British audiences will waken on Monday to headlines and social media posts about Winfrey’s special, but will not be able to see the full interview until Monday night when it airs on ITV.
Royal interviews that are not tied to a specific topic are rare, and televised sessions have often proved to be problematic.
Prince Andrew’s 2019 BBC interview about his links to convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein led to his own departure from royal duties after he failed to show empathy for Epstein’s victims.
Harry and Meghan’s departure from royal duties began in March 2020 over what they described as the intrusion and racist attitudes of the British media toward the duchess.
Clips released ahead of the airings suggest at least Meghan will have some pointed criticisms of royal life.
In one she describes the royal family as “the firm", a nickname that is sometimes used affectionately and sometimes critically.
At one point, Winfrey asked Meghan how she felt about Buckingham Palace “hearing you speak your truth today?”
“I don’t know how they could expect that after all of this time we would still just be silent if there was an active role that the firm is playing in perpetuating falsehoods about us,” she said.
“And if that comes with risk of losing things, I mean, there’s been a lot that’s been lost already.”
In another clip, Harry invoked the memory of his late mother, Princess Diana, who had to find her way alone after her divorce from Prince Charles.
“I’m just really relieved and happy to be sitting here talking to you with my wife by my side, because I can’t begin to imagine what it must have been like for her going through this process by herself all those years ago,” Harry said.
“Because it’s been unbelievably tough for the two of us.”
In Britain, the interview is considered to be poorly timed.
It will air while Harry’s grandfather, Prince Philip, 99, remains in hospital in London after a heart procedure.
Meghan is shown in a clip released on Friday contrasting the conversation the two women were able to have now compared with 2018, before her wedding.
Meghan described not being able to talk to Winfrey, who was seeking an interview, without royal minders present.
“As an adult who lived a really independent life to then go into this construct that is, um, different than I think what people imagine it to be, it’s really liberating to be able to have the right and the privilege in some ways to be able to say yes,” she told Winfrey.
It is unclear what public reaction, if any, the queen and other royal family members will have to Sunday’s interview.
The UK’s Sunday Times newspaper, quoting an anonymous source, reported that the queen would not watch it.
On Wednesday, the palace said it was launching a human resources investigation after a London newspaper reported that a former aide had accused Meghan of bullying staff in 2018.
A spokesman for the duchess said she was “saddened by the latest attack on her character, particularly as someone who has been the target of bullying herself".
The snippets already released provide some details about the interview, which includes Winfrey speaking one-on-one with Meghan and a joint session with the couple.
Holding hands, Harry and Meghan sat opposite Winfrey while she questioned them in a lush garden setting.
The couple live in Montecito, California, where they are Winfrey’s neighbours.
Meghan, who recently announced she is pregnant with the couple’s second child, wore an empire-style black dress with embroidery. Harry wore a light grey suit and white dress shirt, minus a tie.
As Meghan Markle, the actor starred in the TV legal drama Suits. She married Harry at Windsor Castle in May 2018 and their son, Archie, was born a year later.
Harry and Meghan’s departure from royal life was supposed to be reviewed after a year.
On February 19, Buckingham Palace confirmed that the couple would not return to royal duties and Harry would relinquish his honorary military titles, a decision that made the couple’s split from the royal family formal and final.