Some royals questioned why Meghan should be protected from press harassment, Prince Harry has claimed in the couple’s new Netflix documentary.
Harry said some members of the family felt negative treatment in the media was “a rite of passage” – but he added: “The difference is the race element.”
The first three episodes of the six-part bombshell series, titled Harry & Meghan, were released on Thursday.
The couple talk about life in the Royal Family, press intrusion and racism.
Buckingham Palace has not yet responded to the claims.
At the start of episode one, a message says members of the Royal Family declined to comment on “the content within this series”.
But Buckingham Palace and Kensington Palace say that neither they, nor any other members of the Royal Family, had been approached for comment.
The episodes released on Thursday – which include sit-down interviews with the couple and their friends, as well as a video diary – cover a range of topics, including the couple’s difficult relationship with the tabloid press, and the Royal Family’s response to racist news articles written about Meghan.
“The direction from the Palace was don’t say anything,” says Harry.
“But what people need to understand is, as far as a lot of the family were concerned, everything that she was being put through, they had been put through as well.
“So it was almost like a rite of passage, and some of the members of the family were like ‘my wife had to go through that, so why should your girlfriend be treated any differently? Why should you get special treatment? Why should she be protected?”‘
“I said ‘the difference here is the race element’.”
He says there is a “huge level of unconscious bias” in the Royal Family, adding: “It is actually no one’s fault. But once it has been pointed out, or identified within yourself you then need to make it right.”
The Duke of Sussex – who is fifth in line to the throne – says he is really proud that his children are mixed race, and it makes him want to “make the world a better place for them”.
“But, equally, what’s most important for the two of us is to make sure that we don’t repeat the same mistakes that perhaps our parents made.”
The couple also spoke about meeting other royals, with Meghan saying she found it surprising that the formality “carries over” even when not in public.
She says: “When Will and Kate came over, and I met her for the first time, they came over for dinner, I remember I was in ripped jeans and I was barefoot. I was a hugger. I’ve always been a hugger, I didn’t realise that that is really jarring for a lot of Brits.
“I guess I started to understand very quickly that the formality on the outside carried through on the inside.”
In much of episode one, the duke and duchess spoke about their relationship – including how they met via a friend on Instagram and met for drinks in London’s Soho for their first date.
Harry describes it as a “great love story”, adding: “I think for so many people in the family, especially obviously the men, there can be a temptation or an urge to marry someone who would fit in the mould, as opposed to somebody who you are perhaps destined to be with.
“The difference between making decisions with your head, or your heart. And my mum certainly made most of her decisions – if not all of them – from her heart. And I am my mother’s son.”
He adds: “She (Meghan) sacrificed everything she ever knew, the freedom that she had, to join me in my world. And then pretty soon after that I ended up sacrificing everything that I know to join her in her world.”
Prince Harry tells the docuseries: “My job is to keep my family safe. But the nature of being born into this position… and the level of hate that is being stirred up in the last three years especially against my wife and my son, I’m generally concerned for the safety of my family.”
The duke adds that, as a royal, it is his “duty to uncover this exploitation and bribery that happens within our media”.
Meghan, meanwhile, says she felt that “no matter how hard I tried, no matter how good I was, no matter what I did, they [the media] were still going to find a way to destroy me”.
In other moments from the series:
- Harry calls the press pack of royal correspondents “essentially an extended PR arm of the Royal Family. An agreement that has been there for over 30 years”. He says he believes the media see his trauma as its “narrative to control”
- In episode three, Meghan calls the time around their engagement an “orchestrated reality show”
- Harry says his family were “incredibly impressed” with Meghan when they first met her. “But the fact that I was dating an American actress was probably what clouded their judgment more than anything else at the beginning”
- The duke compares Meghan to Princess Diana, saying: “So much of what Meghan is, and how she is, is so similar to my mum. She has the same compassion, she has the same empathy, she has the same confidence, she has this warmth about her”
- And although Princess Diana’s Panorama interview was secured under deceit, Harry says his mother “spoke the truth of her experience”
- The duchess’s mother, Doria Ragland, says she warned Meghan that the harassment was “about race”. “I said, you may not want to hear it but this is what’s coming down the pike,” says Ms Ragland. “As a parent, in hindsight absolutely I would like to go back and have that kind of real conversation about how the world sees you”
- Harry says wearing a Nazi uniform to a party was “one of the biggest mistakes” of his life
Meghan describes a BBC interview that took place as part the announcement of her and Prince Harry’s engagement as an “orchestrated reality show”, adding: “We weren’t allowed to tell our story… it was, you know, rehearsed.”
