The tell-all series delves into the couple’s relationship and their decision to leave the royal family for good
Published December 8, 2022 7:18PM (EST)
Prince Harry and Meghan, The Duke and Duchess of Sussex. (Courtesy of Prince Harry and Meghan, The Duke and Duchess of Sussex)
More than a year after their bombshell interview with Oprah Winfrey, Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, are once again opening up about why they decided to part ways with the British royal family, this time in a tell-all series.
Aptly titled “Harry & Meghan,” the intimate showcase from Netflix is split into two volumes that contain three episodes each. Vol. 1, released Dec. 8, specifically delves into the couple’s high-profile love story, from their early, private beginnings to their tumultuous conflicts and controversies with the British media and press. At the forefront of the series is Harry and Meghan, who appear in both formal interviews and personal video footage, along with their close acquaintances, friends and family members — notably Meghan’s mother Doria Ragland.
“A friend of ours actually suggested that we document ourselves through this period of time,” Harry said when asked why the couple decided to move forward with a documentary. “With all of the misinformation that was going on out there, especially about us and the departure, it seemed like a really sensible idea.”
Prior to its anticipated release, “Harry & Meghan” caused quite a stir in Buckingham Palace, with several royal insiders reacting to its trailer with “horror and an increasing sense of anger,” and another saying, “I don’t see how anyone could view it as anything other than a declaration of war.” Despite the backlash, the documentary doesn’t appear to be seeking outside validation — rather an opportunity for Harry and Meghan to take control of their story.
Here are the six most surprising takeaways from the first part of the documentary:
Diana, Princess of Wales, 1983 (Getty Images/Bettmann)
Early in the series, Harry speaks about the overbearing attention he received from paparazzi during childhood and how his mother, Princess Diana, did everything in her power to protect her children.
He also compares Meghan to his mother, who died when he was 12 years old. On Aug. 31, 1997, Diana died in a high-speed car accident after being chased by paparazzi.
“So much of what Meghan is and how she is is so similar to my mum. She has the same compassion, she has the same empathy, she has the same confidence, she has this warmth about her,” Harry said.
“I accept that there will be people around the world who fundamentally disagree with what I’ve done and how I’ve done it. But I knew that I had to do everything I could to protect my family, especially after what happened to my mum.”
Meghan Markle (Steve Back/Getty Images)
Meghan was first hounded by paparazzi in 2016, while coming out of a flower shop located in Toronto. The British tabloid newspaper The Sun plastered a pap photo of Meghan smiling along with a lurid deck that read, “Prince Harry’s girlfriend Meghan Markle couldn’t stop smiling as she was spotted wearing a necklace with their initials on it.”
“It felt like all of the UK media descended upon Toronto,” Meghan said in the docuseries. “My house was just surrounded. Just men sitting in their cars all the time. Waiting for me to do anything.”
“Then my neighbors said they are knocking on everyone’s doors, trying to find you,” she continued. “They had paid certain neighbors to put a live stream camera into my backyard. Suddenly, it was like everything about my life just got so much more insular. Like all the curtains were pulled, all the blinds were pulled. It was scary.”
Meghan Markle and her mother, Doria Ragland arrive at Cliveden House Hotel on May 18, 2018 in Berkshire, England. (Steve Parsons – Pool / Getty Images)
In her first public interview following her daughter’s marriage to Prince Harry in 2018, Doria Ragland speaks about Meghan’s childhood and the racial prejudice she and her daughter faced in Los Angeles.
Doria recalls how she oftentimes would be mistaken for her daughter’s nanny when she was a child.
“I just remember my mom telling me stories about taking me to the grocery store and women going, ‘Whose child is that? You must be the . . .’ She’s like, ‘It’s my child,'” said Meghan, who is biracial. “‘No ― you must be the nanny. Where’s her mom?’ Cause I was really fair-skinned and my mom, darker.”
The pair also recount a separate incident that took place as they were trying to leave the Hollywood Bowl parking lot: “My mom honked her horn. This woman was taking a long time to figure out how to get out, and the woman turned around and screamed the N-word at my mom.”
Meghan added, “I just remember my mom, the grip that her hands had on the steering wheel. You could see her fist was so tight, like the knuckles got all white. And she was just silent the rest of the drive home. We never talked about it.
“Very different to be a minority but not be treated as a minority right off the bat. I’d say now, people are very aware of my race because they made it such an issue when I went to the UK.”
A variety of daily newspapers, including The Sun, for sale at a newstand in London, England. (Robert Alexander/Getty Images)
A week after Harry and Meghan’s relationship became public knowledge, The Daily Mail ran the headline, “Harry’s girl is (almost) straight outta Compton: Gang-scarred home of her mother revealed – so will he be dropping by for tea?” Another explosive headline from The Daily Star read, “Harry’s hottie Meghan Markle comes from one of the city’s roughest suburbs, famed for its gangland wars.”
The Palace subsequently told everyone to refrain from speaking about the issue. “But what people need to understand is as far as a lot of the family were concerned, everything that she was being put through, they’d been put through as well,” Harry said.
“So it was almost like a rite of passage,” he continued. “And some of the members of the family were like, but ‘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?’
“And I said, ‘The difference here is the race element.'”
The Royal Family on the balcony during the Queen’s annual birthday parade, on June 08, 2019 in London, England. (Getty Images/Karwai Tang/WireImage)
“I remember my family first meeting her and being incredibly impressed,” Harry recounted. “Some of them didn’t quite know what to do with themselves. So I think they were surprised, they were surprised that the ginger could land such a beautiful woman. And such an intelligent woman.
“But the fact that I was dating an American actress, was probably what clouded their judgment more than anything else in the beginning. ‘Oh, she’s an American actress, this won’t last.'”
Meghan added that there “was a big idea” of what her former profession and Hollywood looked like from the U.K. standpoint.
Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex, Meghan, Duchess of Sussex and their baby son Archie Mountbatten-Windsor (Getty Images/Pool/Samir Hussein/WireImage)
The U.K. media grew increasingly ruthless and specifically targeted Meghan’s mother, whie her father’s side of the family was actively tarnishing her reputation.
“My half-sister [Samantha Markle] who I haven’t seen for over a decade, and that was only for a day, suddenly, it felt like she was everywhere,” Meghan said. “I don’t know your middle name. I don’t know your birthday. You’re telling these people that you raised me, and you call me ‘Princess Pushy’?”
Then, a week before Harry and Meghan’s wedding, Meghan received word that her father, Thomas Markle, staged paparazzi photos with a British tabloid and took money from the press. Her father, however, denied the wrongdoings during a phone call with both Harry and Meghan. But it was soon revealed that he was speaking with tabloids and told TMZ that he would not be attending Meghan’s wedding.
“Of course, it’s incredibly sad what happened,” Harry said in the docuseries. “She had a father before this and now she doesn’t have a father.
“And I shouldered that because if Meg wasn’t with me, then her dad would still be her dad.”
The first half of “Harry & Meghan” is currently available for streaming on Netflix, with the second dropping on Dec. 15. Watch a trailer for it below, via YouTube:
By Joy Saha
Joy Saha is a staff writer at Salon, covering Culture and Food. She holds a BA in journalism from the University of Maryland, College Park.
MORE FROM Joy Saha