Who is the royal institution? Term used by Meghan Markle during Oprah Winfrey interview explained – and who are ‘the firm’

Markle and Prince Harry’s interview with Oprah Winfrey has been described as ‘damaging’ for the Royal Family

Monday, 8th March 2021, 12:40 pm
Updated Tuesday, 9th March 2021, 9:59 am
The Duke and Duchess of Sussex talked to Oprah Winfrey in a revealing interview viewed by millions (CBS)

The Duke and Duchess of Sussex levelled several accusations at the Royal Family during a tell-all interview with Oprah Winfrey

During the televised interview, which first aired in the United State, Meghan Markle confided in Winfrey talking about suicidal ideation and racism levelled at her unborn child by an unnamed royal.

The interview, which airs to UK viewers on STV and ITV tonight, also saw Meghan Markle accuse ‘The Firm’ of "perpetuating falsehoods” and working against the couple.

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But what exactly is The Firm and the royal institution and where do the terms originate from?

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What did Meghan Markle say about The Firm?

Markle defended her decision to speak to the chat show queen suggesting she could not “stay silent” while “The Firm” was working against the couple.

Winfrey asked the duchess: “How do you feel about the Palace hearing you speak your truth today?”

She replied: “I don’t know how they could expect that, after all of this time, we would still just be silent if there is an active role that The Firm is playing in perpetuating falsehoods about us.

“And, if that comes with risk of losing things, I mean, I…there is a lot that has been lost already.”

What is The Firm?

The Firm is a nickname for the House of Windsor.

The self-aware moniker, coined by those within the family, is a reference to the marriage of business interests and reputation.

Author Penny Junor explained the nickname in her 2005 book The Firm: The Troubled Life of the House of Windsor,

She wrote: "Prince Philip calls it 'The Firm,' and all the royal executives and their powerful associates are supposed to make every effort to avoid even a hint of scandal that could diminish the reputation of the family business."

The Firm refers not only to those within the Royal Family but those who work to keep the family’s reputation intact, from publicists to private secretaries.

What are the origins of the nickname?

It has been claimed that Prince Philip is a fan of the nickname and that he coined The Firm when he married into the family.

Junor, however, claims that the phrase dates back further than this to Queen Elizabeth II’s father George VI, who “first referred to the House of Windsor as The Firm and the name stuck.”

In film The King’s Speech, a Colin Firth-played George VI utters the line “We’re not a family, we’re a firm”.

Is The Firm the same as The Firm of Eight?

Confusingly, Queen Elizabeth has her own ‘Firm of Eight’.

This refers to her most trusted senior royals who follow her rule of “one must be seen to be believed.”

According to The Sun the group refers to Prince William, Kate Middleton, Prince Charles, Duchess Camilla of Cornwall, Prince Edward, Countess Sophie of Wessex, Princess Anne and herself.

And what is the royal institution?

This refers to the institution of the monarchy and its public role.

Like The Firm, this refers to private secretaries, communications teams, the royal household and security teams.

Markle made reference to those who are “running the royal institution” in order to differentiate from the royals themselves.

She said: "Those are two separate things. And it's important to be able to compartmentalize that, because the Queen, for example, has always been wonderful to me."