A Timeline Of The Royal Family’s Most Famous (And Infamous) TV Interviews To Date

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s forthcoming interview with Oprah Winfrey looks set to be totally revelatory based on clips we’ve seen so far – but it’s not the first time members of the royal family have lifted the lid on the goings on at Buckingham Palace.

Throughout the decades, senior royals like the Prince Of Wales, the Duke of Edinburgh and even the Queen herself have gone in front of the camera and shown a more human side of the royal family.

And of course, there’ve been a fair few infamous interview moments too, not least Prince Andrew’s unbelievable sit-down with Emily Maitlis back in 2019.

Here’s our timeline spanning 60 years of the royals’ most memorable interview moments, starting with the very first one…

1961 – Prince Philip on Panorama

Daily Herald Archive/SSPL/Getty Images

The Duke Of Edinburgh’s appearance on Panorama in the early 1960s was groundbreaking not because it was especially controversial, but because it marked the first time a member of the royal family had agreed to do a sit-down television interview.

Prince Philip spoke with broadcaster Richard Dimbleby about the Commonwealth Technical Training Week, an initiative of which he was a patron. 

1969 – Royal Family

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It was the idea of press secretary William Heseltine to give a filmmaker unprecedented access to record the royals going about their business, in a bid to make them appear more relevant at the end of the 1960s, a decade in which many had begun to consider them out of touch.

The end result was Royal Family, which charted a year in Queen Elizabeth’s life with her family. As well as the usual regal affairs you might expect, the doc showed off a more human side to the Windsors, including scenes showing Prince Philip grilling sausages at a family barbecue and the Queen treating her youngest son to an ice cream.

Whether the Royal Family succeeded in its mission is still up for debate. BBC Two’s then-controller David Attenborough (yes, that one) felt removing “mystique” around the royals was a potentially dangerous idea, while some critics praised the 90-minute special for showing us more of the royals’ personalities.

It seems the Queen herself was not a fan, though, as she reportedly had the documentary banned, and it’s not been shown on television since 1977 (although it did briefly leak online in 2021, before being taken down due to a copyright complaint). 

1994 – Charles: The Private Man, The Public Role

Two years before his divorce from Princess Diana was finalised, Prince Charles appeared in the authorised ITV documentary Charles: The Private Man, The Public Role.

This 90-minute special was made up of several interviews between the Prince of Wales and Jonathan Dimbleby (notably the son of the reporter who interviewed Charles’ own father on Panorama more than 30 years earlier), marking 25 years since his investiture.

Dimbleby said at the time that he had no intention of “painting a glossy portrait” of Charles, and this was infamously the first time the prince admitted to infidelity with Camilla Parker-Bowles during his marriage to Diana.

When asked whether he’d been faithful throughout his marriage, Charles responded: “Yes … Until it became irretrievably broken down, us both having tried.”

Many felt the interview was Charles’ attempt at winning back public favour after many had been won over by Diana in the years prior, but if that was his intention, it backfired somewhat.

A poll by The Sun the day after the documentary aired discovered two-thirds of respondents felt he was “unfit to be King”, following his admission.

In the biography The Firm, The Troubled Life Of The House Of Windsor, royal writer Penny Junor claimed Charles’ family were “flabbergasted” by his public admission, with Prince Philip in particular “incensed”. 

1995 – Princess Diana on Panorama

A year later, Princess Diana was able to have her say about her marriage on Panorama, and made headlines the world over. The interview with Martin Bashir took place in Diana’s sitting room in Kensington Palace, with sound and recording equipment having to be sneaked in so as not to arouse suspicion.

The hour-long special was noted for being the first time Diana spoke publicly about her husband’s infidelity (including the oft-quoted line “there were three of us in the marriage”), but it was revelatory for a number of other reasons, too.

Diana’s Panorma interview saw her speaking about her own extramarital affairs, including with James Hewitt, as well as her experiences of self-harm, post natal depression and bulimia.

She also addressed her feelings about the British press, describing them as “abusive” and their treatment of her as “harassment”.

John Birt, who was director general of the BBC at the time of this interview, later noted it “marked the end of the BBC’s institutional reverence – though not its respect – for the monarchy”.

In March this year, Scotland Yard confirmed they would not be conducting a criminal inquiry into Martin Bashir over allegations he tricked Diana into her landmark Panorama interview.

2011 – Sarah Ferguson on 60 Minutes Australia

In 2010, Sarah Ferguson was secretly recorded by the News Of The World’s Mazher Mahmood (dubbed the “fake sheikh”), offering access to Prince Andrew for half a million pounds.

“Look after me and he’ll look after you,” she was heard saying. “You’ll get it back tenfold. I can open any door you want.”

The Duchess Of York later admitted she was “devastated by the situation”, saying in a statement: “I very deeply regret the situation and the embarrassment caused. It is true that my financial situation is under stress however, that is no excuse for a serious lapse in judgment and I am very sorry that this has happened.

“I can confirm that The Duke of York was not aware or involved in any of the discussions that occurred. I am sincerely sorry for my actions.”

A year later, she was asked about the matter during an interview on Australia’s 60 Minutes, and ended up walking off the set.

“Don’t try and trick me now because I’m not going to play this game,” she said, before urging producers to “delete that bit”, feeling the interview was going in a “too tabloid-y” direction.

Eventually, after the interviewer persisted with his questions, the Duchess walked off the set completely, claiming she needed to “take five minutes”.

2017 – Heads Together

For much of his adult life, one of Prince William’s key causes has been working towards destigmatising mental health conditions.

In 2017, he teamed up with none other than Lady Gaga for the Heads Together campaign for a four-minute online video in which they spoke over FaceTime about the need to discuss mental health openly.

