Prince Harry and his wife, Meghan, are expected to vent their grievances against the British monarchy on Thursday, when Netflix releases the final episodes of a series about the couple’s decision to step away from royal duties and make a new start in America.
After the first three installments of “Harry & Meghan” focused on the British media’s coverage of the couple and the way it was influenced by racism, California-based streaming giant Netflix promoted the latest episodes with a trailer in which Harry alleges the couple were victims of “institutional gaslighting.”
“They were happy to lie to protect my brother,” Harry says in the trailer, referring to Prince William, the heir to the throne. “They were never willing to tell the truth to protect us.”
While it is unclear who “they” are, the trailer suggests a combination of the media and palace officials are the most likely alleged culprits. The quote is delivered over a shot of Buckingham Palace and video of William and Harry walking side-by-side during the funeral of their grandfather, Prince Philip, in April 2021.
The potentially explosive new episodes come at a crucial moment for the monarchy as King Charles III tries to show that the institution remains alive and vibrant after the death of Queen Elizabeth II, whose personal popularity damped criticism of the crown during her 70-year reign. Charles is making the case that the House of Windsor can help unite an increasingly diverse nation by personally meeting with representatives of the ethnic groups and faiths that make up modern Britain — trying to show that whatever the allegations against him, the reality is different.
Pauline Maclaran, author of “Royal Fever: The British Monarchy in Consumer Culture,” said the royal family are likely to be awaiting the final three episodes with “bated breath” after the first three contained few direct attacks on the institution.
“It’s very provocative and looks like there’s kind of a war being declared,” she said ahead of the release. “But let’s wait and see.”
Harry’s 2018 marriage to the former Meghan Markle, a biracial American actress, was once seen as a public relations coup for the royal family, boosting the monarchy’s effort to move into the 21st century by making it more representative of a multicultural nation. But the fairy tale, punctuated with a horse-drawn carriage ride and massive wedding at Windsor Castle, soon unraveled amid relentless media attention, including allegations that Meghan was self-centered and bullied her staff.
“I wasn’t being thrown to the wolves, I was being fed to the wolves,” Meghan says in one clip included in the trailer.
The series is Harry and Meghan’s latest effort to tell their own story after the couple stepped back from royal life in early 2020 and moved to the wealthy Southern California enclave of Montecito. Their life on an estate overlooking the Pacific Ocean has been partly funded by lucrative contracts with Netflix and Spotify.
The first three episodes featured extensive comments from Harry and Meghan, alongside interviews with friends and allies, as well as experts on race and racism in British society. There were no comments from the newspapers mentioned.
Race became a central issue for the monarchy following Harry and Meghan’s interview with Oprah Winfrey in March 2021. Meghan alleged that before their first child was born, a member of the royal family commented on how dark the baby’s skin might be.
Prince William defended the royal family after the interview, telling reporters, “We’re very much not a racist family.”
Buckingham Palace faced renewed allegations of racism earlier this month when a Black advocate for survivors of domestic abuse said a senior member of the royal household interrogated her about her origins during a reception at the palace. Coverage of the issue filled British media, overshadowing William and his wife Kate’s much-anticipated visit to Boston, which the palace had hoped would highlight their environmental credentials.
The Netflix series is problematic for the palace because Harry and Meghan are appealing to the same younger, more culturally diverse demographic that William and Kate are trying to win over, Maclaran said.
“I think, it has to be worrying for the royal family in terms of their future, because they really need to get this young generation on their side, to an extent, if they’re going to survive,’’ she said. “They will have to make a very big effort to make themselves appear more diverse, and I think we do see that happening a little bit, but not enough.”