‘Harry & Meghan’: The prince and actress in their own words

The first three episodes of the new Netflix docuseries offer new details of a romance hindered by tabloids and racism

Enrique y Meghan: el documental
In the video, the trailer of the Netflix documentary ‘Harry & Meghan.’ In the photo, Harry of Windsor and Meghan Markle attend an event in New York on December 6, 2022.Nancy Kaszerman (ZUMAPRESS.com / Cordon Press)
María Porcel

Netflix has released one of its biggest shows of the season: Harry & Meghan, the long-awaited documentary series about Prince Harry of the United Kingdom and his wife, Meghan Markle. In the show, the royal couple shares their perspective on the events that have dominated news headlines for the past five years: their courtship, engagement, wedding, children, problems, departure from the British royal family and search for their own path. The first three episodes of the docuseries (the last three will be available on Thursday, December 15) cover up to the day before the couple’s wedding, held at Windsor Castle on May 19, 2018.

As soon as the documentary starts, these words appear on the screen: “This is a first-hand account of Harry and Meghan’s story, told with never before seen personal archive. All interviews were completed by August 2022.” Something that reveals – not so subtly – that Queen Elizabeth II, head of the British royal family and Harry’s grandmother, was still alive at the time. Then, a clarification: “Members of the Royal Family declined to comment on the content within this series.”

The docuseries interviews many sources, including Markle’s agent from when she was an actress, members of the couple’s foundation, journalists and writers specializing in the royal family, tennis player Serena Williams and, for the first time, Doria Ragland, Markle’s mother. All of them are there to support the couple’s narrative, in which they lay the foundations for what will come next: the reasons for their departure as active members of the Windsor family.

But first, they must talk about themselves. How did they meet? How could such a high-profile relationship be forged in secrecy? How did their families react? How was the American actress received by a royal family with a thousand years of history?

With no big revelations, these questions are answered throughout the hour-long episodes. The answers touch on what will become two main pillars of the show: first, how the couple was hounded by the tabloids, and second, the importance of race, specifically the fact that Markle is mixed race (as she is referred to in the series).

[Warning: spoilers ahead]

Episode 1: From “We met on Instagram” to “I am my mother’s son”

Episode 1 is perhaps the most revealing, and above all personal, of the first three. There is a lot of homemade footage, private images of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, their beginnings as a couple, their secret encounters. We also learn, right at the beginning, that the idea for the documentary began to form even before they left the royal family on March 31, 2020, after their last royal act, on March 9. The first images are taken at the VIP terminal of Heathrow Airport, in London, framed by a “Departures” sign that seems quite fitting. There, Harry makes a video with his cellphone in which he explains that they had just spent two weeks wrapping up their royal engagements. They had not even left yet and they were already beginning to collect material. After that scene, Prince Harry says: “It’s really hard to look back on it now and go, ‘What on earth happened? How did we end up here?’”

Just so you’re aware, that nebulous truth is not clear in those three episodes. Still, they want to tell it: “If you feel like people have no idea who you are for so long, it’s really nice to have the opportunity to give them some more insight into what happened and who we are,” says Markle. After a suspenseful start, they begin to tell their love story, which, the prince says, has only just begun. It’s a story in which they both turned their worlds upside down so they could be together.

Markle relates how, in July 2016, she had just renewed her contract with the series Suits for another season; she had been single for a few of months and wanted to travel and have a good time with her friends. One night, a friend emailed her to tell her that Prince Harry of the United Kingdom had seen an Instagram video of her and Meghan using a dog ear filter, which caught his attention. He wanted to meet her. Markle was not sure who the prince was, but she did not Google him; instead, she checked out his profile. They exchanged phone numbers and set up a date to attend a Wimbledon tennis match, as she was in London at the time. They met for a drink in Soho; he arrived very late and exhausted, but they had a great time. Even though she decided to leave after only one hour, she sent him a message shortly after to meet the next day. They met for dinner in the same place; this time it was her who was a little late. Their first photograph together, which can be seen in the documentary, was snapped that day.

In this episode, Harry makes an interesting reflection on how in the royal family “especially the men, there can be a temptation or an urge to marry someone who would fit the mold,” someone chosen for convenience, rather than love, which he experienced firsthand with his parents. “My mum [Princess Diana] certainly made most of her decisions, if not all of them, from her heart. And I am my mother’s son,” he says of the late princess, with whom he is frequently compared. As he has stated on several occasions, he did not want “history to repeat itself” with his partner, especially in terms of the paparazzi chase that ended his mother’s life.

Harry talks about how his long periods in Lesotho and Botswana collaborating with NGOs (he even founded one called Sentebale) hardened him and made him more mature. That is why he decided to take Markle there as soon as possible, that same summer of 2016. The romance developed, but they continued to keep it a secret. The couple decided to see each other every two weeks, particularly with the actress traveling to London and staying at Kensington Palace. In just a couple of months, she began to be part of the family, and even met Eugenie of York and her then boyfriend, Jack Brooksbank.

