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Nelson Mandela’s granddaughter accuses Harry and Meghan of profiteering from his legacy

The royals have been criticized for quoting the South African anti-apartheid leader and former president in their latest documentary ‘Live to Lead’

Prince Harry Meghan Markle
The first public image of Prince Harry and actress Meghan Markle took place at the Invictus Games in Toronto in September 2017.GETTY IMAGES
El País

Nelson Mandela’s granddaughter Ndileka Mandela has accused Prince Harry and Meghan Markle of stealing her grandfather’s words to make money for themselves. The spat centers on the royals’ Netflix documentary Live to Lead, which was made as part of their $100-million deal with the streaming platform.

In the trailer for the documentary, which features interviews with leading public figures such as Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Greta Thunberg, Prince Harry is heard saying: “This was inspired by Nelson Mandela... who once said what counts in life is not the mere fact that we have lived.” Meghan then adds: “It is what difference we have made to the lives of others that will determine the significance of the life we lead.”

The use of the famous Mandela quote has angered Ndileka Mandela, who said the Duke and Duchess of Sussex are profiteering from the former South African president’s legacy.

“They are using his quotations in the documentary to draw in people and make millions without the Mandela family benefiting,” Ndileka Mandela, the head of the Thembekile Mandela Foundation, told The Australian. “Harry needs to be authentic and stick to his own story, what relevance does grandad’s life have with his?”

Ndileka Mandela said she was “deeply upset” at how her grandfather, the South African anti-apartheid activist who spent 27 years in prison, was being used to promote Prince Harry and Meghan’s latest Netflix documentary. “I know the Nelson Mandela Foundation has supported the initiative but people have stolen grandfather’s quotes for years and have used his legacy because they know his name sells – Harry and Meghan are no different from them,” she said.

This is not the first time Harry and Meghan have been criticized for making risky parallels to Nelson Mandela. In 2022, Meghan told The Cut that during the 2019 London premiere of The Lion King live-action remake, one of the cast members had compared her royal wedding to South Africa’s reaction to Mandela’s release from prison. “He [the cast member] looked at me, and he’s just like light. He said: ‘I just need you to know: when you married into this family, we rejoiced in the streets the same we did when Mandela was freed from prison.’”

The anecdote made headlines in the British media, which went to great lengths to track down The Lion King performers. Only one of the actors in the movie was from South Africa, John Kani, who voices the popular monkey Rafiki. But he disputed Markle’s story. “I have never met Meghan Markle. This seems like something of a faux pas by her. I have never met the Duchess at all. I am the only South African member of the cast and I did not attend the premiere in London,” he told the British newspaper MailOnline.

The latest controversy comes just weeks after the release of their tell-all documentary Harry & Meghan, and ahead of the publication of Prince Harry’s memoir Spare on January 10.

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