Downing Street has declined to distance itself from a minister’s claim that the Duke of Sussex is “blowing up his family” after revealing that Boris Johnson watched the explosive interview.
No 10 continued on Tuesday to refuse to comment on the allegations of racism within the royal family made by Harry and Meghan, claims that have thrown the monarchy into crisis.
The prime minister’s official spokesman was asked at least five times about Lord Goldsmith’s criticism of the couple but declined to distance Downing Street from the remarks.
Asked if Johnson watched the interview with Oprah Winfrey, which aired in the UK on Monday night, the spokesman said: “He did, but you have the PM’s words from the press conference last night and I won’t be adding any further to what he said.”
So far, Joe Biden’s White House has praised the “courage” displayed by the couple in airing their struggles with mental health, but Johnson has declined to issue any detailed comment.
Pressed whether Lord Goldsmith, a Foreign Office minister and long-time ally of Johnson, was speaking for the government, the spokesman said: “All I can do is echo what the prime minister said in the press conference last night.”
Meghan, the first mixed race member of the modern monarchy, said an unnamed member of the royal family raised “concerns and conversations about how dark his skin might be when he’s born” while she was pregnant with Archie.
ITV News’s royal editor, Chris Ship, said the couple “dropped bomb after heavy bomb on Buckingham Palace” in the interview with US chat show host Winfrey.
But Lord Goldsmith responded “not ‘Buckingham Palace’ – Harry’s family”, and appeared to blame the duchess for the situation.
“Harry is blowing up his family,” the peer said. “What Meghan wants, Meghan gets.”
The remarks were in stark contrast with those of the prime minister, who was uncharacteristically reticent at the Downing Street press conference on Monday when asked about the royal crisis.
“I have always had the highest admiration for the Queen and the unifying role that she plays in our country and across the Commonwealth,” he said.
But on “all other matters to do with the royal family, I have spent a long time now not commenting on royal family matters and I don’t intend to depart from that today”.
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer has said Meghan raised “really serious issues” of racism and mental health.
“It is a reminder that too many people experience racism in 21st century Britain. We have to take that very, very seriously,” he added.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki praised Harry and Meghan’s courage when asked if the US President had watched the interview.
Psaki told journalists: “For anyone to come forward and speak about their own struggles with mental health and tell their own personal story, that takes courage.
“That’s certainly something the president believes.”