The 94-year-old U.K. monarch did not mention the couple in her comments, made in a pre-recorded and scheduled TV address to commemorate Commonwealth Day, a celebration of the Commonwealth of Nations. A video of the message by the queen, who is seen walking and then speaking in a voice-over amid footage of masked healthcare workers and schoolchildren in Commonwealth nations, was released online and also aired on the BBC on Sunday, March 7, a day before the actual Commonwealth Day 2021.
"Over the coming week, as we celebrate our friendship, spirit in unity and achievements of the Commonwealth, we have an opportunity to reflect on a time like no other," the queen said. "Whilst experiences of the last year have been different across the Commonwealth, stirring examples of courage, commitment and selfless dedication to duty have been demonstrated in every Commonwealth nation and territory, notably by those working on the frontline who have been delivering healthcare and other public services in their communities. We have also taken encouragement from remarkable advances in developing new vaccines and treatments."
The queen's televised address comes weeks after Meghan and Harry's 2020 royal exit was made permanent. The video was also released days after Buckingham Palace announced it will investigate claims that the duchess allegedly once bullied royal staffers, which were detailed in a recent article in The Times, one of the U.K.'s most trusted newspapers. The couple has denied the allegations and many of Meghan's friends have defended her publicly.
On Feb. 15, CBS announced that it would air on March 7 an interview that Oprah conducted with Meghan and Harry, which marks their first joint interview and first major media sit-down since announcing their royal exit last year. On Feb. 22, London's Westminster Abbey's website announced that on March 7, the queen and other senior royals will appear in a BBC One program about the Commonwealth, which comes in place of an annual Commonwealth Day service at the royal church that was canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Following the church's announcement, the media and fans immediately noted that both TV events were scheduled for the same day, and there was much speculation that the royals aimed to overshadow the duke and duchess' tell-all special, which could portray the queen's family in a negative light.
In its initial press release about the Oprah interview, CBS said Meghan, who is pregnant with the couple's second child, will discuss "stepping into life as a royal, marriage, motherhood, philanthropic work to how she is handling life under intense public pressure." She and Harry are also set to talk about the reasons behind their royal exit. A recent promo for the CBS special shows the duchess telling Oprah that it was "really liberating to be able to have the right and the privilege in some ways to be able to say, 'Yes, I'm ready to talk.'"
Weeks ago, Harry spoke briefly about the couple's royal exit in a lighthearted interview on The Late Late Show, whose host James Corden, like Oprah, attended the couple's 2018 royal wedding. During the episode, Harry also spoke about his and Meghan's 22-month-old son Archie Harrison, sharing that the queen sent him a special gift and that they all have spoken to her and Philip a few times using the Zoom video chat program.
"The need to maintain greater physical distance, or to live and work largely in isolation, has, for many people across the Commonwealth, been an unusual experience," the queen said in her TV address on Sunday. "In our everyday lives, we have had to become more accustomed to connecting and communicating via innovative technology—which 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."
The queen continued, "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. We have all continued to appreciate the support, breadth of experiences and knowledge that working together brings, and I hope we shall maintain this renewed sense of closeness and community."
Meghan and Harry's interview with Oprah is set to air tonight on CBS at 8 p.m. ET. The Times reported on Sunday that the queen will not stay up and watch the program, which royal courtiers have branded a "circus."