Harry and Meghan’s Netflix documentary set to air amid simmering controversy

The tell-all series about the Duke and Duchess of Sussex will be released on December 8, lifting the lid on the couple’s stormy relationship with the UK media and the British royal family

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle
Prince Harry and Meghan Markle in a trailer for the Netflix documentary.
Andrea Jiménez

Last Thursday, the first teaser for a Netflix documentary about Prince Harry and Meghan Markle was aired and immediately courted controversy. In just 59 seconds, the couple began to provide answers to months of speculation as to the content of their first major project since the severed their ties with the British royal family. The trailer opens with Harry stating: “No one sees what’s happening behind closed doors.” A second trailer released this week also contains loaded words and provides new questions as to just how revealing the documentary will be.

During the first trailer Harry and Meghan are seen holding hands in a room. While there is nothing hugely controversial about that, the image was taken in Buckingham Palace, specifically in one of the rooms situated underneath the private apartments of the late Queen Elizabeth II. The photograph was taken before Harry and Meghan stepped away from their royal duties and moved to the United States, during a farewell tour the couple staged in March 2020.

Controversy was sparked when British newspapers including The Telegraph pointed out that the Duke and Duchess of Sussex had broken royal protocol. For many years, anybody who wants to take, and use, photographs of the interior of the palace need the express consent of the monarch. The Daily Mail also criticized one of the images that appear in the trailer, specifically one featuring a swarm of photographers supposedly reflecting the alleged harassment to which, the couple claim, they have been subjected. However, it has transpired that image really corresponds to the London premiere of the final movie in the Harry Potter franchise in 2011. When the image appears on screen, Harry narrates: “I had to do everything I could to protect my family.” But in 2011, he had no family to protect: he and Meghan had not yet met.

The two trailers – the second was released on Monday, three days before the documentary is due to premiere on Netflix – have so far not added anything the couple haven’t previously revealed during their interview with Oprah Winfrey or in other publications or their podcast. The only novelty is that it appears if they are going to shed some light on what occurred to turn the UK press against Meghan, who had previously been idolized in the tabloid media. “It’s really hard to look back on it now and go: ‘What on earth happened?’ Harry says as the trailer opens.

British tabloids such as The Sun and The Daily Mail have stated that this first glance of the documentary has not sat very well with senior members of the royal household. A Buckingham Palace source reportedly revealed the reaction of King Charles III and Queen Consort Camilla, stating that the monarchs were “tired” of the criticism leveled by the Sussexes and “frustrated and exhausted.”

A promotional poster for the Netflix documentary about the Duke and Duchess of Sussex.
A promotional poster for the Netflix documentary about the Duke and Duchess of Sussex. AP

The first part of the series, which will consist of three episodes, will be released on December 8, and volume two will follow a week later on December 15. In just over a month, the prince will publish his memoirs under the title Spare. The book has been described as “intimate and heartfelt” by its publisher, Penguin Random House. In the meantime, Markle is still producing her podcast, Archetypes, the first season of which has just wrapped. In addition, the Sussexes will assume full leadership of their Archewell Foundation when the current president, Mandan Dayani, who has been in charge for 18 months, steps down. It remains to be seen whether the Netflix documentary will prove to the touchpaper for blowing up their relationship with the royal family and confirming their definitive separation from the House of Windsor.

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