The interview was conducted by news presenter Mishal Husain, who said on Thursday she remembers the “discreet” and “very small scale” interview for its atmosphere of infectious joy.
“I don’t know what kinds of conversations went on between them and their team ahead of the day,” she says. “I can speak to my recollection of that day and that was two people who were happy to be talking about each other.”
The couple were “happy to be sharing their love” and “full of plans for the future and what they could do as a team”, she says, adding that their sense of excitement about what the future held “was very infectious”.
13 things we learned from Harry and Meghan’s Netflix series
The first few episodes of Harry and Meghan’s highly-anticipated Netflix documentary series aired on Thursday.
Here are some of the key takeaways from the first three parts:
Early days of relationship
The couple talked about how they first met on social media.
“Meg and I had met through Instagram. I was scrolling through my feed. Someone who was a friend had this video of the two of them with the like Snapchat thing … like dog ears.” Harry said: “I was like, who is that?”
Meghan said she looked through his feed, before the pair got each other’s numbers.
Their first date in Soho
Harry turned up late to the pair’s first date in Soho, London, in July 2016.
Meghan said: “You were late and I couldn’t understand why he would be late. But he kept texting saying, ‘I’m in traffic, I’m so sorry.’”
Harry recalled: “I was panicking, I was freaking out. I started sweating.” Unaware of this, Meghan began to doubt that the date would go anywhere, thinking he might have an “ego.”
But when he eventually showed up he was profusely apologetic, which Meghan described as “so sweet,” adding: “You were genuinely so embarrassed.”
Harry described their relationship as a “love story.”From Netflix
Meghan added: “He was just so fun. Just so refreshingly fun and that was the thing we were like childlike together.”
They arranged to meet again the following night.
“That’s when it hit me,” Harry said. “This girl, this woman, is amazing. She’s everything I’ve been looking for.”
Trip to Botswana
The couple described how their relationship was cemented in Africa, when Meghan traveled to join Harry on a visit to Botswana in August 2016 – having only met him twice before.
“We had to get to know each other before the rest of the world and before the media joined in,” said Harry.
They spoke of living in close quarters with the bare minimum and how they were still so unsure of how the relationship would develop.
Relentless media attention
Harry spoke at length about the media’s ever present role in his family life, starting with footage taken outside the hospital following his birth.
Of the ongoing attention throughout his childhood, he said: “The majority of my memories are of being swamped by paparazzi.”
He recalled learning as a young child how to handle the attention, saying: “Within the family, within the system, the advice that’s always given is ‘don’t react. Don’t feed into it.’”
Harry spoke candidly about growing up in the royal family.Netflix
“My mum did such a good job in trying to protect us. She took it upon herself to basically confront these people.”
Footage of family ski holidays was included to highlight this. In one clip, Harry is seen alongside his brother Prince William and cousins Princesses Beatrice and Eugenie as they are made to pose for the crowd of photographers, in an unwritten agreement that would ultimately allow them privacy later in the holiday. But that was followed by another more intrusive clip which led to his mother confronting the photographer.
‘Pain and suffering’ of women marrying into royal family
Harry brought up the now discredited 1995 Panorama interview with his mother, Princess Diana. While he acknowledged that she had been “deceived,” he said that she had spoken “the truth.”
He said: “My mother was harassed throughout her life with my dad but after they separated the harassment went to new levels.”
The “moment she left the institution” left her “completely exposed,” he said.
Growing up, he witnessed “pain and suffering of women marrying into this institution.” He added: “What happened to my mum … I didn’t want history to repeat itself.”
Fitting ‘the mold’
In a telling section on his experience of other royal marriages, Harry said: “I think for so many people in the family, especially the men, there can be a temptation or an urge to marry someone who would fit the mold, as opposed to somebody who you perhaps are destined to be with.
