Royal family focus on pandemic in Commonwealth programme ahead of Oprah interview

Laura Elston, PA Court Reporter

The Queen and the royal family have turned their attention to the global impact of the coronavirus pandemic for a special Commonwealth programme being aired just hours before the Sussexes’s Oprah interview.

Ahead of Harry and Meghan’s controversial sit-down, senior royals will appear on television, focusing on the global health crisis in a one-off BBC show on Sunday.

The Queen, in an audio message, will pay tribute to the way in which communities across the “family of nations” have “come together” in response to the Covid-19 outbreak.

Commonwealth Day 2020
The Queen on Commonwealth Day last year (Dominic Lipinski/PA)

Buckingham Palace, which is bracing itself for dramatic revelations from the Sussexes, said the programme will also celebrate “Her Majesty’s lifetime commitment to the Commonwealth”.

The Queen, who has reigned for nearly 70 years, is Head of the Commonwealth – a voluntary association of 54 nations.

Harry and Meghan were accused of being disrespectful to the monarch’s life of duty when their permanent Megxit departure was finalised two weeks ago, with their camp saying in a parting shot: “We can all live a life of service. Service is universal.”

In a new clip from Meghan’s Oprah interview, the duchess said she could not be expected to stay silent if the royal family played a part in “perpetuating falsehoods” about her and Harry.

The Sussexes’ relatives have joined forces to appear in the Commonwealth tribute.

Meghan and Harry
Meghan and Harry have spoken about the life as members of the royal family with Oprah (Dominic Lipinski/PA)

The Prince of Wales recorded a message addressing “the universal devastation caused by the coronavirus pandemic”, and celebrating critical work to combat climate change.

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge have also taken part.

William and Kate will be seen speaking to medical, charity and voluntary staff from across the Commonwealth and hearing about how they have adapted their efforts in response to the pandemic

The Duchess of Cornwall has chatted to broadcaster Clare Balding about the importance of books and reading for children across the Commonwealth, during a year of isolation and disrupted education.

To mark both Commonwealth Day and International Women’s Day, the Countess of Wessex has spoken to three women from around the Commonwealth about their experiences of supporting other women and their wider communities.

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge
The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge have also taken part in the Commonwealth celebration (Ian Vogler/Daily Mirror/PA)

The programme replaces the annual Commonwealth Day service at Westminster Abbey – which was the scene of Harry and Meghan’s final official public engagement last year.

The 2021 service was cancelled for the first time in nearly half a century, because of the pandemic.

A Celebration for Commonwealth Day will be broadcast on BBC One at 5pm on Sunday March 7.

The Sussexes’ interview with Oprah Winfrey is being screened in a two-hour special on CBS at 8pm in the US on Sunday, which will be in the early hours of Monday UK time.

It will be broadcast in the UK by ITV on Monday evening at 9pm.

Harry and Meghan, who quit last year as senior working royals and moved to the US, were hailed as the new royal stars of the Commonwealth ahead of their wedding, having pledged themselves to a lifetime of work with the family of nations in their engagement interview.