The release of the first three episodes of Harry and Meghan, the Netflix series created by Meghan Markle, the younger son of King Charles III. and his American wife, kicked a nation used to palace intrigue and royal drama into high gear on Thursday.
The BBC, the Guardian and the Daily Mail all started live blogs that were active for hours while the show was airing, covering it as well as developments in the Russia-Ukraine war and the recent prime ministerial contest.
TV news in the UK has spearheaded the series, in which Prince Harry accuses his family of having an “unconscious bias” towards his multiracial wife and Markle lashes out at the UK media as out to “destroy” her.
Royal commentators and paparazzi, who were last in full force months ago following the death of Queen Elizabeth II, are now able to renew the symbiotic relationship with a palace that needs them to thrive.
The six-part documentary follows the Duke and Duchess of Sussex from their first flirtation to their dramatic departure from London to California, where they live on a sprawling ranch in Santa Barbara County. Filmed between 2020 and 2022, it was completed before Elizabeth’s death in September. (Her son, King Charles III, will be officially crowned in May. His elder son and Harry’s brother – Prince William – is next in line to the throne.)
Trailers for the series, which includes three more episodes to be released December 15, hint at increasingly sour relationships between the brothers and their wives, and Harry and the king, much of which has centered on race and Harry’s decision to have a Americans to marry Los Angeles instead of joining the British elite.
“They seem to be declaring war on the family,” said Pauline Maclaran, a professor of consumer research at Royal Holloway University of London who studies the royal family’s global image. “In a way, they are establishing their own royal court – in America – away from the legitimate court on the other side of the Atlantic.”
The prince and Markle, an actress best known for the show Suits, previously opened up about their grievances about life as royals in a two-hour interview with Oprah Winfrey that aired in March 2021. Markle sparked controversy at the time when she said a member of the royal family, whose name she didn’t name, had asked before the birth of their first child “how dark his skin might be when he’s born.”
Harry, meanwhile, said his father stopped taking his calls before the couple announced his retirement from royal duties. “My family literally cut me off financially,” he said, fueling the deal with Netflix and another at Spotify.
But for all the hype, the long-awaited first three episodes didn’t reveal much new about the couple’s struggles within the family or with the paparazzi comparing them to those who chased Princess Diana through the streets of Paris before her death in 1997.
Many in right-wing tabloids and TV programs have accused the couple of hypocrisy because they wanted to be away from the media but have plunged headfirst into creating their own media empire. Markle’s Archetypes podcast regularly tops the most-streamed list on Spotify, and Harry is expected to release his memoir, Spare, on January 10th.
In an interview, Dickie Arbiter, a prolific royal commentator and former Elizabeth press secretary, described the Harry and Meghan episodes as “boring shows.”
“The only thing we learn is that they’re so self-absorbed that nothing else matters,” he said.
Nonetheless, he added: “Just making this documentary is still an assault on the family. [An] It is not an olive branch.”
The Sun tabloid’s main online story on Thursday described the documentary as “Netfibs” – detailing five times that the couple appeared to have changed their story. Another article was headlined “MEGA SHOW,” a play on Markle’s nickname, “Meg.”
There are said to have been a few pubs in London, where popular sentiment towards the royals ranges from deep respect to indifference to contempt shows the series on Thursday, although public viewing parties were not widespread.
“What I like best about these two is how they adhere to the monarchy,” said Rachel Mandeville, 34, a finance officer who lives in Hackney, east London. “I’ve heard it’s being aired in some of the local pubs, but I’ll just watch it at home whenever I can find the time.”
Her friend and neighbor Jeffrey Jules, who also works in finance, had a different opinion.
“I’m not a fan of the monarchy at all,” said Jules, 36, who has watched one episode so far. “But I question the motives behind this series. Is it for money or fame or to get back at your siblings and father?”
The palace did not comment on the show. At an Advent service in London on Thursday, Charles ignored a question hailed at him about his attitude towards the Netflix release and instead wished the cheering crowd a “Merry Christmas”.
Two trailers of the series came under attack for using misleading or inaccurate footage. Some footage that appears to show the media following the couple is from events unrelated to the couple.
A select photo shows dozens of paparazzi lenses focused on an object that is not visible. The image is from the premiere of a Harry Potter film in 2011. Another image, showing members of the media holding cameras while attempting to photograph someone in a vehicle, is from the trial of the former’s former attorney President Trump, Michael Kohen.
Nicoletta Gullace, a University of New Hampshire professor who studies the royal family and modern British history, said the victor in the burgeoning war between the Sussexes and the UK royals has yet to be determined. She also said that such a rivalry is nothing new.
“The idea of a split in a royal family has been around for centuries. They always have that, maybe with a younger son versus an older one or other family members,” she said.
And “now you have two giant media machines. One is Netflix and one is the palace,” Gullace said. “They fight over who can capture the public’s attention. I think the outcome will have to wait until the full series comes out and we’ll see what the whole of it is.”
Staff writer Kaleem reported from Los Angeles and special correspondent Boyle from London.
https://www.latimes.com/world-nation/story/2022-12-09/harry-and-meghan-netflix-britain-racism-royal-family Netflix ‘Harry and Meghan’ revives British royal race issue