Harry and Meghan renew clash with British royal family in Netflix doc

The epic squabble between Prince Harry and Meghan and the rest of Britain’s royal family will burst back into the open Thursday, in a Netflix series that promises to reveal the “truth” about the rift pitting Hollywood glamour against the centuries old institution.

The couple were keen to set the record straight and tell the story of their relationship from their perspective.

“This is a great love story,” Harry says in the first 10 mins. “And the crazy thing is I think this love story is only getting started.”

Aside from showing the story of their courtship, the six episodes of “Harry & Meghan” also look set to highlight long-running grievances that have roiled Britain’s royal family for years.

Image: Prince Harry, Meghan Markle
Prince Harry with Meghan Markle appeared in public together for the first time at the Invictus Games in Toronto.Nathan Denette / The Canadian Press via AP file

There’s what Prince Harry calls in a trailer the “pain and suffering” of women marrying into the family, appearing to refer to his mother Princess Diana, who was just 36 when she died in a car crash while being chased by photographers in Paris. “I was terrified, I didn’t want history to repeat itself,” Harry says.  

“There’s a hierarchy of the family, you know, there’s leaking, but there’s also planting of stories,” Harry says at a later point. “It’s a dirty game,” he adds.  

It is awkward timing for the release of the show, coming three months after Queen Elizabeth II’s death and the ascension of Harry’s father, Charles, as king. It also comes less than a week after his brother Prince William and his wife Catherine, Princess of Wales, made a high profile trip to the United States. 

At another point in the trailer, Meghan, the Duchess of Sussex, says that she “realized they’re never going to protect you.” 

Before and after stepping back from the royal family in January 2020, the couple accused the royal household of not defending Meghan from the intrusive and sometimes racist coverage of the country’s voracious tabloid press. In addition, Harry is challenging in court a decision by the British government to deny him police protection while in Britain. 

Promising revelations, the trailer signs off with Harry saying: “No one knows the full truth. We know the full truth.”   

Directed by Liz Garbus — the Emmy-winning producer of the Netflix documentary “What Happened, Miss Simone?” — three episodes will be released Thursday and three more on Dec. 15. The Sussexes media company, Archewell, is listed as one of three producers.

Image: Britain's Prince Harry and his fiancée Meghan Markle in the Sunken Garden at Kensington Palace on Nov. 27, 2017, following the announcement of their engagement.
Prince Harry and Meghan Markle in the Sunken Garden at Kensington Palace following the announcement of their engagement.Daniel Leal-Olivas / AFP – Getty Images file

The British tabloids have intensely scrutinized Meghan, publishing stories about her estranged family following her engagement and marriage to Harry in May 2018. The couple has won several lawsuits against their publishers in recent years, while some remain unresolved.

Interest in the couple intensified after the pair stepped down as senior royals in January 2020 to build new lives in California. Harry was later stripped of his honorary military titles and the U.K.’s Home Office — the ministry responsible for policing, immigration and security — decided that he would no longer receive personal police security while in Britain even if he were to cover the cost himself.

In a wide-ranging interview with Oprah Winfrey last March, the couple described a lack of support offered to the newlyweds and Meghan’s experience with suicidal thoughts. The pair also alleged that in the months leading up to their son Archie’s birth, a royal insider expressed “concerns and conversations about how dark his skin might be when he’s born.”

Prince Harry and Meghan, The Duke and Duchess of Sussex, with Oprah Winfrey.
Prince Harry and Meghan, the Duchess of Sussex, with Oprah Winfrey.Joe Pugliese / Harpo Productions

“That conversation, I’m never going to share. But at the time, it was awkward. I was a bit shocked,” Harry told the talk show host. Oprah Winfrey later said the conversation was not with the queen or her husband, Prince Philip. 

The series has already elicited a strong response in Britain, where the “feeling amongst the British public is enough is enough,” author and journalist Katie Nicholl told NBC News Wednesday. 

“We have heard this before. What more can they say?” she added.

Nicholl said that King Charles III was attempting to put “down his blueprint,” but “there seems to be so many distractions, particularly from across the Atlantic and coming out of the Sussex camp.” 

“It seems to be a case of anything you can do, we’re going to do and get more headlines,” she added.

However, Nicholl said Buckingham Palace would take allegations about leaking and planting stories “very, very seriously,” because it was “potentially quite damaging.” 

“This is a centuries-old institution that wants to prove that it’s fit for modern purpose,” she said, adding that the couple’s racism accusations were “damaging” to both Buckingham Palace and to “Britain as a country.”  

The trailers for the series have already courted controversy as several seasoned royal commentators have suggested that archive footage and pictures featured in them were taken at events that had nothing to do with the couple. 

Image: Prince Charles, Prince of Wales, Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, Queen Elizabeth II, Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex and Prince William, Duke of Cambridge stand on the balcony of Buckingham Palace to watch a military fly-past to mark the centenary of the Royal Air Force (RAF) on July 10, 2018.
Prince Charles, Camilla, Queen Elizabeth II, Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, Prince Harry and Prince William stand on the balcony of Buckingham Palace to watch a military flypast to mark the centenary of the Royal Air Force in July 2018.Tolga Akmen / AFP – Getty Images file

One clip showing men running with cameras was used to illustrate the paparazzi hounding the couple, but was taken as British model and reality TV star Katie Price arrived at a courthouse to be sentenced for DUI, analysis by several British media outlets including Sky News has shown. (Sky News is owned by Comcast, the parent company of NBC News.)   

Doug Seeburg also told The Sun newspaper that the image featuring him among a throng of other photographers was taken ahead of the premier for “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part Two,” in July 2011, years before the couple met.  

“In the Netflix trailer it’s implied the photographers, including me, were trying to get a shot of the royal couple — but that’s nonsense,” he told the tabloid.

Netflix did not respond to NBC News’ request for comment on the record.  

Robert Jobson, the journalist, author and broadcaster who has previously commentated on royal events for NBC News, also tweeted that a photo used “to suggest intrusion by the press is a complete travesty.” He added that it was taken from an “accredited position” that had been agreed beforehand by the duke and duchess.  

Nicholls said she was doubtful about whether the palace would respond to the documentary. “Keeping a dignified silence is probably the best way,” she said.  

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