What to expect from the Queen's Commonwealth Day message - and Harry and Meghan's Oprah interview

Rebecca Taylor
·Royal Correspondent
·4 min read

Watch: UK royals TV head-to-head with Harry and Meghan

On 7 March, two unusual royal events will be taking place within hours of each other.

The Queen will deliver an audio message to her Commonwealth, as the annual Commonwealth Day service is moved to screens due to continuing coronavirus restrictions.

The audio track will be a rare recorded message from the Queen, outside of her Christmas messages, and will likely reflect her commitment to the Commonwealth, which she pledged to serve more than 70 years ago.

Hours after the broadcast, her grandson and his wife will sit down with Oprah Winfrey in a 90-minute interview about royal life and their future.

Royal interviews are not a regular occurrence, and the Queen never does them. Other members of the Royal Family are rarely interviewed in this way, and some have particularly bad experiences with television interviews.

The fact that these two rare events are coming within hours of each other is a coincidence. Westminster Abbey took the decision to cancel the in-person service, which would have been held on 8 March, sometime around the beginning of February, according to an abbey spokesman.

US presenter Oprah Winfrey arrives for the wedding ceremony of Britain's Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex and US actress Meghan Markle at St George's Chapel, Windsor Castle, in Windsor, on May 19, 2018. (Photo by Ian West / POOL / AFP)        (Photo credit should read IAN WEST/AFP via Getty Images)
US presenter Oprah Winfrey at Harry and Meghan's wedding in May 2018. (Ian West/AFP)

Read more: What Oprah Winfrey has said about her friends Harry and Meghan

Harry and Meghan's interview with Winfrey was announced in mid-February, meaning the palace had already agreed to the service decision before they knew how close the message would be aired to the huge interview.

The Queen always shares a message for Commonwealth Day, but last year it was simply printed in the order of service, rather than delivered by Her Majesty.

Dickie Arbiter, former palace press secretary, said the message would be from her heart, because of the importance the Commonwealth has to her. 

In 2020 she wrote of how inspired she was by the diversity of the Commonwealth, particularly when gatherings take place for the Commonwealth Games or government meetings.

She wrote of how advances in technology allowed people to have the "experience of Commonwealth connection", but that countries were also devising "new ways of working together to achieve prosperity, whilst protecting our planet". 

Watch: Harry and Meghan to sit down with Oprah for a 90 minute interview

In 2019 she said: "We are able to look to the future with greater confidence and optimism as a result of the links that we share, and thanks to the networks of cooperation and mutual support to which we contribute, and on which we draw. 

"With enduring commitment through times of great change, successive generations have demonstrated that whilst the goodwill for which the Commonwealth is renowned may be intangible, its impact is very real." 

Services at Westminster Abbey for Commonwealth Day began in 1972. Since at least 1994, Commonwealth Days have had a theme, which the Queen's message usually ties into.

Harry and Meghan's interview with Winfrey will also be pre-recorded, and will air first in the US on CBS.

Meghan, 39, will sit down with Winfrey one-on-one, to talk about "stepping into life as a royal, marriage, motherhood…to how she is handling life under intense public pressure", before she is joined by her husband Prince Harry, 36, for the remainder of the show.

It will be the first interview the couple has done together since their engagement.

Britain's Prince Harry and his fiancée US actress Meghan Markle pose for a photograph in the Sunken Garden at Kensington Palace in west London on November 27, 2017, following the announcement of their engagement.
Britain's Prince Harry will marry his US actress girlfriend Meghan Markle early next year after the couple became engaged earlier this month, Clarence House announced on Monday. / AFP PHOTO / Daniel LEAL-OLIVAS        (Photo credit should read DANIEL LEAL-OLIVAS/AFP via Getty Images)
BHarry and Meghan haven't done an interview together since they announced thet=ir engagement. (Daniel Leal-Olivas/AFP)

Katie Nicholl, Vanity Fair royal editor, said: "I don't think the Sussexes will want to rock the boat with the Queen and this will be a very carefully worded interview on both sides.

"The interview will I’m sure have fascinating insight but will be carefully choreographed."

Royal commentator Victoria Arbiter told Good Morning Britain: "Harry and Meghan never said they wanted 100% privacy, they wanted to be able to balance their private life with their public role and they wanted people to understand what was off limits."

She said they were now more able to guard and protect the privacy of their family. 

There are reports the Royal Family will be bracing itself to see what the couple say in the interview, with friends of Meghan's telling The Sunday Times she will use it to "get her voice back". 

Oprah with Meghan and Harry will air on CBS at 8pm EST, which is the early hours of 8 March in the UK.

The Commonwealth Service will be on BBC One on 7 March, but the time is not yet confirmed.