Meghan and Harry's interview with Oprah Winfrey felt like escapees from a sinister cult talking to their therapist – Aidan Smith

Right after the interview of interviews, bombshell following bombshell, I feared for the good folks of Montecito, California.

This is a community, exclusive and lovely though it may be, which because of its positioning at the foot of the Santa Ynez mountains is at the mercy of mudflows and meteorological phenomenon. Three years ago, the area had to be evacuated five times in four months.

Racism among the Royals. Suicide contemplated. The future king no longer talking to his son. Archie No-Title. I made Kate cry? No she made me cry! And that £30 million wedding being a bit of sham because, three days before, Harry and Meghan organised a quaint little backyard ceremony blessed by the Archbishop of Canterbury.

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Some of this is silly, some of it is sad – but the rest is sensational. Properly ground-shaking.

Meghan and Harry drop bombshell upon bombshell in their interview with Oprah Winfrey (Picture: Harpo Productions/Joe Pugliese via Getty Images)
Meghan and Harry drop bombshell upon bombshell in their interview with Oprah Winfrey (Picture: Harpo Productions/Joe Pugliese via Getty Images)

Clearly, Oprah Winfrey is no Alan Partridge. “And on that bombshell!” the latter used to exclaim at the end of the comedy sending up chat shows. Often with Partridge there wasn’t one, but every now and again such would be the exasperation at the imbecilic line of questioning that the guest would be provoked into a big reveal.

Winfrey on a sunny terrace in Montecito elicited from her neighbours a few swish pads away everything the Palace must have feared, and then some. The hits just kept on coming…

You have to acknowledge Winfrey’s world-class interview technique: that look of horror increasing quickly to anger exploding into an apoplectic “What?”

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Now, I am not suggesting the Oscar nominee for The Color Purple was acting at the moment Meghan mentioned how Archie’s skin colour seemed to be an issue for an unnamed member of the Royal Family, but Winfrey’s reaction invited – demanded – more detail and promptly got it. Meghan at that moment may have felt she was stuck on a Montecito mudflow, landing right in the First Lady of Talk’s lap.

She’d claimed going into the interview she had no bombshells and then dropped that one? Who, then, is the alleged racist? Her brother-in-law? Surely not. Her father-in-law who walked her down the aisle for the wedding-that-wasn’t? The Duke of Edinburgh, who’s been cheerily putting his handmade, by-appointment Oxford in his mouth all his life but is now 99 and recovering in hospital after heart surgery?

At that moment, though, the detail stopped, which kind of extends the charge or racism to the entire Royal Family. The Palace, you feel, despite the “Never Complain, Never Explain” maxim will have to respond to this and leave the flower-girls face-off between Meghan and Kate to another day, or rather no day.

Who wins the battle between the Sussexes and the House of Windsor? Here are two unlikely beneficiaries: Boris Johnson and Carrie Symonds. The Prime Minister must have been bracing himself for more ridicule over his fiancee’s expansive, and expensive, makeover plans for their Downing Street flat at the moment of a measly one per cent pay increase for the hard-pressed and heroic NHS. Surely, in the bad timing stakes, that’s just been trumped.

Meghan’s wail about being trapped in a castle – or Frogmore, the most uncottagey cottage on earth, especially after its £2.4 million renovations – wouldn’t have gone down well at any time with a family of four living on the 15th floor of a tower block with questionable cladding. But it will be especially jarring in the middle of an interminable lockdown caused by a global pandemic.

Her lack of self-awareness is quite something – Harry’s, too. Why didn’t he caution her about what life would be like as a member of the Royal Family? Or if he did, why would she later be surprised enough by its codes and traditions to compare herself to the central character in a Disney film who falls in love with a prince but in order to live happily ever after with him must give up her voice? “Who as an adult really watches The Little Mermaid?” she wondered. Who indeed, Meghan.

Who calls the Royal Family “The Firm”? The term comes from the very top – Prince Philip – but it sounds odd when used by Meghan, as if as an actress she’s distracted by the Hollywood movie of that name.

Similarly, when Amanda Gorman, the poet from President Biden’s inauguration, tweets regretfully as she did yesterday about Meghan having been the “Crown’s greatest opportunity for change”, you wonder if she’s been distracted by the Netflix series of that name.

When it comes to the Royal Family, how much do Americans confuse fact with fiction because they want the fairytale of palaces and castles and handsome princes and beautiful princesses wearing – woops – “blood diamonds”?

The interview has shocked many in the US. For them, Meghan entering the House of Windsor was supposed to be akin to Neil Armstrong planting the Stars and Stripes on the Moon. The mission has failed and yesterday it seemed like the world was watching the closing scenes of a drama about escapees from a sinister cult reliving all the arcane weirdness and suffering for their therapist.

If suffering there has been, the Royal Family must address it. Who’s in charge of HR for HRHs and the rest? If help really wasn’t offered to Meghan then we’re going to hear the same charges about a cold, unfeeling monarchy that followed Princess Diana’s death when the nation mourned at the gates of an empty Buckingham Palace.

It is possible for Meghan to be both deluded and excluded, a social climber who having scaled the battlements, proceeded to have a terrible time. But one thing: she and her husband are not the world’s biggest victims.

Meanwhile, if Montecito was self-conscious about its mudflows, now it’s got to deal with a new-found notoriety for mud-slinging.

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