LONDON — Prince Harry and his wife, Meghan, have launched a harsh indictment against the British media and the racism they say has fueled coverage of their relationship, in a Netflix series that promises to tell the story “Complete story” of the estrangement between the couple and the royal family.
Through interviews with the couple, as well as their friends and experts on race and media issues, the first three episodes of “Harry & Meghan” look at the close relationship between tabloid newspapers and the royal family, while also discussing the history of racism in the British Empire and how it still permeates society. The episodes do not include contrary points of view and there is no response from any of the mentioned media organizations. Buckingham Palace has declined to comment.
“In this family, sometimes, you know, you’re part of the problem instead of part of the solution,” Enrique says in one of the episodes, which premiered Thursday. “There is a huge level of unconscious bias. The thing about unconscious bias is that it’s not really anyone’s fault. But once it has been pointed out or identified within oneself, then you must correct it.”
The media’s treatment of Meghan — and what the couple perceived as a lack of support from royal institutions for this coverage — was at the heart of their grievances when they stepped down from royal duties nearly three years ago and moved south to California. Touted with two dramatically edited trailers hinting at a “war on Meghan,” “Harry & Meghan” is the couple’s latest effort to tell their story.
The series comes at a crucial time for the monarchy, as King Charles III tries to show that the institution still has a role to play following the death of Queen Elizabeth II, whose personal popularity dampened criticism of the crown during her 70-year reign. years. Charles tries to prove that the House of Windsor can help unite an increasingly diverse nation, as he did in the early days of his reign by meeting many of the ethnic groups and religions that make up modern Britain. .
Harry’s 2018 marriage to Meghan Markle, a biracial American actress, was seen at the time as a boost to the royal family’s efforts to enter the 21st century and make it more representative of a multicultural nation. But the fairy tale, which began with a star-studded ceremony at Windsor Castle, soon turned sour amid stories that Meghan was self-centered and harassing her staff.
Netflix premiered the first three hour-long episodes on Thursday, with three more to debut on December 15. The series includes video diaries recorded by Meghan and Harry — apparently on their cell phones — in March 2020, amid the couple’s bitter split from the royal family. It is “my duty to uncover the exploitation and bribery” that occurs in the British media, Enrique says in a message. “Nobody knows the whole truth,” he adds. “We know the whole truth.”
The series tells at the beginning the story of Enrique and Meghan’s courtship and the enthusiasm that their relationship initially received. But the tone changes when Harry recounts the intense media scrutiny Meghan faced, which reminded him of the way her mother, Princess Diana, was treated before dying in a car crash when she was being chased by photographers.
“Seeing another woman in my life that I love go through this aggressive media coverage…that’s hard,” says Enrique. “She’s basically the hunter against the prey.”
Harry and Meghan said they initially tried to follow palace advice to keep quiet about press coverage, while other members of the royal family said it was a rite of passage everyone had to go through. But the couple said they felt compelled to tell their story because there was something different about the way they treated Meghan.
“I said, ‘The difference here is the racial element,’” Enrique said.
That prejudice has deep roots in the history of the British Empire, which grew rich from the enslavement of black people and the extraction of wealth from colonies in Africa, Asia and the Caribbean, historian and author David Olusoga said on the show. It was only after World War II that large numbers of black and Asian people moved to Britain and changed the face of the nation.
Those changes are reflected in the British media. While blacks make up about 3.5% of Britain’s population, they make up just 0.2% of journalists, Olusoga said.
“We have to recognize that this is a white industry…”, he added. “So the people who write these headlines do so in a newsroom that is almost entirely white, and they decide if something has crossed the line of being racist.”
King Charles III was asked if he had watched the series during an engagement in London on Thursday. He did not answer.
Race became a central issue for the monarchy after Harry and Meghan’s interview with celebrity US television presenter Oprah Winfrey in March 2021. Meghan alleged that before her first child was born, a member of the royal family commented how dark the baby’s skin might be.
Prince William, heir to the throne and Harry’s older brother, defended the royal family after the interview, telling reporters: “We are by no means a racist family.”
But Buckingham Palace faced fresh accusations of racism last week when a black advocate for survivors of domestic abuse said a senior member of the royal household questioned her about her origins during a reception at the palace. Coverage of the issue filled the British media and dwarfed a much-anticipated visit by William and his wife Catherine to Boston, which the palace hoped would highlight their environmental credentials.
Media attention was also diverted by Netflix’s decision to drop the first trailer for “Harry & Meghan” in the middle of the trip.
Regardless of what the series reveals, palace officials hope to turn the storm away by portraying William and Catherine as forward-thinking young royals tackling tough issues like climate change and early childhood education, in contrast with Harry and Meghan, who are described by critics as simply celebrities selling their story to the media.
The BBC and the Daily Telegraph, one of Britain’s most influential newspapers, raised this issue in their coverage of William and Catherine’s three-day trip to Boston, where they presented environmental awards, met anti-violence activists and attended a basketball game.
“While Prince Harry and Meghan continued to paint themselves as victims, with their faces in their hands, tearing their hair out over the injustice of it all, the prince and princess simply got on with the job,” the Telegraph wrote.