It was supposed to be a modern-day fairy tale, an interracial relationship bringing the royal family into the 21st century. Instead, if you are to believe the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, now free from the "don't explain, don't complain" policy adhered to by the Royal family, the narrative quickly turned into a something of a John Grisham novel.
The Netflix documentary series, Harry & Meghan, meant to shine a light on what really happened when Prince Harry and Meghan Markle decided to take a step back from their royal duties, takes its time setting up the couple's great escape. It provides a longer, more detailed version of their courtship — the seemingly simple life between two people in love — along with never-before-seen photos of the two, including one from when they decided to "detonate the fun grenade" the evening before their relationship went public.
It also seeks to humanize the couple — two people living in a small cottage on palace grounds, journaling for their unborn baby, while painting a much colder picture of those that surround them. The fun ends soon after the couple's first dance, as Meghan's popularity on the couple's tour of Australia, New Zealand, and Fiji starts to seemingly irk the establishment — a history that seems to repeat itself.
The two make the decision to extricate themselves from The Firm. As the royal piece of their lives comes to an end, Meghan recalls falling into the arms of her security detail, sobbing. "I was like, 'I tried so hard,'" she says. "He goes, 'I know you did, ma'am. I know you did.' And it still wasn't good enough."
Here are the top revelations, per the couple, from Harry & Meghan.
Despite gushing in their engagement interview about how nice and supportive everyone has been, Meghan says she discovered in her first encounter with Harry's older sibling and his wife that their somewhat stiff behavior extended to private quarters. Barefoot and in ripped jeans, Meghan immediately went in for a hug, only to realize that the two experienced the move as jarring.
"There is a forward-facing way of being and then you close the door and you relax now," she said about her own expectations of royal protocol. "But that formality carries over on both sides. And that was surprising to me."
It has been hard to escape the media coverage of Meghan's half-sister Samantha Markle, who appears to have a bone to pick with her, coining the term Princess Pushy. (Samantha Markle apparently had around 11 Twitter accounts disseminating hate tweets about the couple, which her attorney has denied, claiming she was hacked.) Equally, we know most of the details about Meghan's father Thomas Markle accepting money from tabloids, causing an irreparable rift between father and daughter. But what may have come as surprise to most that have followed this story from the beginning is that one of Meghan's closest family members used to be her niece, Samantha's estranged daughter Ashleigh Hale. When it was time for the wedding, Samantha was understandably not invited, but for the sake of optics, it was recommended by the royal comms team that Ashleigh not receive an invitation either. This, has understandably put a strain on the relationship between aunt and niece, with both expressing sorrow that it somehow came to this. But all's well that ends well, and, after a years-long break, Ashleigh and Meghan have now reconnected.
Up until the announcement of Meghan's pregnancy, it seemed every media outlet was on board with the epic romance. But soon thereafter, the headlines in the British press turned increasingly critical, repeatedly citing Meghan's diva behavior and vanity. While the royal family might be used to coverage both good and bad, Meghan started slipping into depression over the bombardment. At one point it was so severe she considered taking her own life.
"All of this will stop if I'm not here," she says about her thought process.
What is only coming out now is Harry admitting that he didn't deal with her concerns like Husband Harry, instead letting his Royal role guide him.
"I'd been trained to worry more about, 'What are people going to think if we don't go to this event?' and looking back on it now I hate myself for it," he says.
Harry was told by his father that he can't control the media, but Harry seems to imply that this is how the Royal Family comms team works: If they want to kill a story that they don't like, they simply feed them another story about a different royal. Harry and William had made an agreement that what happened in their dad's office, presumably while Diana was still alive, would never happen in their office. Harry claims William, or his press office, went back on his word. When Meghan's letter to her father was published by The Mail, its editor stated that his source, who delivered multiple drafts of said letter, was a senior member of the royal household with direct knowledge of the matter, who knew the implications of what they were telling him. This became the final straw for the couple, who shortly thereafter started breaking away from the institution.
When Harry suggested he and Meghan represent the family from abroad, Prince Charles asked Harry to put his idea for relocating in writing. Five days later it was front page news.
"Our story, our life got taken from underneath us," recalls Harry.
The meeting to discuss their future, after announcing that the couple was going to take a step back in 2020, was held immediately after Meghan departed the U.K. "It was clear to me that they'd planned it so that you weren't in the room," Harry tells Meghan in the documentary.
At the meeting, Harry recalls being screamed at by his brother for the decision to step back, and having his father regurgitate things that weren't true. The queen just took it all in.
"They had to believe that it was more about us, and maybe the issue we had, as opposed to their partner, the media and themselves, and that relationship that was causing so much pain for us," says Harry. "They saw what they wanted to see."
The biggest casualty in this was the formerly close relationship between brothers. "He's now on the institution's side, which I get," says Harry, who adds that the joint statement from the brothers about their unity throughout the break-away process was released by the palace without his knowledge. "Within four hours they were happy to lie to protect my brother, and yet for three years they were never willing to tell the truth to protect us."
In the days of their engagement, Meghan's muted wardrobe was a way for her to fit in without stepping on anyone's toes. Meghan reveals that one cannot wear the same color as the queen, and preferably not the same color as any other senior member of the family, so she figured that none of them would wear neutrals: white, black, beige, and brown. She also points out that there is no one there, a la Julie Andrews in The Princess Diaries, to guide you through the right thing to wear or right way to act — least of all her husband, who does not have that knowledge other than for himself.
"There is no version of me joining this family and trying to not do everything I could to fit it," she claims. "I don't want to embarrass the family."
The last week before they stepped down from their royal duties, however, Meghan wore all the colors of the rainbow. "It was our opportunity to go out with a bang," says Harry, with Meghan adding, "The people, they were so embracing. They were sad that we were leaving. And we were sad that we were leaving."
As the six-hour documentary winds down, Harry says that he does not expect accountability nor an apology from his family, but he and Meghan are determined to move on. In their case, that was quite literally with the birth of their second child, Lilibet. Unfortunately, that peace and quiet is soon upended when a senior member on Prince William's comms team, apparently voluntarily (though he disputes it), comes forward during the appeal of Associated Newspapers — after Meghan had won the case for copyright infringement — with texts saying Meghan composed the letter to her father with the full understanding that it might get leaked, therefore making it not private. Despite the setback, Meghan wins the appeal as well.
Is this the end of an ongoing media circus? Probably not. And while many questions go unanswered — What was that second wedding ceremony about, which is so wildly disputed? What was in that post-Oprah interview text from William? What is the Royal version of events that took place? — we now at least have one very detailed side of part of the story. Maybe the rest will come in a followup doc.