Meghan's friends launch an attack on the Palace as the mood darkens before the Oprah interview

This is exactly what Buckingham Palace feared the most from Harry and Meghan's departure: a tell-all interview in which so much mud gets slung.

This week could hardly have been more incendiary.

There was an explosive front page story in The Times in which royal aides revealed that a bullying complaint had been submitted about the Duchess of Sussex during her time at Kensington Palace.

And less than 24-hours later, CBS released a new clip of Meghan's interview with Oprah Winfrey in which she accused her husband's family of peddling lies about her and Harry.

And we are still two days away from Sunday's two-hour interview.

What has the reaction been to Meghan's tell-all interview? ITV News US Correspondent Emma Murphy reports from Los Angeles

But the mood darkened still further on Friday following a collective campaign by Meghan's friends and former colleagues who swung into support her and defend her from the allegations of bullying.

The fiercest criticism came in a series of tweets from the man who used to act alongside Meghan when he played Michael Ross and she played Rachel Zane in Suits.

Patrick J Adams wrote that the Royal family was at best "complicated and at worst, seemingly archaic and toxic".

And as for the bullying claims he wrote that is was "OBSCENE" that the Royal Family "is promoting and amplifying accusations of 'bullying' against a woman who herself was basically forced to flea (sic) the UK in order protect her family and her own mental health."

Reactions on social media were prompted followinf the two promotional l clips of Meghan released in advance. But her interview - in which she is later joined by Prince Harry - lasts for two whole hours.

It's important to point out here that I have been told this week by those with knowledge of the bullying claims that the former Household staff remain very fragile and traumatised by their time working for the Duchess.

They insist this was not a targeted piece of briefing by "the Firm", as Meghan called the Palace, but a group of employees who wanted to ensure there was an alternative narrative in the public domain in the days before the interview.

They refer to their experiences as "the other side of the story". 

Nevertheless Meghan's friends have now entered the public relations battle on her side.

The Duchess' actor friend Janina Gavankar said of Meghan: "Here's what she is: kind, strong, open. Here what she is not: 'a bully'".

Her college friend Lindsay Roth wrote in an Instagram post that "goodwill runs in Meghan's bones".

And Meghan's make-up artist Daniel Martin quoted a Taoist text and wrote: "Because she isn't self-centred, people can see the light in her."

Aides in Team Sussex insist that this was not a campaign coordinated by the Duke and Duchess themselves, but given they all appeared within the last day or so, it does suggest some element of coordination.

The wheels are now in motion for a potentially explosive television show which could be a very uncomfortable watch for the UK in general and the Royal Family in particular.

But others may take a view that Harry and Meghan are invading their own privacy by going to such high-profile means to put their side of the story - particularly at a time when so many families are facing economic hardship and personal grief caused by the pandemic.They will be two very tense hours in the early hours of Monday morning, but how both sides react in the days which follow will be equally as important.

Oprah With Meghan and Harry will be broadcast in the UK on ITV on Monday 8 March at 9pm. It will also be available on ITV Hub.