The Duke and Duchess of Sussex’s documentary landed on Netflix last week and has predictably divided royal experts and fans.
In a trailer released before the first volume arrived on Thursday (8 December), the duke promised to tell “the full truth” and suggested that there were stories “planted” against Meghan while they were still senior members of the royal family.
Although the first three episodes did not reveal any new allegations against Buckingham Palace, the couple have faced criticism over their desire to air the series despite being concerned about press intrusion in their lives. Through a spokesperson, the couple said their decision to step down as senior members of the royal family in 2020 had nothing to do with “privacy”.
While the lack of explosive revelations this week will no doubt come as a relief to the royal family, experts have said that King Charles III should prioritise fixing the family’s relationship with the Sussexes if they wish to see an end to the couple’s “complaining”.
Jo Elvin, journalist, broadcaster and host of podcast Palace Confidential told The Independent: “I wouldn’t be surprised if the King has very quickly started clinging to a new mantra: ‘What would [Queen Elizabeth II] do?’
“On the matter of how to handle this incendiary ‘docu-series’, publicly he’ll want to avoid any comment or action that keeps this soap opera being discussed and getting more tawdry by the hour,” she said. “Privately however, he may need to overcome his reported desire to evade conflict and get everyone talking.
“However varied recollections may be in the family, I think finding a way to heal Harry and Meghan’s pain should be a priority, because it seems that otherwise they’ll never run out of the energy to complain and explain. A loving mention in his first Christmas address would be a dignified power move.”
Royal commentator RS Locke said that the docuseries will have more of an impact on the distance between the Sussexes and the Prince and Princess of Wales.
It comes after Harry appeared to defy Prince William’s wish for their mother’s controversial Panorama interview to never be aired again by including a clip from it in the first episode of Harry and Meghan.
After a report last year found that the BBC covered up journalist Martin Bashir’s deceit in obtaining the interview, William said it was his “firm view” that the Panorama footage should never again see the light of day. But speaking about the interview in his series, Harry said his mother “spoke the truth of her experience”.
“Reports of the rift between Prince Harry and Prince William began as early as 2018, and last year, in the Oprah [Winfrey] interview, Harry reiterated that when he characterised the relationship as ‘space’,” Locke told The Independent.
“They say life events like death and birth can bring families together. If the late Queen’s death and the birth of his niece, Lilibet – who there’s still no confirmation that William and Kate have ever met – couldn’t bridge the gap, I’m not sure anything can. But the docuseries has likely made the space between the two couples even wider.”
Locke said that the impact of the docuseries on the Sussexes’ relationship with the King and Queen Camilla is “less clear”.
“They have made efforts to reconnect with Harry, Meghan, and their grandchildren over the past year with private visits when the family has been in the UK,” she pointed out. Referring to the third episode in the series, which features historian Afua Hirsch saying that “racist imagery” is on show at the royal palaces, Locke said that any action taken by Charles to “punish” the Sussexes would be “out of step”.
“At the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting in June, the King who is also head of the Commonwealth, said the ‘time has come’ to acknowledge our past and the painful, enduring impact of slavery,” she said.
“Isn’t that what the docuseries does by highlighting the history of the monarchy’s role in the slave trade? It may not be the way Charles would’ve chosen to broach the conversation, but to punish Harry and Meghan, or his mixed race grandchildren by removing their titles, would be out of step with his own words.”
However, Locke said she believes Harry and Meghan being welcome at the King’s coronation next spring will be dependent on the contents of the second volume of the programme, which will be released today (15 Decembe)r.
It may also depend on the contents of Harry’s forthcoming memoir, Spare, which will be released on 10 January, as well as the public’s reaction to the rest of the series.
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