‘Storm in a teacup’: Final episodes of Harry & Meghan air. So what did they have to say?

FILE PHOTO: Britain's Prince Harry, left, an Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, leave after they paid their respects to Queen Elizabeth II in Westminster Hall for the Lying-in State, in London, Wednesday, Sept. 14, 2022. Emilio Morenatti/Pool via REUTERS
FILE PHOTO: Britain's Prince Harry, left, an Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, leave after they paid their respects to Queen Elizabeth II in Westminster Hall for the Lying-in State, in London, Wednesday, Sept. 14, 2022. Emilio Morenatti/Pool via REUTERS
Beyond the drama of feuding brothers and Machiavellian royal aides working with a hostile press, the key issue which arises from Prince Harry and his wife Meghan's Netflix documentary is whether it does lasting damage to King Charles and the British monarchy.

Over six hours of television, Harry and Meghan delivered a swathe of accusations against what they portrayed as a tone-deaf institution which was unconcerned about their emotional well-being and prepared for them to suffer if it meant better media coverage for other more senior royals.

“It’s like living through a soap opera where everybody else views you as entertainment,” Harry said in one of the final episodes released on Thursday.

When the couple married in a glittering ceremony in 2018, their union was hailed as a breath of fresh air, the epitome of a modern monarchy: the then-hugely popular prince and the glamorous, biracial, American actress.

But as they recounted in graphic detail in their documentary series, that fairytale soon turned sour amid a slew of negative press coverage, some of which Harry blamed on those working for Prince William, his elder brother and now heir to the throne.

“It looked cold, but it also felt cold,” Harry said of his family’s feelings towards him at their last official engagement. In 2020, the couple decided to step back from their royal roles, moving to California and becoming financially independent.

The exit of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex was bad news for the institution, said Catherine Mayer, author of recent biography “Charles: Heart of a King”.

“The departure of Meghan and Harry from royal ranks has been far more damaging to the monarchy than the coverage that vilifies them understands or accepts,” she told Reuters.

“Her arrival was this source of enormous hope for people of colour, and also just younger people. Her departure is seen as a failure and a betrayal, and that’s immensely damaging to the monarchy because the monarchy needs consensus to survive. It needs support to survive, and it’s losing it.”

But opinion polls suggest that may not be the case. According to a YouGov poll last week, Harry, who once topped such ratings, and Meghan are now the most unpopular royals in Britain apart from his uncle Prince Andrew, who settled a U.S. sex abuse lawsuit in February. William and his wife Kate were the most popular, although surveys show younger people are much more ambivalent than older Britons about the monarchy in general.

The royals have been in a similar position before. In the early 1990s, the disintegration of Charles’s marriage to his first wife, Harry’s mother the late Princess Diana, was played out in the full glare of the media.

Following Diana’s public accusations against the royal household and her death in 1997, the future of the 1,000-year-old institution seemed at times uncertain. But it bounced back to become more popular than ever, with Harry and his brother William to the fore.

FILE PHOTO: Britain’s Prince Charles, Prince William and Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, Prince Harry and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex attend the annual Commonwealth Service at Westminster Abbey in London, Britain March 9, 2020. Phil Harris/Pool via REUTERS

According to Harry, the subsequent popularity of Meghan was seen as a problem, stealing the limelight from those “born to do this”, a less than subtle dig at his brother and father.

If Harry’s assessment that negative stories were being planted against him and Meghan is true – an accusation rejected by newspapers and aides who have spoken publicly – then the campaign could perhaps be seen as successful.

A Savanta survey found 59% of respondents in Britain said it was a bad idea for Harry and Meghan to air their documentary, with a half saying they did not trust that the show would be an accurate account of the couple’s experience.

“Personally, I don’t think that it will do lasting damage to the monarchy,” royal biographer Claudia Joseph said of the Netflix documentary.

“I think that people that are royalists will still be royalists and will see this as Meghan and Harry again throwing their toys out of the pram, and the people that are republicans will remain republicans and blame the royal family for the way they’ve treated Harry and Meghan.”

Or, as 45-year-old London local Tarek Hilal said on Thursday: “In the long run, it just won’t make a difference. Storm in a teacup.”

What Harry & Meghan said about the Royal family

Below are quotes and details from the series:

On a family meeting to discuss Harry’s royal departure:

“It was terrifying to have my brother scream and shout at me, and my father say things that just simply weren’t true, and my grandmother quietly sit there and sort of take it all in.”

FILE PHOTO: Meghan Markle, and Britain’s Prince Harry, meet members of the crowd as they arrive for a visit to Edinburgh, Scotland February 13, 2018. REUTERS/Russell Cheyne/File Photo

On the royal household and the media:

“It is a dirty game. There’s leaking but there’s also planting of stories. So if the comms team want to be able to remove a negative story about their principal, they will trade and give you something about someone else’s principal. So the offices end up working against each other.

“William and I both saw what happened in our dad’s office and we made an agreement we would never let that happen to our office.

“I would far rather get destroyed in the press than play along with this game, or this business of trading. To see my brother’s office copy the very same thing that we promised the two of us would never ever do, that was heartbreaking.”

Britain’s Prince William, The Duke of Cambridge, and Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex, attend the unveiling of a statue they commissioned of their mother Diana, Princess of Wales, in the Sunken Garden at Kensington Palace, London, Britain July 1, 2021. Yui Mok/Pool via REUTERS

On ties with William:

“The saddest part of it was this wedge created between myself and my brother so he is now on the institution side. Part of that, I get. That is his inheritance. To some extent that is already engrained in him, that part of his responsibility is the survivability and continuation of this institution.”

On Harry’s feelings towards his family:

“I felt really distant from the rest of my family, which was interesting because so much of how they operate is about what it looks like rather than what it feels like. And it looked cold, but it also felt cold.”

Meghan on royals and the media:

“You would just see it play out. Like a story about someone in the family would pop up for a minute and they would go: ‘got to make that go away’.

“But there is a real estate on a website home page, on a newspaper front cover, and something has to be filled in there about someone royal.”

Harry on Meghan’s miscarriage:

“I believe my wife suffered a miscarriage because of what the Mail did,” he said, referring to the British tabloid newspaper. “I watched the whole thing.

“Now do we absolutely know that the miscarriage was caused by that? Of course we don’t, but bearing in mind the stress that that caused, the lack of sleep, and the timing of the pregnancy – how many weeks in she was, I can say from what I saw, that miscarriage was created by what they were trying to do to her.”

Harry on pressure to show off son Archie after birth:

“The amount of abuse we got… for not wanting to serve our child up on a silver platter was incredible.”

Harry on Meghan and a missed opportunity:

“Anyone inside that system, whether it’s my family, whether it’s staff, whether it’s PR, whoever it is, has missed an enormous opportunity with my wife and how far that would go globally.”

Harry on support in the family:

“The issue is when someone who’s marrying in, and should be a supporting act, is then stealing the limelight or doing the job better than the person who was born to do this. That upsets people, it shifts the balance.”

Meghan on feeling suicidal:

“I was like, all of this will stop if I’m not here. And that was the scariest thing about it because it was such a clear thinking.”

“I wanted to go somewhere to get help but I wasn’t allowed to, they were concerned about how that would look for the institution.”




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