Duke and Duchess of Sussex, launched their latest broadside at the British royal family, highlighting the institution’s historic links to slavery and the struggle that the biracial actress faced integrating into the house of Windsor during a television series for
The first three episodes of the series, titled “Harry & Meghan,” tell the story of how the couple met, fell in love and their friction with paparazzi ahead of their wedding in 2018. “We’ve never been allowed to tell our story… until now,” said Ms. Markle in one episode. Three more episodes, detailing their split with the rest of the family, are expected next week.
Since quitting royal duties in 2020 and moving to California, the couple have sealed deals with
worth about $120 million. While the couple has said the Netflix show gives them the opportunity to tell their version of what happened, critics, including officials at Buckingham Palace, say the couple are parlaying strained royal ties to build a multimillion media empire. Prince Harry’s memoir, “Spare,” is due to be published in January.
The series recounts the Sussexes personal love story set against the backdrop of a royal institution they frame as out of touch with reality. Particularly damaging for the House of Windsor, the series highlights British monarchs’ historic links to the slave trade and the institution’s alleged continuing hang-up on the legacy of the British Empire. It also focuses on how Buckingham Palace handles the media, with both Sussexes complaining they weren’t protected from the intense scrutiny from the British tabloids, which followed their friends and whose reporting allegedly resulted in Ms. Markle becoming estranged from her father.
The series said that members of the royal family declined to comment, but palace aides deny they were approached before the show was aired.
The slickly produced show combines softly-lit interviews with the Sussexes and their friends, interspersed with people who provide context for a glimpse into what life is like in the world’s most-famous royal family. British media quickly dubbed the project “Megflix.”
The couple share never-before-seen Instagram posts and text messages as they give nuggets of new insight into their nascent royal life together. They say they met over Instagram and wooed each other online before meeting in person. Ms. Markle called the coverage of her engagement to Prince Harry in 2017 “an orchestrated reality show.” The Duchess of Sussex says she was then left to fend for herself as she entered royal life, googling the lines to the British national anthem and being forced to wear dull-colored clothing so as to fit in with the rest of the royal clan.
Prince Harry, whom Ms. Markle and her associates in the film refer to as “H,” details how he overcame his and his relatives’ “huge unconscious bias.” He also draws repeated comparisons between his late mother Princess Diana and his wife.
The claims made in the series end an uneasy yearlong truce between the Sussexes and the rest of the Windsor clan that held while the nation marked the late Queen Elizabeth II’s 70 years on the throne and her death in September. During this brief detente, Prince Harry and his brother Prince William walked together behind their grandmother’s coffin, praised their father
King Charles III
and greeted well wishers together.
Buckingham Palace officials have long felt the Sussexes haven’t refrained from making life difficult for their former employers. The couple have recently accelerated efforts to build out Archewell, the media company they founded.
After they stepped away from their royal duties, Prince Harry and his wife were stripped of all military and honorary titles by the late Queen. Ongoing speculation centers on whether the Duke and Duchess of Sussex’s children, Archie and Lilibet, will be made prince and princess by the new King Charles. The updated line of succession on the royal website lists them as Master Archie Mountbatten-Windsor and Miss Lilibet Mountbatten-Windsor. They are sixth and seventh in line to the throne, respectively.
The Netflix series delves further into the complaints the couple made during the Oprah interview. They started recording video diaries of themselves in March 2020, long before the Netflix deal, because a friend suggested they document themselves. “We know right now it might not make sense, but we know one day, it will make sense,” the Duchess of Sussex says in an early video diary entry.
A major gripe is the paparazzi. Prince Harry has repeatedly spoken about how he was scarred by the treatment received by his mother Princess Diana, who died in a car crash in 1997 after being chased by paparazzi. In the series, the prince describes his helplessness as his partner was targeted with what he felt was racist coverage. The show features examples of racially charged headlines in the U.K. press, including one from the Daily Mail saying the new would-be princess was “Straight (Almost) Outta Compton,” a reference to the mostly Black neighborhood of Los Angeles.
“The direction from the Palace was ‘don’t say anything.’ But what people need to understand is that as far as a lot of the family was concerned, everything she was being put through they had been put through as well, so it was like a rite of passage,” said Prince Harry during the series. “And some of the members of the family were like, ‘right, well, my wife had to go through that so why should your girlfriend be treated any differently, why should you get special treatment, why should she be protected. And I said the difference here is the race element.”
Prince Harry has previously said he had no option but to quit royal duties in 2020 to protect his family from the press intrusion. The Duchess of Sussex talks of how her relationship with her father, Thomas Markle, broke down in the lead up to their wedding after he was paid by tabloids to pose for photos. “She had a father before this and now she doesn’t have a father. And I shouldered this,” said Prince Harry.
“This is about duty and service and I feel being part of this family, it is my duty to uncover this exploitation and bribery that happens within our media,” he said.
The hourlong episodes feature interviews with tennis star Serena Williams, who details the couple’s deep love for one another, and Ms. Markle’s mother Doria Ragland. The series, so far, holds back on delving into some of the most damaging allegations that the couple have previously made. There is no mention of the alleged racist comments made to the duchess. Also missing are contested allegations that she was left in tears after a pre-wedding dispute with Prince William’s wife Catherine, the Princess of Wales. However, it does talk about the culture clash that the duchess allegedly faced. “I was a hugger. I’ve always been a hugger, I didn’t realize that that is really jarring for a lot of Brits,” she explained. She also explained how during royal visits she had to mute her expressive hand waving style to make it more regal.
The split from the royal family has damaged relations between Princes Harry and William, the heir to the throne, according to palace aides. King Charles, after acceding to the throne, spoke of his love for Prince Harry and Meghan “as they continue to build their lives overseas.”
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As the media blitz around the Netflix series stepped up in recent weeks, the royal family continued duties as normal. Prince William and his wife, Catherine, were in Boston last week to announce the winner of the Earthshot Prize environmental award. The palace moved quickly to stamp out a potential scandal after the queen’s former lady-in-waiting, Lady Susan Hussey, was alleged to have made inappropriate remarks to a Black guest at Buckingham Palace. The palace said Lady Hussey had stepped back from her role.
King Charles and the Queen consort meanwhile have a packed week of engagements planned.
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