The Royal Family has "more important things to worry about" than the Duke and Duchess of Sussex’s Oprah Winfrey interview, Buckingham Palace aides said on Monday night, as the Duke of Edinburgh was transferred to a leading cardiac hospital.
Prince Philip, 99, was taken by ambulance from the private King Edward VII’s Hospital to St Bartholomew’s Hospital in central London just hours after a dramatic clip of the Sussexes’ “shocking” comments was released by a US television network.
The timing of the couple’s interview was described as “unfortunate” amid speculation about whether it might have to be pulled.
Palace aides suggested that the family’s focus was solely on the Duke, who had already spent 13 nights in hospital and is expected to remain there until at least the end of the week.
One said: “The family is very worried about him and their thoughts are very much with him rather than this Oprah interview. They have much more important things to worry about.”
Another senior aide said: “This programme is really not something we are focusing on at the moment.”
Watch: Prince Harry opens up about Princess Diana’s death in exclusive interview with Oprah
A US television insider described the timing of the interview, as the Duke’s grandfather remained in hospital, as the network’s “worst nightmare”.
They said: “Every network prepares for all eventualities but ultimately, the show must go on. This programme has been significantly trailed and will almost certainly go ahead as billed.”
Joe Little, managing editor of Majesty magazine, said that while the timing was “unfortunate” it was out of the Sussexes’ hands.
“There is unease being expressed about the timing of this interview, which is not particularly helpful, but the ball is out of the Duke and Duchess’s hands.
“This interview has been hyped significantly by CBS and the ball is very much in their court. The transmission date is likely to be set in stone and I can’t imagine it being pulled.”
Concern for the Duke, who turns 100 in June, was heightened as Buckingham Palace announced that he had been transferred to St Bartholomew’s, where cardiac specialists will continue to treat him for an infection but will also “undertake testing and observation for a pre-existing heart condition”.
The Palace added in a statement: “The Duke remains comfortable and is responding to treatment but is expected to remain in hospital until at least the end of the week.”
The Duke, who in 2011 received treatment for a blocked coronary artery, was carefully shielded as he left the King Edward VII hospital at around 11.15am.
Large umbrellas were used as a protective screen as he was transferred into a waiting ambulance.
The Palace did not immediately confirm he had left, opting to wait until he had arrived at St Bartholomew’s before making the announcement.
The Duke, who turns 100 in June, was admitted on Feb 16 for "rest and observation" after feeling unwell.
Although he was expected to be discharged after just a few days, the Palace later revealed he was being treated for an infection and would remain in hospital for several more days.
St Bartholomew’s, a NHS hospital that also offers private care, is the largest cardiac centre in the UK and is described as “a world-leading centre of excellence” that uses advanced technology and the latest drugs and treatments.
Palace sources have repeatedly insisted that although the Duke has never before spent so long in hospital, his doctors were "acting with an abundance of caution".
Throughout his stay, he has had only one royal visitor, the Prince of Wales, who spent around 30 minutes at his bedside on Feb 20.
Last week, the Earl of Wessex said his father was "a lot better" and was "looking forward to getting out". He said the family was keeping its "fingers crossed".
Senior royals have continued with business as usual, carrying out several public engagements to highlight the coronavirus vaccination programme.
Buckingham Palace announced on Monday night that the Queen, 94, had unveiled a statue of herself, installed in the grounds of Government House, South Australia.
On seeing the statue, Her Majesty joked: “It must be quite alarming to suddenly see it out of the window – you’d think, gracious, has she arrived unexpectedly.”
Duke's hospital visit timeline – five key dates
Here is the timeline of the Duke of Edinburgh's stay in hospital:
Tuesday, Feb 16, 2021 - The Duke is admitted to King Edward VII's Hospital on a precautionary basis after feeling unwell. He travels from Windsor Castle by car. Prince Philip is said to be in "good spirits" and walks into the private hospital unaided. He is expected to stay for a few days.
Friday, Feb 19 - Sources say Philip is now expected to remain in hospital for "observation and rest" over the weekend and into the next week.
Saturday, Feb 20 - The Prince of Wales makes a 200 mile-round trip to see his father, spending around half an hour at the hospital.
Tuesday, Feb 23 - Seven days after the duke was admitted the Palace says he is being treated for an infection and is "comfortable and responding to treatment", but is not expected to leave hospital for several more days. The Earl of Wessex says the Duke is a "lot better" and looking forward to getting out.
Monday, March 1 - Philip is transferred in an ambulance to St Bartholomew's Hospital for treatment for an infection, and testing and observation for a pre-existing heart condition, Buckingham Palace says. The Duke is shielded from public view by large umbrellas as he leaves King Edward VII's Hospital.
Watch: Latest on Prince Philip’s condition