Entertainment

What we learned from Netflix's docuseries about Prince Harry and Meghan Markle

A new docuseries about Prince Harry and Meghan Markle's courtship, marriage and subsequent fallout with the Royal Family was released on Thursday.

Volume I of the widely anticipated docuseries was released Thursday morning

First 3 episodes of Harry & Meghan docuseries released on Netflix

2 months ago
Duration 4:49
The first three episodes of a highly anticipated tell-all documentary series produced by the Duke and Duchess of Sussex have been released on Netflix. The series details the racism Meghan Markle faced, and Prince Harry says the Royal Family was 'sometimes part of the problem.'

The first three episodes of a docuseries about Prince Harry and Meghan Markle's relationship has been released on Netflix.

Harry & Meghan, a six-part series directed by Oscar nominee Liz Garbus, features interviews with the couple as well as their friends, colleagues and a handful of journalists and historians who contextualize their relationship in the history of Britain, the monarchy and the British media.

While not nearly as revealing as their bombshell interview with Oprah Winfrey in 2021, the first three episodes of the series feature conversations with Harry and Meghan about their difficult interactions with the tabloid press and the institution of the monarchy. The next three episodes will be released on Dec. 15.

Here are five takeaways from the first volume of the series.

Harry says Royal Family thought harassment was 'rite of passage'

During her early courtship with Harry, Meghan was targeted with headlines and stories that drew attention to her biracial background, perpetuating harmful stereotypes. One such story was a headline that declared her to be "straight outta Compton," a reference to the 1988 gangsta rap album by N.W.A.

About eight days after their relationship became public, Harry put out a statement addressing the "racist undertones" in coverage about Meghan. But he says his family didn't understand how her treatment was different from theirs.

WATCH | Breaking down the docuseries: 

Breaking down Harry and Meghan’s docuseries

2 months ago
Duration 5:50
Broadcast journalist and royal commentator Afua Hagan breaks down key moments from Harry and Meghan’s new Netflix docuseries and what ramifications it might have for them and the Royal Family at large.

"What people need to understand is that 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 in the docuseries. 

"So it was almost like a rite of passage. Some of the members of the family were like, 'Right, but my wife had to go through that. So why should your girlfriend be treated any differently?' And I said the difference here is the race element."

British paparazzi wanted Meghan's Toronto neighbours to spy on her

As Meghan continued working as an actor on the show Suits in Toronto, she says British paparazzi arrived in the city to follow her. Some of them tried to pay her neighbours to install livestream cameras that looked into her backyard, she said.

Meghan says she complained of the persistent stalking to the police, but was told there was nothing to be done, "because of who you're dating." To ward off the photographers, Meghan travelled with a driver trained in evasive driving methods.

"It felt like all of the U.K. media descended upon Toronto," she said.

But that wasn't all, according to Silver Tree, a friend of Markle's and a producer on Suits. Some paparazzi tried to buy call sheets (which list when an actor will be present on set for particular scenes) from production assistants so that they could locate when and where Markle would be shooting Suits

Tree added that the paparazzi would break into the show's trailer area, forcing the production to cage in all the trailers.

"I don't think anyone knew how to manage that new normal," Tree said.

Royal family initially put off by Meghan's acting career

Discussing the early days of their relationship, Harry and Meghan said that the Royal Family's initial reservations about them dating had more to do with Meghan's career than anything else. 

"The actress thing was the biggest problem, funny enough," said Meghan.

Beyond her role in Suits, Meghan has had small roles on TV shows like Fringe, CSI: Miami and Castle, as well as in movies, including Horrible Bosses.

"The fact that I was dating an American actress is probably what clouded their judgment more than anything, in the beginning," Harry said, adding that some family members believed the relationship would be short-lived as a result. 

"Oh, she's an American actress, this won't last," said Harry, echoing the family's concerns.

Harry says Royal Family, media have 'an agreement'

During the third episode of the series, Harry describes the role that royal correspondents — those who specialize in coverage and analysis of the Royal Family for newspapers and tabloids — play in the British media.

They're an "extended PR arm of the Royal Family," he said. "There's been an agreement that's been there for over 30 years."

A promotional still from the docuseries about Prince Harry and Meghan, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex. (Prince Harry and Meghan/Netflix)

In the documentary, Harry says he was chased by paparazzi "30 or 40 times" in his youth, particularly while attending school. He said the U.K. tabloid media believes the Royal Family "is ours to exploit. Their trauma is our story and our narrative to control."

During the opening episode, Harry says it's part of his responsibility as a member of the Royal Family to expose how the British tabloids operate.

"I feel as though being part of this family, it is my duty to uncover this exploitation and bribery that happens within our media."

Meghan criticizes estranged half-sister

Meghan's mother, Doria Ragland, is interviewed for the series, and Meghan lauds her for how she handled the frenzy of media attention. Meghan says her father's side of the family "acted differently."

She singled out her estranged half-sister, Samantha Markle. The former actress said that she hadn't seen her half-sister in over a decade when she began talking to the tabloids about Meghan.

"It suddenly felt like she was everywhere," Meghan said of the elder sibling, adding that there had been no "fallout" between them, because they weren't close enough to have one.

"I don't know your middle name. I don't know your birthday," Meghan said. "You're telling these people you raised me, and you coined me Princess Pushy?"

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Jenna Benchetrit is a web journalist for CBC News. Based in Toronto and born in Montreal, she holds a master's degree in journalism from Ryerson University. Reach her at jenna.benchetrit@cbc.ca or on Twitter @jennabenchetrit.

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