By Christopher Harper
I’ve never really understood the American fascination with the British royal family.
For centuries, the monarchy has been a dysfunctional band of malcontents who battled over religion and turf. Henry VIII and George III were bona fide madmen. Princess Margaret and Lady Diana didn’t get along with the other royals. Prince Charles always struck me as a dopey mope.
So why did 17 million Americans watch an interview by Oprah Winfrey with Prince Harry and Princess Megan?
I don’t know. Maybe prurient interest?
A quick survey of my friends on Facebook found no one would admit to watching the two-hour attack on the royal family.
One British friend, a former BBC reporter, disagreed. “It’s quite important, he wrote. “Just think about it. It’s about institutions, race, personal freedoms, mass idiocy, and it’s told through a story of two young people who went against the grain. Yes, they’re rich. But does that make The Grapes of Wrath better or less significant than The Great Gatsby?”
It’s not a bad defense for watching the program. Since there’s little I haven’t watched on Amazon, Hulu, and Netflix during the pandemic, my standards are pretty low, but I still wouldn’t spend two hours on Harry, Meghan, and Oprah.
Then there’s the money. It’s reported that someone—probably Oprah’s production company—paid between $7 million and $9 million for the interview. There was a time that paying for news was an ethical breach. I guess the interview may not be technically news, but still.
It’s unclear who got the money. Everyone swears that Harry and Meghan didn’t get a dime. Since they face being cut off from the royal treasury, particularly after the interview, I find the disclaimer hard to believe.
Since the program aired on CBS, how much did the one-time “Tiffany Network” plop down?
I never thought Oprah was a particularly good interviewer. I worked with the best: Barbara Walters.
It seems that Oprah didn’t press the royal couple on what I would consider the most crucial question: What did they expect to happen after they got married?
In 1936, King Edward VIII took over the reign of England. However, he abdicated his throne to marry the love of his life, Wallis Simpson, an American and two-time divorcee. In an interview many years later with the BBC, Edward provides a path Harry and Meghan should take. See https://www.telegraph.co.uk/royal-family/2021/03/07/meghan-can-learn-mrs-simpsons-tell-all-tv-interview/
At the end of the interview, the reporter asked the duke if he had any regrets about not having remained king. “No,” he said. “I would have liked to have, but I was going to do it under my conditions. So I do not have any regrets. But I do take a great interest in my country – my country which is Britain – your land and mine. I wish it well.”