“The difference between making decisions with your head or your heart. And my mum certainly made most of her decisions, if not all of them, from her heart. And I am my mother’s son.”
Meghan’s comparison with Diana
Harry spoke about ways Meghan is similar to his mother, Diana, who died when he was 12 years old.
“So much of what Meghan is and how she is is so similar to my mum. She has the same compassion, she has the same empathy, she has the same confidence, she has this warmth about her,” said Harry.
“I accept that there will be people around the world who fundamentally disagree with what I’ve done and how I’ve done it. But I knew that I had to do everything I could to protect my family, especially after what happened to my mum.”
In her first extensive public comments, Meghan’s mother Doria Ragland spoke about her first time meeting Harry, as well as her fears for her safety and regrets as a parent. She also described the last five years as “challenging.”
“He was 6’1”, a handsome man with red hair, really great manners. He was just really nice. And they looked really happy together. Yeah, like he was the one,” she said.
Describing the early years of her daughter’s childhood, Ragland – who is African American – recalled repeatedly being asked if she was the nanny as her daughter’s skin was lighter.
Her mother said: “As a parent, in hindsight I would absolutely like to go back and have that very real conversation about how the world sees you.”
When Meghan began to face negative media attention, Ragland recalled telling her daughter “this is about race,” with Meghan replying: “Mommy, I don’t want to hear that.”
After news of their relationship broke, Meghan recalled how quickly she became the focus of photographers and the media.
The royal family regarded such intrusion almost as a workplace hazard, according to Harry.
Meghan’s life changed almost over night after she started dating the prince.Netflix
“As far as a lot of the family were concerned, everything that she was being put through, they had been put through as well,” Harry said.
“So it was almost like a rite of passage. Some of the members of the family were like ‘right, but my wife had to go through that, so why should your girlfriend be treated any differently? Why should you get special treatment? Why should she be protected?’ I said the difference here is the race element.”
Formalities, and meeting William and Catherine
Meghan recalled meeting Prince William and his wife Catherine over dinner.
Oblivious to royal protocol, she said she was “barefoot” and wearing ripped jeans at the time. She described herself as a “hugger,” but said that this can be “jarring” for some British people.
“I guess I started to understand very quickly that the formality on the outside carried through on the inside,” she said. “That formality carries over on both sides, and that was surprising to me.”
First meeting with the Queen
Harry said that his grandmother, Queen Elizabeth II, was the first senior member of the royal family to meet Meghan.
Meghan recalled being told that she would have to curtsy, while Harry said: “How do you explain that you bow to your grandmother? And that you all need to curtsy. Especially to an American. That’s weird.”
He went on to say that members of his family were “incredibly impressed,” though were uncertain about the difference in their backgrounds and thought that her being a Hollywood actress meant “this won’t last.”
“The actress thing was the biggest problem, funnily enough,” said Meghan. “There was a big idea of what that looks like from the UK standpoint. Hollywood – it was very easy for them to typecast that.”
Royal family’s ‘unconscious bias’
In contrast to Meghan’s experiences growing up mixed race, Harry said that there was a “huge level” of unconscious bias in the royal family.
“The thing with unconscious bias is actually no one’s fault, but once it’s been pointed out or identified within yourself, you then need to make it right,” he said.
Harry even addressed the time when he wore a Nazi uniform to a private party in 2005, saying it was one of the “biggest mistakes” of his life, adding that he felt “so ashamed afterwards.”
The Markle family
The duchess discussed her estrangement from her father following a controversy over whether he staged a series of paparazzi style photographs in the lead up to their 2018 wedding.
Harry described the situation with his father-in-law as “incredibly sad.”
“I shouldered that because if Meg wasn’t with me then her dad would still be her dad,” he said.
Meghan opened up about her half-sister Samantha Markle, who she said she hadn’t seen since her early twenties but who frequently spoke of her in the media.
Meghan said: “I don’t know your middle name. I don’t know your birthday. You’re telling these people that you raised me, and you’ve coined me ‘Princess Pushy.’”
Also interviewed on the show was Ashleigh Hale, Samantha Markle’s estranged daughter who Meghan remains close with.