“Harry and Meghan,” the Netflix series released Thursday, has been one of the most anticipated television spectacles of the year — more media event than documentary.
Royal watchers have been eagerly anticipating the series, which is directed by Liz Garbus, although Prince Harry and his wife Meghan Markle, the Duchess of Sussex, already gave a tell-all interview to Oprah Winfrey, last year: In that interview, they discussed their fraught relationship with Britain’s royal family, and Meghan said she once contemplated suicide. Prince Harry has also given several similarly candid interviews, including to James Corden.
The series starts with an onscreen message stressing its authenticity: “This is a firsthand account of Harry and Meghan’s story, told with never before seen personal archive.” Members of the royal family “declined to comment,” it adds.
The documentary lands in a changed royal landscape after Queen Elizabeth II’s death in September. King Charles III — Harry’s father — is scheduled to be crowned next May. A further three episodes will be released on Dec. 15.
Here are the main takeaways:
Harry’s war with the media continues
The first episode tells the story of how Harry and Meghan fell in love, but it also criticizes Britain’s news media.
Harry said the paparazzi has always had an impact on his life. Although he has few recollections from early childhood of his mother, Princess Diana, he said, “the majority of my memories are of being swarmed by paparazzi. Rarely did we have a holiday without someone with a camera jumping out of a bush, or something.”
Harry said photographers continued to hound him when he attended school, and began dating. The paparazzi harassed his girlfriends, he added, and as a result their families’ lives were also “turned upside down.” When he met Meghan, he said, “I was terrified of her being driven away by the media — the same media who’d driven so many people away from me.”
Meghan and Harry have long been critical of Britain’s tabloid culture, and taken legal action against several British newspapers for intrusions into their privacy.
The couple wants to carry on Diana’s legacy
Harry said that tabloid media harassment of Meghan is reminiscent of the experience of his mother, who died in a 1997 car crash in Paris after being followed by paparazzi. But he also made positive comparisons between his wife and his mother.
“So much of what Meghan is, and how she is, is so similar to my mum,” he said in the series’s first episode. “She has the same compassion, the same empathy, she has the same confidence, she has this warmth about her.”
Harry said he also sees himself as continuing Diana’s legacy. “I am my mother’s son,” he said. Of his charity work, he added, “I wanted to somehow carry my mum’s torch and try and keep her legacy alive and try and make her proud.”
This story is being updated. Check back for updates.