More than 49.1 million people around the world have watched Oprah Winfrey’s bombshell interview with Britain’s Prince Harry and his wife, Meghan, via television or streaming, U.S. network CBS said on Tuesday.
The interview in which the couple made accusations of racism, neglect and feuding inside the royal family aired on CBS on Sunday and on Britain’s ITV on Monday. It is still available on streaming platforms.
Meanwhile royalists say the interview is the biggest challenge to the British monarchy this century, but it will survive – at least while Elizabeth is queen.
Meghan and Harry’s accusations underscore just how hard the taxpayer-funded institution, which traces its roots through 1,000 years of British and English history, has found it to adapt to a meritocratic world and intense media scrutiny.
The monarchy, headed by Queen Elizabeth, will try to ride out the turmoil and then quietly reform – as it did in the abdication crisis in 1936 when Edward VIII gave up his throne for American divorcee Wallis Simpson, or in the public anger following the death of Harry’s mother Princess Diana in 1997.
But there may be lasting damage, and with Britain nearing the end of its second Elizabethan age, a looming conflict of generations.
“This is a grim moment, there’s no doubt, for the family,” a former senior royal aide told Reuters.
“It’s very easy in these moments – and we are in a moment – to think dark thoughts about the future of the monarchy. I think it’s pretty secure, but there’s no denying that this is a meaningful blow and a difficult crisis for them to navigate.”
Plotting a path out of the crisis will fall to Elizabeth, 94, her son and heir Prince Charles, 72, and his eldest son Prince William, 38, plus a small group of advisers such as the queen’s private secretary Edward Young, 54, and Charles’ private secretary Clive Alderton, 53.
Ultimately the final decision will rest with Elizabeth – effectively chairman of “the Firm” – with input from Charles and William, though they will also have guidance from advisers and could consult Prime Minister Boris Johnson.
Those top three royals gathered at Sandringham, the monarch’s country retreat, in early 2020 to hash out a possible compromise for Harry and Meghan as they stepped back from official duties.