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United in silence: Queen ignores brickbats thrown by Meghan and Harry

Young headed to Windsor where he had the unenviable task of telling the Queen, who has a strict routine of rising at 7.30am, that the royal family had been accused of racism.

Not for the first time, the family’s instinctive response was to wait, to say nothing, and to see how the situation developed. It is a tactic that has had mixed results: when Diana, Princess of Wales, died in 1997 the Queen decided to ignore public clamour for her to return to London from Balmoral, only to cave in when the pressure became unbearable.

Oprah Winfrey was paid $US7 million for the interview, which attracted 17 million viewers in the US alone.

Oprah Winfrey was paid $US7 million for the interview, which attracted 17 million viewers in the US alone.

And while the palaces kept their counsel, others across the Atlantic were more than happy to fill the void.

Winfrey revealed that the couple’s allegations of racism relating to their son, Archie, had not involved the Queen or Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh, and also told her friend Gayle King on her breakfast TV show that she had texted Meghan since the interview.

Sources close to Winfrey also disclosed that almost two hours of the interview had failed to make the final cut, leaving open the possibility that yet more allegations could surface. Tennis legend Serena Williams, another friend of the duchess, praised her “selfless friend”, saying that “her words illustrate the cruelty and pain she’s experienced”.

Even US President Joe Biden’s press secretary, Jen Psaki, appeared to join Team Meghan as she praised her “courage” for speaking about her struggle with mental health.

Back in London, the interview dominated breakfast television shows and radio news bulletins. Sir Keir Starmer, the Labour leader, said the duchess had raised “really serious issues” about racism and mental health and “we have to take that very, very seriously”.

Kate Green, the shadow education secretary, said allegations of racism should be “treated by the palace with utmost seriousness and fully investigated”. Other MPs made the point that if the palace was prepared to investigate claims of bullying made by staff about Meghan, as revealed last week, claims of racism had to be investigated, too.

By midday Prime Minister Boris Johnson was inevitably dragged into the crisis, first at the daily briefing for lobby journalists, where Downing Street dodged questions by saying Boris Johnson had not seen the interview, then again at a 4pm press conference, where Johnson would only say he had the “highest admiration” for the Queen.

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All the while, palace aides were monitoring developments and discussing possible strategies. There were no good options available.

Hit back, and the royal family would fan the flames of a family meltdown.

Say nothing, and Harry and Meghan would always be able to point to the fact that the royal family had not denied being racist, turning a deaf ear to a woman’s cries for help, and telling staff to block Prince Harry’s calls.

At 5.45pm almost 17 hours after the interview was broadcast, royal aides issued a brief update, telling journalists that there might be an official statement, but it was also possible there might not.

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A snap YouGov poll then suggested the British public were on the Queen’s side, with 47 per cent believing the Sussexes’ interview was “inappropriate” and just 21 per cent who thought they had done the right thing.

But the Queen is the head of state of 15 other countries, including Canada, Australia and New Zealand, as well as being the head of the Commonwealth of 54 nations, meaning the British public’s support is only one small battle won.

The Queen is a huge admirer of Leonardo da Vinci, who famously said “nothing strengthens authority so much as silence”. But the Renaissance master was speaking 500 years before the dawn of 24-hour news channels, Facebook and Twitter.

The Telegraph, London

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