Oprah Winfrey courted Meghan Markle and Prince Harry for three years to land her exclusive interview with the couple, according to reports.

While the 67-year-old talk show queen was described as a "friend of the couple" when she was a guest at their May 2018 royal wedding, she had only met Markle once before then - while first trying to land an interview, according to the Times of London.

She continued to play the "long game" and acted as the Duchess of Sussex's mentor, even befriending her mother, Doria Ragland, when they moved to Oprah's upscale California neighbourhood last year, the UK Times said.

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Winfrey's series about mental health for Apple TV with Harry was seen by many royal insiders as a "canny move" to "keep the couple happy," the report said.

The fact that Winfrey would land the interview was long an "open secret in palace circles" - withPage Sixnoting speculation about it last January.

But Monday's formal announcement caught Buckingham Palace by surprise, with royal officials only learning about the finalised interview on Twitter, the report said.

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It will air March 7, just a week after the end of the one-year trial period for the Sussexes' split from royal duties, and the UK Times noted fears that it will only widen the rift between the couple and the rest of the family.

Insiders also noted to the paper the royal family's disastrous history of tell-all TV interviews.

Harry's late mother, Princess Diana, regretted her controversial 1995 "Panorama" interview in which she opened up about her self-harm, bulimia and infidelity in her marriage with heir to the throne Prince Charles, famously saying "there were three of us in this marriage, so it was a bit crowded."

More recently, Prince Andrew agreed to a BBC interview to discuss his relationship with paedophile Jeffrey Epstein - instead creating a severe backlash that saw him soon dumped from royal duties.

This story originally appeared on NY Post and has been reproduced here with permission

Originally published as How Oprah landed Meghan interview