The Duke and Duchess of Sussex recently sat down with Winfrey for a conversation during which “nothing was off-limits,” with the two-hour special scheduled to air on Sunday 7 March.
However, some royal commentators, including Richard Fitzwilliams, the former editor of The International Who’s Who, have since suggested that it would be more appropriate if the couple moved their upcoming interview as the Duke of Edinburgh continues to remain hospitalised.
Prince Harry’s grandfather was moved from one London hospital to another on Monday for the treatment of an infection and a pre-existing heart condition. The 99-year-old was admitted to King Edward VII Hospital on February 17, with the palace later confirming that he was being treated for an infection.
His recent move prompted a second statement from Buckingham Palace, in which the palace said that Prince Philip was responding to treatment but is expected to stay in the hospital until at least the end of the week.
Speaking to The Independent, Mr Fitzwilliams said that he was against the couple’s interview with Winfrey from the beginning, since it has been his experience that royal interviews, such as Prince Charles’s 1994 interview, where he admitted to infidelity, or Prince Andrew’s interview with BBC News, “very rarely end well”.
However, as Mr Fitzwilliams explained, he understands why the interview with the former talk-show host would be appealing to the duke and duchess, as they “could get across the message they want,” with the royal commentator noting that Gayle King has previously said Winfrey is pleased with the interview.
But, considering the health of the Duke of Edinburgh, who he called “one of the most remarkable public servants,” Mr Fitzwilliams said it would be a “very appropriate gesture at the moment” if the duke and duchess were able to move the interview.
According to Mr Fitzwilliams, the timing is “fairly unfortunate” as “the latest bulletin gives cause for concern about the duke”.
“When you are dealing with what might happen, you never know, but I think it is not appropriate and, if it could possibly be postponed, I think it would be a very appropriate gesture at the moment,” he said.
However, Mr Fitzwilliams also acknowledged that the advertising, time, and money that has gone into the interview, which will air on CBS, may make it difficult to postpone, but believes that Winfrey could have some sway.
“The advertising, the hype, it is a huge deal, this is vast,” he said of the upcoming special, adding: “Harry and Meghan are friends with Oprah, but Harry is devoted to his grandfather.
“If Harry speaks to Oprah, who knows what she might be able to arrange. It is certainly not an appropriate time to air it.”
Mr Fitzwilliams also discussed the possible unfortunate outcomes that may arise from the interview, which he believes will focus largely on the reasons behind Prince Harry and Meghan’s decision to leave their roles in the royal family.
“Millions of people are going to watch and not just for motherhood and philanthropy but what went wrong with the royal family,” he said, adding that the couple already has a successful future ahead of them with their Netflix and Spotify deals among other partnerships, and that “it isn’t necessary to tell stories that are going to be sensationalised and this is going to be sensational”.
According to Mr Fitzwilliams, one possible outcome could be a further distance between the couple and the royal family, with the royal expert noting that he doesn’t think it is necessary to “do a no-holds-barred interview on the royal family when you are still a member of it”.
“What they reveal in this interview will define their relationship [with the royal family] for the foreseeable future,” he continued. “That is why it shouldn’t be aired this week.”
As for the possibility of the royal family releasing a statement in response to the interview, Mr Fitzwilliams said it is unlikely as they “can’t fight back anyway”.
“‘Don’t complain, don’t explain,’ there is a purpose to it in this case,” he said.
Mr Fitzwilliams is not alone in his belief that the two-hour special should be postponed, as additional royal experts have also explained why it would be better if the interview did not air this coming weekend.
Speaking to The Daily Beast, Robert Lacey, historical consultant for The Crown and author of the royal biography Majesty, said that cancelling or postponing the interview would be beneficial to Harry’s image.
“I think it would be a marvelous turnaround for Harry’s image if he took the brave step of canceling the whole thing this weekend - or, if that’s not practical, postponing it at least,” he said.
Penny Junor, the author of Prince Harry, Brother, Soldier, Son, also agreed that it would be the right thing to do, telling the outlet: “Anything could hijack this interview. Philip is ill. He is 99 and could die at any time. They were not to know he would get ill, but it could be seen to be the wrong time.”
However, she also acknowledged that the couple may not have it in their power to change the time of interview.
“But I doubt it is in their gift to postpone the interview. The control is in the hands of CBS and Oprah,” she said.
As of now, Oprah With Meghan And Harry: A CBS Primetime Special, will be broadcast on CBS on 7 March, with the interview set to air in the UK on ITV on Monday 8 March.