The Palace’s Statement on Meghan & Harry’s Interview is a Masterclass in Wording
It took about 41 hours since Meghan and Harry’s interview went live until Buckingham Palace finally commented. The couple laid a carefully-worded, brilliantly-structured, and well-planned list of charges against the royal family and the royal ‘institution’, and yet the palace was silent.
According to reports by the British media, following the explosive interview, a series of urgent crisis meetings were held at the palace. The Queen was there along with Prince Charles and Prince William. With them, the royal family’s top advisors. The palace — the entity that is often referred to when talking about matters of the royal family and their advisors — said that it won’t be rushed into making any comment.
The stakes were high, so was the pressure. The world was waiting for a response. According to reports, those gathered in the meetings managed to reach an agreed statement but the queen refused to sign off on it and wanted more time to think.
Eventually, early evening of March 9, the palace released a short 5-line statement. The time and thought that was put into it were very apparent. It is, in my opinion, a masterfully-crafted response to the crisis at hand.
Let’s break it down.
“The whole family”
The statement is speaking on behalf of the whole family. They are united in their sentiment. While Harry and Meghan might have parted ways and have very harsh things to say, the rest of the royal family are all still as one.
“Is saddened to learn the full extent of how challenging the last few years have been for Harry and Meghan”
In the interview, Harry and Meghan claimed repeatedly that members of the royal family and palace staff knew about their hardships. One crucial moment of the interview is when Meghan shares her mental difficulties and her suicidal thoughts.
By saying that they are “saddened to learn” about the challenges Harry and Meghan faced, the palace is distancing itself from the couple’s claims and version. It is basically an emphatic way of saying — We feel for you, but we had no idea.
However, the statement is even more sophisticated. By adding “the full extent”, the palace leaves itself some room. It’s not specifically contradicting Harry and Meghan’s claims but leaving the situation intentionally vague. They knew some of what was going on, but which part?
The royal family must have taken into account the possibility that Harry and Meghan have even more negative information to share with the public. They might also have some evidence to back their explosive claims. Therefore, the palace is trying really hard not to bluntly deny or contradict anything that was said in the interview.
The aim of their statement is not to fight Harry and Meghan.
“The issues raised, particularly that of race, are concerning”
Using the term “the issues” rather than claims or accusations shifts the narrative and helps the palace address what was said without implying that it did anything wrong.
“The issues… are concerning”. Well, of course, they are. Mental health is a concerning issue, racism is a concerning issue, family members being estranged is concerning. It’s always true.
The wording of this part is so clever that the reader might get the sense that the palace is taking some kind of responsibility although it actually isn’t.
The use of the word “race” and not “racism” is also well-thought. This accusation wasn’t directly mentioned in the interview, the word “racist” was never said. The palace would certainly not associate itself with the term “racist” in an official statement, especially when it wasn’t directly accused of being so.
“While some recollections may vary, they are taken very seriously”
What’s a more polite way of telling someone he is wrong (or lying)? Suggesting that he might not remember correctly.
The palace is, once again, choosing to turn things more vague. “Some recollections may vary” leaves an open question of, who’s recollections? The palace is not directly challenging Harry and Meghan but simply hinting that there is more than one version of the story that was told.
The statement doesn't go into any details as to which recollections the royal family sees differently. But the clever wording casts doubt in the readers' minds. As much as Harry and Meghan’s story was compelling, it might not be 100% accurate.
The palace goes on, stating that the issues raised are “taken very seriously”. Again, this is vague and serves a double meaning. It leaves the readers with the feeling that the palace is taking responsibility and seriously addressing the matters raised. However, they don’t actually say that. Taking issues seriously is no more telling than saying that the issue of race is concerning.
“And will be addressed by the family privately”
This is a very important part of setting the narrative. Bear in mind, the world has now been talking for almost two days about the possibility of the royal family being racist. The palace is turning the public debate into a private family matter.
We will deal with this, they actually say, but not on the front pages of the papers. The message is that what’s going on inside the palace is not different than any other family argument in any other house.
This is, naturally, a message that is completely false. The royal family is not like any other family, they do take advantage of their many privileges and have to accept that, as a package deal, this comes with public scrutiny. That means that claims of racism in the royal family, for example, are a public matter. They know that.
And yet, the palace is stressing that this is a private family matter; Trying to set up a completely different narrative and tone.
“Harry, Meghan and Archie will always be much-loved family members”
A stretch of the hand, an olive branch offering, or a message that if they’ll play along Harry and Meghan could still be a part of the family.
The palace is skipping in very choreographed steps between their attempts to keep Harry and Meghan on their good side, and fighting a battle for the public’s opinion.
Ending the statement with a heart-warming message of love is an attempt to defuse the harsh claims about abandoning the couple, betraying them, and basically cutting them loose. The palace is trying to show its maturity and kindness in empathy. Although they sat on television, in front of millions of people, and said all of these awful things about the family — it’s like the palace is saying — we still love you.
It’s a sentiment that could be related and admired by any family or family member all over the world.
Even though Buckingham Palace’s statement is precise and carries a balance of empathy and firmness, the battle is far from over. By doing the Oprah interview it’s safe to assume that Harry and Meghan knew they are burning all bridges. Each side still has its own story to tell.
And yet, analyzing both the interview and the statement following it I can say with full certainty that both sides have one thing in common. Both Harry and Meghan and the royal family have the absolute best advisors money could buy for creating a clear message and putting it into words.