William complimented Gaga after she penned an open letter discussing her own experiences of PTSD, telling her: “It’s so important to break open that fear and that taboo… It’s time that everyone speaks up and feels very normal about mental health. It’s the same as physical health.

“Everybody has mental health, and we shouldn’t be ashamed of it. Just having a conversation with a friend or family member can really make such a difference.” 

2017 – Diana, Our Mother: Her Life And Legacy 

In honour of the 20th anniversary of their mother’s death, Princes William and Harry commissioned two authorised documentaries for ITV about her.

The first of these was Diana, Our Mother, in which both princes gave their first ever interviews about what the Princess Of Wales was like as a parent.

“Arguably [it was] probably a little bit too raw up until this point,” Prince Harry admitted. “It’s still raw.”

The two princes both spoke fondly of their late mother, with Harry describing her as “a total kid through and through” and William recalling an incident in which she arranged for supermodels Naomi Campbell and Cindy Crawford to surprise him after school one day.

“One of her mottos to me was ‘you can be as naughty as you want, just don’t get caught’,” Harry fondly remembered.

The other documentary was Diana, 7 Days, which focussed more on her death and the immediate effect it had on those around her, particularly her grieving sons, who were both children at the time. 

2018 – The Queen’s Green Planet

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Queen Elizabeth II and David Attenborough

Though not a traditional interview, the Queen teamed up with broadcaster and fellow nonagenarian Sir David Attenborough in 2018 for an ITV special discussing the environment and climate change. Among other things.

One thing The Queen’s Green Planet was noted for was that the monarch showed off her sense of humour, commenting of a nearby helicopter: “Why do they always go round and round when you want to talk? [That] sounds like President Trump.”

The Queen also spoke of her hopes to plant more trees in a bid to affect climate change, stating: “If all countries continue to plant, it might change the climate again.” 

2019 – Harry and Meghan: An African Journey

A year after they were married, Prince Harry and his new wife Meghan Markle made a trip to Africa, so they could look at how a charity initiative started by the Duke of Sussex 15 years earlier had progressed.

Of course, the documentary ended up revealing a lot more, most notably how the Duchess Of Sussex was adjusting to life in the spotlight, and the difficulties she was facing as a result of press intrusion.

The moment that most captured people’s attention was when journalist Tom Bradby asked about the “pressure” she was under, and its “impact on your mental and physical health”.

“I would say … any woman, especially when they’re pregnant, you’re really vulnerable, and so that was made really challenging,” she explained. “And then when you have a newborn, you know. And especially as a woman, it’s a lot.

“So you add this on top of just trying to be a new mum or trying to be a newlywed. It’s um… yeah. I guess, also thank you for asking, because not many people have asked if I’m okay, but it’s a very real thing to be going through behind the scenes.”

“Would it be fair to say ‘Not really OK’?” Bradby then asked. “It’s really been a struggle?”

Meghan responded simply: “Yes.”

In a piece she wrote for the New York Times in 2021, Meghan spoke about how much this exchange had meant to her, recalling: “My off-the-cuff reply seemed to give people permission to speak their truth. But it wasn’t responding honestly that helped me most, it was the question itself.”

2019 – Prince Andrew on Newsnight

At the time, it would have been fair to assume that Harry and Meghan: An African Journey would be the royal family’s most revelatory moment of 2019.

But in November 2019, Prince Andrew sat down with Emily Maitlis at Buckingham Palace for what turned out to be a disastrous interview about allegations of sexual abuse that had been made against him, as well as his relationship with convicted paedophile Jeffrey Epstein.

During the interview, the Duke of York “categorically” denied accusations from one woman who claimed she was forced to have sex with him on three occasions, including when she was 17 years old.

“It didn’t happen. I can absolutely categorically tell you it never happened,” he said.

Prince Andrew dismissed her claims that he had been “profusely sweating” when they danced together at a nightclub, insisting that he had a medical condition that meant he was unable to sweat at that time as a result of “an overdose of adrenaline in the Falklands War”.

He also said that he was at a Pizza Express in Woking with one of his daughters on the day of one of the alleged incidents.

“Going to Pizza Express in Woking is an unusual thing for me to do,” he insisted. “I remember it weirdly distinctly.”

Following the much-publicised interview, Prince Andrew suspended his public duties “for the foreseeable future”. In May 2020, he permanently resigned from public duties to his connections with Epstein, who died in August 2019.

2021 – Prince Harry on The Late, Late Show

Oprah Winfrey announced in February 2021 that she had a sit-down interview with Prince Harry and Meghan Markle in the works, and there was near-immediate speculation about exactly what they’d reveal.

What no one saw coming was that the much-awaited interview would be preceded by a much more light-hearted appearance from Prince Harry on The Late, Late Show with James Corden.

One that featured an open-top bus tour of LA, a quick pitstop to the mansion from The Fresh Prince Of Bel-Air, an impromptu FaceTime call with Meghan and yes, even some rapping.

We were not ready, and frankly we’re still not ready.

2021 – Oprah With Meghan And Harry

And here we are. Oprah Winfrey has promised an interview with Harry and Meghan where “nothing [is] off limits”, which will air in the US on Sunday, before it’s shown on ITV on Monday 8 March at 9pm.

Of course, we haven’t seen it yet, but an early press release announced the Sussexes would be discussing marriage, life under public pressure and their “future hopes and dreams”, among other things.

Subsequent clips have also teased Harry sharing his fears of “history repeating itself” before he decided to move with his family to Los Angeles, as well as claims from Meghan of the palace “perpetuating falsehoods about us”.

The 90-minute interview is one we’re sure to be talking about for a long time to come.

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