge.
A lot that’s been lost already
The Sussexes’ decision to move abroad and step back from their lives as working royals caused cataclysmic change to their personal and professional lives.
The Duke has moved thousands of miles from his entire family and his close relationship with his brother, Prince William, has been shattered.
Meghan’s relationship with the Duke ultimately led to the breakdown of her relationship with her own father, whom Prince Harry has never met.
The couple also lost all of their royal patronages and the Duke was devastated to lose his honorary military titles after the Queen made clear they could not have “one foot in and one foot out” of royal life.
When they first announced their intention to step down, they made clear they wanted a hybrid approach, retaining royal links and continuing to serve the Queen.