AS I SEE IT
The first three of the Harry and Meghan docuseries released on Netflix has been greeted with howls of derision and criticism. On the one hand, the pair are seen as over-privileged whingers and, on the other, as seeking unfortunately-timed royal revenge. Is this fair though?
The pair have been caught up in an unhappy repeating saga stretching back four generations, where outsiders, especially women who ‘marry in’ to the House of Windsor or fall for one of the family, frequently come to grief.
As Harry says at the outset: “This story is much bigger than either of us.”
The saga started with Edward VIII and Wallis Simpson, and includes Princess Margaret, Princess Diana, Fergie and now Meghan. The sinister side of the story is the voracious appetite of the media which devours the individuals involved and is often fed by insiders. As Harry puts it: “It’s our duty to uncover the exploitation and bribery.” Meantime they got paid a handsome $100 million for allowing “let people have a bit more of a glimpse of we are ,” as Meghan puts it.
The Duke of Edinburgh had a neat idea when he christened the Royal family ‘The Firm’. But unfortunately, the firm always comes first and the team didn’t include an HR department so it was sink or swim for the newbies like Meghan.
“What people need to understand is that, as far as a lot of the family were concerned, everything she was being put through, they had been put through as well, so it was almost like a rite of passage,” says Harry. (Could this be a dig at William and Kate?) “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?’.”
The first episode in the six part series starts with the romantic back story of ‘When Harry met Meghan’,(not through the old style aristocratic circles but via Instagram) and continues with footage shot with clever foresight by the couple following their Megxit to California in 2020. All a bit saccharine but very watchable. Part two deals with Harry’s background, his realisation that his family weren’t like other families, his memories of his mother and her tragic end, hounded to death by the paparazzi in 1997.
Harry was just 12 years old and heart-wrenching footage shows him walking behind her coffin and having to shake hands with crowds. His desire to protect his wife and family given what happened to his mother is understandable.
”My job is to keep my family safe,” says Harry. (Too bad about the effect of the couple’s defection and disclosures on the other part of his family).
One of Harry and Meghan’s complaints is about racism and part three takes a look at the influence of British colonial history on racist attitudes across the water. They are hardly much better in Meghan’s native America though — just look at the Black lives Matter campaign.
The Sussexes departure is hardly surprising. It’s an everyday occurrence in many families where younger generations find parental values stuffy and old- fashioned and quit for greener pastures. In many ways you could hardly find a family more hide-bound by tradition and in need of a shake-up than the Royals.
Harry has been a sitting duck for the paparazzi for his whole life. Now, with Meghan, he has turned the tables on the exploitive publicity machine, using it to tell their story in their own terms and for their own profit. Harry’s book ‘Spare’ is due for publication next month for which the Duke of Sussex (shouldn’t he drop the title now?) was reported to have been paid $36m. as part of a three book deal worth $62m.. The couple can’t expect to get much more mileage out of telling the same story and it’s a handy nest egg to have while they find other ways to earn.
Will their disclosures damage the monarchy? Certainly they may dent perceptions and tarnish the image established by Queen Elizabeth who kept calm , carried on and stayed silent.
But the future of the thousand year’s old monarchy will depend far more on how Harry’s Dad, and later his brother Prince William rise to the challenge of ruling their subjects and modernising the Royal family.