As members of the royal family reportedly braced themselves for the revelations promised in Meghan and Harry, viewers were eager to see what the “full truth” – as promised by the Duke of Sussex – would entail.
Would the couple finally address their allegations from their 2021 Oprah Winfrey interview, in which Meghan claimed a member of the royal family raised concerns over “how dark” her son Archie’s skin would be before he was born? Would they set the record straight on bullying claims made against the duchess by Palace staff? Would Harry reveal the current state of his relationship with his father and brother?
Alas, as the first three episodes dropped, it quickly became clear that “Volume I” of Harry and Meghan, at least, contained little that the public were not already aware of.
The couple revealed some moving personal insights, such as Harry’s fear that intense media scrutiny would drive Meghan away, as it did his previous girlfriends. Meghan also spoke of the racism she experienced and claimed her skin colour did not become “an issue” until she moved to the UK.
In one scene, we saw Harry open up about his late mother, Diana, Princess of Wales. He revealed that he “internally blocked out” early memories of her, but reminisced about her “cheeky laugh”. But the duke said the “majority” of his memories as a child “are of being swarmed by paparazzi.”
In several scenes, viewers were treated to never-before-seen clips and photographs of the couple’s children, Archie and Lilibet, who they keep mostly out of the public eye. In one particularly sweet moment, Harry said: “My son, my daughter, my children are mixed-race and I’m really proud of it. I think it’s such a responsibility as human beings that, if you bring a small person into this world, you should be doing everything that you can to make the world a better place for them.”
But for the most part, the royal couple – who stepped down as senior royals in 2020 – simply seemed to tread over familiar territory. Their allegations of racism and unbearable press intrusion are well documented. The Sussexes’ difficult relationship with the media, meanwhile, is so established that Harry has filed multiple lawsuits against Associated Newspapers, which houses The Daily Mail, The Mail on Sunday and MailOnline. His most recent lawsuit was a joint one with Sir Elton John, Elizabeth Hurley, Sadie Frost and Baronness Doreen Lawrence, which was launched in October.
In episode three, Meghan spoke out about her troubled, but again, unsurprising, relationship with her father, Thomas Markle, and sister Samantha. She recalled the moment when she was told to call Thomas to ask if he had been accepting payment to stage photos. The duchess also opened up about learning her father wouldn’t be attending her wedding through a report by the celebrity gossip website TMZ, instead of from Thomas himself.
One noticeable guest appearance in the docuseries was Ashleigh Hale, Samantha Markle’s daughter, who spoke about her relationship with her famous aunt for the first time. Hale was described as being like a “sister” to Meghan; she told the series that she stopped talking to her mother due to her “resentment” towards the duchess.
But any revelations that the royal family might have been dreading did not appear to arrive in this first volume. On social media and in reviews of the first three episodes, the reaction was noticeably underwhelmed. The Independent’s Arts Editor Jessie Thompson writes in her review that “there are no major revelations here, nothing so incendiary that it will cancel King Charles III’s coronation next year; in fact, certain quotes are becoming a bit pat.”
Meanwhile, The Times gave Volume I two out of five stars and said “there was nothing ‘bombshell’ or even very new here”. The Guardian’s reviewer said that audience members were left with “exactly the same story we always knew”.
Of course, Harry and Meghan’s harshest critics and trolls wasted no time in attacking them over every perceived slight. Perhaps their biggest and most dogged critic, Piers Morgan, accused them of trying to “brand Britain as a racist country” within hours of the programme airing on Netflix. He called them “so boring” and “worse than Keeping Up With The Kardashians”, and later hit out at Meghan for “trashing her own father, who is still recovering from a massive stroke”. Despite the sheer volume of tweets declaring they did not care about the Sussexes, it appeared that many still tuned in just to affirm their hatred of the couple.
And while there was no official comment from the King or Harry’s brother, the Prince of Wales, arguably the biggest surprise came when palace insiders claimed no one was contacted to comment on the documentary. This was despite a note at the beginning of the very first episode that claimed “members of the royal family declined to comment on the content within this series”.
It is understood that neither the King nor Prince William has any plans to watch Harry and Meghan. Instead, Charles took the opportunity to make it clear that it was business as usual for working members of the royal family, when he wished volunteers and members of the public a “Happy Christmas” ahead of attending an advent service in central London today (8 December).
There is still more to come from Harry and Meghan, with the second volume containing the last three episodes set to be released on 15 December. These final episodes are expected to detail the Sussexes’ wedding, and the lead-up to their decision to step down from the royal family and, ultimately, leave the UK to move to the US. But whether or not it will drop any significant “truths” remains to be seen.
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