Meghan, Duchess of Sussex 'called all the PR shots', say royal sources despite Oprah interview claims she was gagged

Camilla Tominey
·4-min read
The Sussexes's interview with Oprah Winfrey will air in the US over the weekend - CBS
The Sussexes's interview with Oprah Winfrey will air in the US over the weekend - CBS

The Duchess of Sussex “called all the shots” when it came to managing her own media, royal sources have said, casting doubt on her claim she could not be interviewed by Oprah Winfrey three years ago.

Multiple royal sources have told The Telegraph the 39-year-old former actress “had full control” over her media interviews and had personally forged relationships not only with Ms Winfrey, but other powerful industry figures including Vogue editor Edward Enninful.

In a teaser clip released from the Sussexes’s interview with the US chat show host, due to be aired in the US on Sunday, the Duchess said it felt “liberating” to be able to speak and accused the Royal family of effectively gagging her and taking away that choice.

“It’s really liberating to be able to have the right and the privilege in some ways to be able to say yes, I’m ready to talk, to be able to make a choice on your own and be able to speak for yourself,” the Duchess said.

In the clip, the Duchess and Ms Winfrey reference the fact that a royal aide was listening in to their first phone call in February 2018, although it is understood the pair had spoken privately before then.

But far from being gagged, it appears the Duchess was cultivating her own personal relationships with media figures like Ms Winfrey while in “constant consultation” with a team of US advisers as well as palace PR staff.

Two separate royal sources have confirmed to The Telegraph that the two women also met privately at Kensington Palace shortly after their phone call, with no palace PR staff present.

One royal insider said: “It was the Duchess calling all the shots throughout. She was given advice but ultimately it was Meghan and Harry who took the decisions.”

Another said: “Requests would come in daily from all over the world. They had their pick of who to speak to and the freedom to choose. The idea that they were gagged in any way just isn’t accurate.”

A third added: “This idea that media bids were somehow vetoed by the palace just isn’t true. The institution didn’t get involved when it came to Meghan’s press. No one was ever running anything by the Queen. A proposal would come in, the Duchess would decide whether she wanted to do it, and it would be set up. Diary clashes were discussed with other households but that’s it.”

Five issues to cover in Oprah interview
Five issues to cover in Oprah interview

Royal sources highlighted how the Duchess was able to collaborate on a Vogue magazine cover in September 2019 with Mr Enninful.

In October 2017, Meghan also gave an interview to Vanity Fair in which she declared her relationship with Harry. She said: “We’re in love. I’m sure there will be a time when we will have to come forward and present ourselves and have stories to tell, but what I hope people will understand is that this is our time.”

A month later they became engaged and agreed to give an interview to the BBC’s Mishal Husain, who was specially selected by the palace PR team at the couple’s request.

The Telegraph has learned that as well as involving the palace PR team in the Vanity Fair cover, Meghan also consulted publicist Keleigh Thomas Morgan of LA-based PR firm Sunshine Sachs, who remained one of her advisers throughout.

The couple also consulted Tim Burt, the vice chairman of corporate communications firm Teneo, for advice and even held talks with former advertising executive David Furnish, who is married to the singer Elton John.

Harry and Meghan
Harry and Meghan

Harry was also in regular contact with Tom Bradby, the ITV news anchor with whom they gave an explosive interview following their autumn 2019 tour of Africa.

According to one royal insider, after working on the Royal wedding in May 2018, the palace PR team were “sidelined” as the Duchess came to increasingly rely on her US team of advisers, including her former talent agent Nick Collins of Gersh, business manager Andrew Meyer and lawyer Rick Genow.

Around the time of Archie’s birth in May 2019, Meghan was paid a private visit by Gayle King, who works for CBS, the network which broadcasts Ms Winfrey’s programmes.

The two TV presenters are close friends, and in recent days Ms King has described the Duchess as being “oppressed” by the Royal family.

Reports that Meghan was “blocked” from doing an interview with Ms King by palace spin doctors worried it would upset the UK media appear wide of the mark, however.

“They weren’t blocked from doing anything,” added the royal insider. “If they had wanted to speak to Gayle King or anyone else, they would have been able to do so.”

Read More: Five thorny issues that could be raised in Meghan and Harry's interview with Oprah