“Harry & Meghan” is one of a series of programs the pair is producing under a commercial deal with Netflix.
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Prince Harry and Meghan Markle hit out at what they called the “exploitation and bribery” of the British press in a new, hotly anticipated Netflix documentary released Thursday.
In a series billed as exposing “the full truth” behind the couple’s life inside Britain’s royal family, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex also condemned the “unconscious bias” around race within Buckingham Palace, and the lack of support they received from other royals.
In the opening episode, Harry describes the release of the documentary as an act of “duty and service.” It marks one of a series of programs the pair is producing under a commercial deal with Netflix.
“I feel as though being part of this family, it is my duty to uncover this exploitation and bribery that happens within our media,” Harry says in the opening episode.
The six-part mini-series, entitled “Harry & Meghan,” acts as a love letter to the pair’s high-profile relationship, revealing new details of their first introduction in 2016 via a mutual friend on Snapchat, to their ultimate decision to step down from the royal family in 2020.
The first three episodes of the series were released Thursday, with the second batch to be released next week.
It all comes down to control, it’s like, ‘This family is ours to exploit.’
But within the episodes released so far, the series is notable as much for what it misses out as what it contains.
There are few, if any, difficult questions and a distinct lack of critical voices throughout the documentary.
Harry’s brother, William, the Prince of Wales, for instance, features only briefly in a montage of childhood photos, and there is little reference to wider high-profile feuds between the couple and other members of the royal family over recent years.
There is also a distinct lack of input from other members of the royal family.
A disclaimer at the beginning of episode one states that members of the royal family “declined to comment on the content within this series.” However, a senior royal source confirmed to NBC News that neither Buckingham Palace, Kensington Palace, nor any member of the royal family are aware of any such approach for comment on the content of the series.
Here’s what the series tells us:
Collusion between palace and British press
One of the key themes running throughout the series is a critique of the British press, which Harry describes as being in cahoots with Buckingham Palace to ensure constant media coverage.
“There’s leaking but there’s also planting of stories,” he says, though doesn’t provide specific examples.
In the third episode, the Duke of Sussex refers to a royal rota, through which different press outlets and broadcasters are given slots to cover members of the family, likening it to an extension of the palace’s PR team. Buckingham Palace did not immediately respond to CNBC’s request for comment on the claims.
Prince Harry and Meghan stepped back as senior members of the Royal Family in 2020.
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“If you’re part of the royal rota, you have priority over the story over everybody else,” Harry says. “All royal news goes through the filter of all newspapers within the royal rota, most of which, apart from the Telegraph, happen to be tabloids.”
“It all comes down to control, it’s like, ‘This family is ours to exploit. Their trauma is our story and our story and our narrative to control’,” he added.
The prince also refers to the BBC’s now infamous interview with his mother, the late Princess Diana. While acknowledging that the interview was secured by “deceitful” means, he says: “She spoke the truth of her experience.”
More allegations of racism within the royal family
The documentary also expands on a prior, explosive interview with Oprah Winfrey, in which the couple made allegations of racism within the royal family.
Harry says that other members of his family failed to support the couple when Meghan, the first mixed-raced member of the modern royal family, faced racism in the media.
However, the pair seem to moderate their accusations against the family, referring to such racial discrimination as “unconscious bias.”
For so many people in the family … there can be a temptation or an urge to marry someone who would fit the mold.
“As far as a lot of the family were concerned, everything that she was being put through, they had been put through as well,” he says.
“So it was almost like a rite of passage, and some of the members of the family were like, ‘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?'”
“I said, ‘The difference here is the race element,'” Harry adds.
Last week, the late Queen Elizabeth II’s lady-in-waiting, Lady Susan Hussey, was embroiled in a racial scandal after repeatedly asking charity boss Ngozi Fulani where she was “really from.”
Pushback against conventional royal marriages
Harry also appears to make a thinly veiled swipe at his father, King Charles III, and brother, William, in defense of his relationship with Meghan.
In episode one, Harry, whose relationship with the American-born has come under immense scrutiny — not least for her divorcee status, a factor overlooked in the docuseries — points to what he calls the difference between “making decisions with head and heart.”
Harry & Meghan, the hotly-anticipated new Netflix documentary from the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, has been released.
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“For so many people in the family — especially, obviously, the men — there can be a temptation or an urge to marry someone who would fit the mold as opposed to somebody who you perhaps are destined to be with,” Harry said.
Charles famously married Diana at the behest of the royal family, despite having a long-running and well-documented relationship with his now wife, Camilla, queen consort. William’s wife Kate, the Princess of Wales, meanwhile, has been widely accepted in the media, despite being a non-royal herself.
Likening himself to his mother, Diana, Harry added, “My mum certainly made most of her decisions, if not all of them, from the heart. And I am my mother’s son.”
A barometer for Harry and Meghan’s popularity
The release of the series has already come up against criticism for allegedly using footage and photos in misleading ways.
Comments made by the pair about being hounded by the media, for instance, are accompanied by at least three images which have nothing to do with the couple, according to reports.
Meantime, others have questioned the couple’s decision to shine further light on their relationship despite ostensibly stepping down from the royal family in order to preserve their privacy.
But much will hinge on the wider public’s response to the series, as Harry and Meghan attempt to forge a new future — and income — outside of the monarchy.
It is not clear how much the couple have been paid for the series, though the wider commercial deal between Netflix and Archewell Productions is thought to be worth millions of dollars.
“In order to survive in the future, they need to maintain that popularity,” James Holt, executive director of the couple’s Archewell Foundation, says of the Royal Family in the series.
To some extent, the same is true for Harry and Meghan.