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As Oprah Interview Nears, Tensions Rise Between Harry, Meghan And The Royal Family

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

The Duchess of Sussex is having a public fight with her in-laws. Meghan Markle and her husband Prince Harry stepped back from their royal duties last year. Now she has given an interview to Oprah Winfrey on CBS that is critical of the royal family.

(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. And if that comes with risk of losing things, I mean, I've - there's a lot that's been lost already.

INSKEEP: By the firm, she means the royal family. Now, just as that interview was released, news reports have spread that the royal family was investigating accusations that Meghan bullied staff. So let's talk about all this with the British historian Kate Williams. Welcome to the program.

KATE WILLIAMS: Hello.

INSKEEP: How serious are these accusations?

WILLIAMS: These accusations of bullying - well, they are - they came out just this week. They are saying that Meghan was - you know, there are members of - female members of staff. And one of the words that was in the email that was given to our Times newspaper was that the duchess always has to have someone in her sights. And of course, many people have said, why have they come out now? Why all of a sudden, just before Meghan and Harry give this Oprah interview? Which I think at the present time, it's been sold in 68 countries and counting. It's going to be - you know, it's going to be a huge interview. It's going to be all over the world.

And this is the first time which Meghan and Harry are really to speak, we believe, about why they left the royal family, about what life was like in the royal family because they haven't really said much over the - ever since they left the - stepped back from the royal family. And I think finally, many people are also saying, well, Meghan suffered very - it's - racist treatment at the hands of the British press. What other female royals were congratulated for, whether it was eating avocados or touching their baby bump, editing a magazine, that was all fine when it was other female royals.

INSKEEP: Yeah. And you've just by going through that - by going through that, you've reminded us how much pressure the royal family has faced in recent years and how much criticism the royal family has faced in recent years. And some of that criticism was over the fact that Meghan Markle identifies as mixed race and was widely seen as not being fully accepted by the royal family for that reason. Is there real evidence of that, though?

WILLIAMS: I mean, there's undeniable evidence that she was the victim of racist press. She said so. She - Prince Harry has said so. It's obvious when you compare the stories. For example, all royals - all royals living in these crown properties - and they are renovating for millions of crown money, no one ever cared before. When Meghan and Harry move into Frogmore Cottage, Britain has some kind of national meltdown over the fact that they had 2.4 million money spent on it. And the fact is that, you know - what - simply, Harry was putting out these desperate statements trying to defend Meghan, trying to say, you know, if it - we're going down the same road as my mother - please stop.

We don't know what she's going to say about the wider royal family on the - on Sunday night's interview. She may - we know she going to talk about racism in Britain. We know she's been talking about the press. Is she going to talk about the royal family? Is she going to talk about the men in gray suits that Princess Diana called them, the courtiers? This is all about that at the moment. If she does, that's much more wide ranging. If she says it wasn't just the press who were unfair to me but also the royal family who were unfair to me, then that, I think, is a very significant intervention. And that will really impact on perception of the royal family.

INSKEEP: Kate Williams, thanks for the time - really appreciate it.

WILLIAMS: Thank you.

(SOUNDBITE OF AMON TOBIN'S "BRIDGE") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.