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Should Have Stayed Mum: Interview With Queen Of Talk Lands Royals In Hairy Situation

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

For royal watchers, this coming Sunday is a big day. The Duke and Duchess of Sussex, aka Harry and Meghan, are sitting down with Oprah Winfrey to dish on their lives, their split from the House of Windsor and who knows what else. Earlier this week, The Times of London published a story, anonymously sourced, that the former Meghan Markle has been accused of bullying her staff at Kensington Palace. Buckingham Palace says it is concerned by these claims and will investigate.

So a lot to talk about in the relationship between the royal family and two of its most high-profile defectors, and to do that, we are joined by Elizabeth Holmes, longtime royal watcher, journalist and author of the book "HRH: So Many Thoughts On Royal Style." Elizabeth Holmes, welcome. Hi there.

ELIZABETH HOLMES: Thanks for having me.

KELLY: So I want to talk briefly just about these accusations, which I should note, they date back more than two years. They include that she drove two personal assistants out of the household. Have these claims been corroborated?

HOLMES: It's striking. This was an explosive report in The Times of London that had, you know, the royal Twittersphere aflutter. I would say that the piece was pretty light on specifics. But this narrative of Meghan as a bully is very specific to her time as a member of the royal family. I spent a lot of time researching and reporting on Meghan for my book, and, you know, there's a lot that's been written about her. She had a very public life before she joined the royal family. She was an accomplished actress. She was never described as a bully or mean, and I think that's worth noting.

Once she joined the royal family in 2018, this narrative emerged. I don't think it's surprising that this storyline has resurfaced just days before she and Harry sit down with Oprah.

KELLY: All right, well, speak more to the timing. What do you think is going on here? This is Buckingham Palace trying to preemptively discredit her and them before they go and do this Oprah interview?

HOLMES: It certainly feels a little bit like that. You know, I mean, the first teaser trailers came out over the weekend. We heard from Harry. We heard from Oprah. And Meghan hadn't really said anything. And then on Tuesday, this report landed, and I think it's worth noting that it's directed at Meghan. And since Meghan has a lot to say and Meghan is sitting down with Oprah, I think that the palace perhaps might want to be positioning her in such a way before the special has even aired.

KELLY: We've actually got one of these teaser clips. This is from CBS, which is the network airing the Oprah interview. And this is Meghan talking.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

MEGHAN MARKLE: 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.

KELLY: I want to note, Elizabeth, this was taped before these accusations against the duchess came out. But that term she just used, the firm, this is a reference to the royal family?

HOLMES: Yeah, that's a reference that's been used for a while, so this wasn't certainly something she came up with. But I think it is notable that Oprah asked about the palace and Meghan responded by answering about the firm, right? It suggests something far more cold and calculating, an institution here. I don't think it's a coincidence, either, that that trailer dropped after The Times of London piece came out with its explosive allegations. And I think what we're seeing here is something that's become very public and very personal.

KELLY: The duke and duchess have had, for a long time, a difficult relationship with the British press. The duchess has sued and won judgments against The Mail on Sunday for publishing a private letter. Prince Harry has talked about how all of the coverage has damaged their mental health. I mean, all of these latest twists - how surprising are they?

HOLMES: You know, Prince Harry's hatred of the media certainly goes back to the death of his mother. You know, the British tabloid media in particular, I think, is a different beast entirely, and Meghan specifically has been subjected to a host of unfair and often racist stories in the press that get a lot of attention over there. And I think that their victory over The Mail on Sunday was tremendous validation for the couple because so many of their public comments since leaving the royal family have been about how toxic the coverage was to their mental health, and I would expect we would hear more of that in the special with Oprah on Sunday.

KELLY: Elizabeth Holmes, longtime royal watcher and author of the book "HRH: So Many Thoughts On Royal Style." Thank you.

HOLMES: Thanks for having me.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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