Queen stresses importance of family as royal rift deepens amid bombshell Oprah interview

7 March 2021, 17:00 | Updated: 7 March 2021, 22:22

Queen Elizabeth stressed the importance family in "testing times" in her Commonwealth speech
Queen Elizabeth stressed the importance family in "testing times" in her Commonwealth speech. Picture: Buckingham Palace
Ewan Quayle

By Ewan Quayle

The Queen has stressed the importance of staying in touch with family and friends during "testing times" in her Commonwealth speech - just hours ahead of Harry and Meghan's Oprah interview.

Senior royals including the Prince of Wales and the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge joined forces to appear in a special programme on Sunday to mark Commonwealth Day.

The Queen praised the "selfless dedication to duty" seen across the Commonwealth, particularly on the front line during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Focusing on the global impact of coronavirus, the monarch spoke of using technology that "transcends boundaries or division" and how there has been a "deeper appreciation" of the need to connect to others during the crisis.

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The Queen, who is Head of the Commonwealth, used her Commonwealth Day message to highlight the "friendship, spirit of unity and achievements" around the world and the benefits of working together in the fight against the virus.

"The testing times experienced by so many have led to a deeper appreciation of the mutual support and spiritual sustenance we enjoy by being connected to others," she said.

The Palace is bracing itself for Meghan and Harry's Oprah interview
The Palace is bracing itself for Meghan and Harry's Oprah interview. Picture: PA Images

As footage was played of the Queen's numerous official video calls, the 94-year-old acknowledged that the innovative technology "has been new to some of us, with conversations and communal gatherings, including Commonwealth meetings, conducted online, enabling people to stay in touch with friends, family, colleagues, and counterparts who they have not been able to meet in person.

She said: "Increasingly, we have found ourselves able to enjoy such communication as it offers an immediacy that transcends boundaries or division, helping any sense of distance to disappear.

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"We have all continued to appreciate the support, breadth of experiences and knowledge that working together brings."

Her audio message stood in contrast to the troubles facing the royal family and the bitter fallout from Megxit.

Buckingham Palace is bracing itself for what Harry and Meghan will say in their controversial two-hour conversation with Oprah Winfrey - which airs on Sunday (1am GMT) in the US, while the Duke of Edinburgh remains unwell in hospital.

In clips released ahead of the interview, Meghan has already accused the royal family of "perpetuating falsehoods" about her and Harry and explained how she felt liberated to make her own choices after moving to the States.

The Prince of Wales features in Sunday's Commonwealth Day programme
The Prince of Wales features in Sunday's Commonwealth Day programme. Picture: PA Images

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

In the programme aired from 5pm on Sunday, the Queen is shown flanked, socially distanced, by her Master of the Household Vice Admiral Sir Tony Johnstone-Burt and her assistant private secretary Matthew Magee, who form part of the Queen's HMS Bubble of reduced staff.

The Queen then sits at an ornate desk in the middle of the hall and signs her Commonwealth Day message.

The bulk of the programme was filmed inside the Abbey, and presented by broadcaster Anita Rani, with musical performances throughout, and prayers by the Dean of Westminster.

It also features interviews with the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, as well as the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall.

On the monarch's jacket is the sapphire chrysanthemum brooch which she wore in a photograph to mark her 73rd wedding anniversary with Philip in November.

The Duke remains ill at King Edward VII's hospital in London, recovering from an operation he had earlier this week.