Episode 2: From “The hunter versus the prey” to “My children are mixed race and I’m really proud”

Now the paparazzi are beginning to be more and more present in the couple’s story, because their romance has become public. In fact, Harry starts by explaining himself, expressing what may be a popular feeling: “A lot of people say, ‘They have a problem with the paparazzi.’ At the time of my mother, it was physical attacks. To see another woman in my life, that I love, go through this feeding frenzy, that’s hard. It is basically the hunter versus the prey.”

Markle states that the fact that their romance was made public was, in fact, a tremendous relief. But she quickly realized that things were not that easy: the first day after the announcement, she greeted the photographers who were waiting for her with a smile. Harry warned her: “You can’t talk to them [...] the UK media are saying you love it.” It seemed that all the press in the United Kingdom was following them around the world, she remarked, taken aback. The tabloids were exposing all their dirty laundry and revealing personal matters that, apparently, the prince was unaware of, as they were “still discovering things about each other. It really accelerates the learning curve,” she reflects with a sad smile.

An essential and previously unheard testimony has great weight in this episode: that of Doria Ragland, Meghan’s mother, who appears accompanying the couple at some events and speaking to the camera on many occasions. Then, there is also the racial question, which was clear to Markle that it was going to be a problem in her inclusion among the Windsors and British society. The youngest son of Charles III also realized this when the press started to go after her; eight days after their relationship was made public, he released a statement denouncing a wave of abuse and harassment with racial undertones and asking for protection for Markle.

“My children are mixed race and I’m really proud of that. When my kids grow up and they look back at this moment and they turn to me and say, ‘what did you do in this moment?’ I want to be able to give them an answer,” Harry points out.

Markle also Talks about how things took a turn for the worse in many aspects after their relationship became a public affair: at work, her need for constant protection, even the harassment of her friends by the press. She had to hire special security; suspicious letters arrived. With doubt in the back of their minds – is all this worth it? – they went on with many visits, video calls, transoceanic flights and humor.

Markle’s visits to the United Kingdom became frequent and she met her boyfriend’s family. At that point she was aware that she had a lot to learn about the formalities of dating royalty; when she was going to meet Queen Elizabeth II for the first time and someone asked her if she knew how to curtsey, at first she thought they were joking. Nonetheless, Eugenie, Jack and Sarah Ferguson all thought she did very well. According to Harry, the family thought that dating an American actress clouded his judgment and that it would not last. But for him, she was perfect. After asking Elizabeth II for permission, he proposed. Afterwards, they celebrated with a costume party with friends.

Episode 3: From an “orchestrated reality show” to The Princess Diaries

In November 2017, their engagement reached the press and they gave an interview which Markle referred to as “orchestrated reality television.” It was “all rehearsed,” she stated. They were not allowed to tell their story. Then, the first acts with the royal family and her first appearances before the public and the media.

This episode provides interesting revelations, including something that is relatively well known in the United Kingdom but not so much outside: the tacit agreement of the royal family with the press (the so-called “Royal Rota”) that provides the tabloids with a verbal contract that makes the royal family available to the media.

The royal family also takes center stage in this episode. Markle states that after her first Christmas, her perception was very good: “It’s amazing. It’s just like a big family like I always wanted.” Harry does not deny that there were racist biases, but downplays their seriousness: “It’s actually no one’s fault. [...] It’s education, it’s awareness. It’s a constant work in progress. For everybody, including me.” In fact, he refers to that infamous incident in January 2005 where he wore a Nazi uniform, calling it one of the biggest mistakes of his life. For him, it was the 10 years he spent in the army what helped him mature and be able to create “a second family.”

Meghan, however, focuses on the main one – the royal family – where she began to talk about feminism or the MeToo movement at public events, as she was not aware that it was taboo. “Do you remember that old movie, The Princess Diaries with Anne Hathaway?” she asks. “There’s no class and some person who goes, ‘Sit like this. Cross your legs like this. Use this fork. Don’t do this.” She had to learn a lot, including the national anthem; Google proved to be a very useful tool for her in those days.

The end of the episode shows the break in relations with her father, who accepted money to pose for paparazzi in manipulated photos a few days before her wedding. Markle’s disappointment is evident: he would not answer her calls, but he talked with the gossip website TMZ. She found out that he was not going to the wedding through the tabloids. Then someone informed her that he was in the hospital. Her father had suffered a heart attack, did not pick up the phone and did not attend her wedding. But all that will be shown in the next three episodes.

Meghan Markle in her wedding dress as she leaves the hotel where she spent the night with her mother Doria Ranglan on May 19, 2018.
Meghan Markle in her wedding dress as she leaves the hotel where she spent the night with her mother Doria Ranglan on May 19, 2018.OLI SCARFF (AFP)
Harry of England, Eugenie and Beatrice of York (daughters of Prince Andrew and Sarah Ferguson) and Prince William, before a day of skiing in Switzerland, on January 4, 1995.
Harry of England, Eugenie and Beatrice of York (daughters of Prince Andrew and Sarah Ferguson) and Prince William, before a day of skiing in Switzerland, on January 4, 1995.Pool BASSIGNAC/BENAINOUS/MORVAN (Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images)

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