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What did Prince Harry mean when he said ‘they were happy to lie to protect’ Prince William?

‘They were happy to lie to protect my brother. They were never willing to tell the truth to protect us,’ Duke of Sussex says in Netflix trailer

Chelsea Ritschel
New York
Wednesday 14 December 2022 14:41 GMT
Harry and Meghan Official Netflix Trailer 2

Ahead of the release of the final three episodes of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex’s Netflix docuseries, Prince Harry has suggested there was a difference in the way he and Meghan were treated compared to his brother Prince William.

Prince Harry made the claim in a trailer released by Netflix on 12 December, ahead of the release of volume two on 15 December.

In the clip, the duke stated: “They were happy to lie to protect my brother. They were never willing to tell the truth to protect us.”

The duchess then claimed that she “wasn’t being thrown to the wolves, I was being fed to the wolves,” while Harry described their experience as “institutional gaslighting”.

The trailer, which suggests the forthcoming episodes will focus on the couple’s decision to step back from the royal family, and the immediate aftermath of their choice, then sees one commentator state: “They were actively recruiting people to disseminate disinformation,” as various newspaper headlines from the 2020 period are displayed on screen.

In a new trailer, released on 14 December, Meghan’s friend Lucy Fraser also makes similar claims, with Fraser alleging that the Palace used the duchess as a “scapegoat”.

“Meg became this scapegoat for the Palace,” Fraser claims in the clip. “And so they would feed stories on her, whether they were true or not, to avoid other less favourable stories being printed.”

Who is Prince Harry referring to and what does he mean?

Although Harry did not explicitly state who he was referring to, it has been speculated that he is discussing senior members of the royal family and royal aides, or the media.

As for what the duke meant by the cryptic claim, it is likely that the next three episodes will see the couple address the relationship between the press and the royal family, and the suggestions that palace staff briefed against the couple during their time as senior royals.

The first three episodes of the Sussexes’ docuseries focused heavily on their personal relationship, rather than their roles in the royal family. However, Harry at one point criticised his family for reportedly questioning why Meghan needed to be “protected” from the press.

According to Harry, some members of his family saw the media’s treatment of Meghan shortly after the news of the couple’s relationship broke as a “right of passage”.

“So, it was almost like a rite of passage, and some of the members of the royal 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?’” Harry recalled.

The duke said, at the time, that he tried to explain to his family that the difference was the “race element”. The series referenced newspaper headlines from the time, such as: “Harry’s girl is (almost) straight outta Compton” and “One’s gone GangstER.”

Meghan also spoke of the way she was treated by the press, with the duchess accusing the media of trying to “destroy” her, and claiming that “salacious” stories were planted about her.

During one scene, which focused on footage Harry had recorded of himself as he left the UK for the final time as a senior royal, he said he felt that, “being part of this family, it is my duty to uncover this exploitation and bribery that happens within our media”.

In the first trailer released by Netflix, Harry made a similar claim, when he alleged that there is a “hierarchy of the family,” and that there was “leaking, but there’s also planting of stories”. “It’s a dirty game,” he added.

What stories may Harry be referring to?

In addition to allegedly refusing to intervene to protect Meghan from racist media coverage, some have speculated that the duke may also be referring to stories of Meghan’s alleged behaviour inside palace walls.

Although Harry has not yet elaborated on the reasons he believes his brother was treated differently, and granted different protections, Meghan previously told Oprah Winfrey during the couple’s 2021 interview that there were certain narratives that were not corrected by the palace, despite “everyone in the institution” knowing “it wasn’t true”.

Meghan made the claim while addressing reports that, in the lead-up to her and Prince Harry’s royal wedding, she made her sister-in-law Kate Middleton cry.

According to the duchess, the opposite was true, as it was actually the Princess of Wales who made her cry, but that the rumour was never clarified by the palace.

According to the duchess, she didn’t share the story to be “disparaging” to her sister-in-law, but rather because she hoped that “she would have wanted that corrected”.

“But also I think a lot of it that was fed into by the media – and, look, I would hope that she would have wanted that corrected, and maybe in the same way that the palace wouldn’t let anybody else negate it, they wouldn’t let her, because she’s a good person,” she said.

“What was hard to get over was being blamed for something that not only I didn’t do but what happened to me … Everyone in the institution knew it wasn’t true…,” Meghan added.

As for why she seemed to be held to a different standard than Kate in the press, Meghan told Winfrey: “I don’t know why. I can see now what layers were at play there... They really seemed to want a narrative of a hero and a villain.”

In the days before her and Harry’s interview with Winfrey, the duchess also found herself embroiled in bullying allegations, after The Times published an article in which they reported that Meghan faced a bullying complaint from palace staff in October 2018.

The complaint was allegedly raised by Jason Knauf, who was the Sussexes’ communications secretary at the time.

In response to the report, a spokesperson for Meghan described the allegations as part of a “calculated smear campaign based on misleading and harmful misinformation”.

“We are disappointed to see this defamatory portrayal of The Duchess of Sussex given credibility by a media outlet. It’s no coincidence that distorted several-year-old accusations aimed at undermining The Duchess are being briefed to the British media shortly before she and The Duke are due to speak openly and honestly about their experience of recent years,” the spokesperson added.

An investigation into the allegations, which claimed Meghan drove out two personal assistants, was ultimately launched by Buckingham Palace. However, the outcome of the palace’s inquiry was kept secret.

Did the royal family or palace staff brief against the Sussexes?

According to royal reporter Omid Scobie, the author of the biography Finding Freedom: Harry and Meghan and the Making of A Modern Royal Family, Harry’s claim that stories were allegedly planted from inside palace walls is true, and to suggest otherwise is “gaslighting”.

Scobie supported the duke’s allegation that palace staff briefed against him and Meghan in an essay published in Yahoo, in which the royal reporter claimed “the damaging stories leaked by individuals within the House of Windsor were one of the main reasons the Sussexes felt a need to find a different path”.

“Remember the 2018 tabloid stories moaning about Meghan’s 5am emails? The drama around her tiara? These reports, and many others, included anonymous quotes from palace sources and aides,” he wrote, adding: “The reality is, people working at the palace did brief against Harry and Meghan while they were working royals. Regularly”.

As for why the practise occurs, Scobie said there are various reasons royals or their staff may collaborate with the press, including so that they will be presented in a positive light, as a “useful way of sharing useful or sensitive information to journalists ahead of an engagement or important moment, or simply to deny or address a story they may not want to give oxygen to”.

However, according to Scobie, negative briefings against Meghan and Harry reportedly took place out of “jealousy” of the couple’s “unrivalled popularity at the time”.

Meghan also made similar claims in the latest trailer, in which she said that “you would just see it play out”. “A story about someone in the family would pop up for a minute, and they’d go: ‘We gotta make that go away.’

“But there’s real estate on a website homepage,” Meghan continues. “Something there has to be filled in there about someone royal.”

Jenny Afia, a partner at the London branch of Schillings Law Firm and Meghan’s lawyer, also claimed that she has “certainly seen evidence that there was negative briefing from the Palace against Harry and Meghan to suit other people’s agendas”.

“There was a real kind of war against Meghan,” she said.

Despite a title card that states: “Members of the Royal Family declined to comment on the content within the series,” it was reported that Buckingham Palace and Kensington Palace were not approached for comment regarding the Sussexes docuseries.

The final three episodes of Harry & Meghan will air on 15 December.

The Independent has contacted representatives for the Sussexes, Buckingham Palace and Kensington Palace for comment.

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