And yet, there the couple sat, in comfortable wicker outdoor chairs, across a low round table, from perhaps the nation’s most recognizable television host. Ms. Winfrey’s list of celebrity interviews includes Michael Jackson, Barack Obama, Kim Kardashian and Donald J. Trump — and she is known for considering little to be off limits (in 1993, she asked a nonplused Mr. Jackson if he was a virgin).
Meghan, however, cast the interview as a chance to reclaim her own narrative, after a period when she claims her reputation was distorted by a ravenous tabloid press fed a diet of falsehoods by jealous palace courtiers.
Even Meghan’s choice of wardrobe seemed calculated to telegraph the message of a new start. Her elegant black dress, designed by Giorgio Armani, featured a striking lotus flower design that her staff said symbolized revival and a will to live. She also wore a diamond tennis bracelet that once belonged to Diana.
But the couple’s effort to relaunch their public image did not go unchallenged back home. In the days leading up to the broadcast, new allegations surfaced that Meghan had bullied members of her staff, reducing junior aides to tears and driving two personal assistants out of the palace. Meghan dismissed the claims as character assassination, while Buckingham Palace said it would look into them.
“What is going on is a significant struggle for the control of the narrative,” said Peter Hunt, a former BBC royal correspondent. “What is our settled judgment for why Harry and Meghan left the royal family? Do we accept two hours of Oprah or do we believe those charges of bullying?”
Early headlines in the British tabloids suggested that Meghan’s bombshells will reverberate for weeks. “I wanted to kill myself,” said a headline on The Daily Mail’s website. “I felt suicidal,” said a headline on The Sun’s site.
Meghan has no shortage of defenders. Patrick J. Adams, an actor who worked with her on the television series “Suits,” described her on Twitter last week as having “a deep sense of morality and a fierce work ethic.” The royal family, Mr. Adams said, was “obscene” to promote accusations of bullying against her.