Advisory: If you haven’t watched the documentary and plan to do so, step away from reading the review which will have lots of spoilers. Otherwise, let’s proceed onward.
At last, Prince Harry and Meghan, Duke and Duchess of Sussex, unveiled their story on Netflix. This is not a small arena for their power couple status as Netflix has about 220 million subscribers with more than 60% outside the US and had a turnover of around 30 billion dollars in 2021, according to Ignacio Barros’s Netflix’s International Expansion Strategy (synergos.biz). Once again, the dynamic duo will dominate global headlines and commentary as we slide into the holiday season.
In the court of public opinion, this narrative turns up the spotlight on the British media
that is an insidious, toxic beast that needs an overhaul by a truly independent, regulatory body. While the spotlight also shines on the royal institution, nothing here is an A-ha moment or even salacious tell-all. Why? Because we, as in the Sussex Squad, have seen this lot in action before, during, and after Harry and Meghan’s departure from working royal life. What we did get that was new, were additional voices to bolster Harry and Meghan’s story, along with Mama Doria and Ashleigh, Meghan’s niece, sharing their account of how far and deep the royal institutional reach and media invasion into their lives were.
The documentary brilliantly lays out the royal landscape of lives stuck in a gilded cage to be catered to, to be ogled at, to be reminded that they are the kept pets to be praised, humbled, or abused at the whim of the British media, and at a lesser extent by the British public who financially and patriotically contribute to the pomp and circumstance. The picture painted is one of a curated bubble infused with privilege and exemption from the rigors of normal daily living experience. However, the elements of real life with divorce, infidelity scandals, and royals behaving badly mean that any show of weakness, any vulnerability, physical, mental, or even of a spiritual nature must stay behind closed doors, must not be discussed, or acknowledged, allowing for generational trauma to be a proud matter of conduct among the royals.
After all, we’ve witnessed and heard commentary about the other royals( by marriage) who were harassed like Meghan and they dealt with it like a rite of passage, so why shouldn’t she? Here we have insight of the royal mindset that the abused must turn enabler as if part of a horrific fraternity/sorority hazing moment. And once the hazing—the mental anguish, physical stress—is done, by the flick of a Royal Rota’s pen or the institution’s nod and wink to the press goons, the proper response is to emerge with praise for their grace and decorum. And again, all done with the British public’s implicit acceptance that this level of bullying and malevolent harassment is a normal exchange for their adoration.
How far will be too far? We heard how far Meghan teetered. We heard how much help was provided. Harry has said, “They aren’t going to stop until she’s dead.”(The Me you can’t See). Again, how far will be too far? But let’s get back to this documentary.
Harry and Meghan journaled their early days of their unusual courtship with lots of photos, video clips, and reminisces from them and friends who shared in the experience. Those private moments solidified the foundation for them to then build a very public life because by March 2020, Harry asked, “What on earth happened? How did we end up here?” The gilded cage was rattled by this extraordinary love story that outshone the royals. No behind the scenes machinations. No strategic manipulation by parents and grandparents. It was organic and authentic.
Living in such different worlds, they had never walked or had to walk in the other’s shoes. So, for Harry, his dealings with the paparazzi were an early part of his life, also seeing his mother stressfully navigate the pack, and witnessing her protective instincts against the intrusive press. “Don’t react” was the early advice given to him on how to treat the scrutiny that documented every facet of his life.
Meanwhile Meghan’s interaction with the press came because of her role in the TV show, Suits. We can see the stark difference of her press coverage as a popular character in the show and her natural ease interacting with fans.
What the couple mutually had in common, however, was the experience of divorced parents and the fallout of the parents’ emotional journeys, while living separate lives in two households.
And yet, the chasm between their experiences couldn’t be wider. Meghan was two years when her parents divorced, and she lived with her mother during the week and on weekends went to her father. It didn’t make local, much less national news. While Harry’s experience, with a father destined to be king, played out on the world’s stage. That monarchy has “cultural significance to the British identity [that] is deeply rooted in its mostly constant existence for over 1000 years,” noted by Robert Hazell, author of The Role of Monarchy in Modern Democracy.
In Harry’s life, his parents’ divorce sold newspapers, magazines, provided content for talk shows. The now condemned Martin Bashir’s Panorama interview with Princess Diana on November 20, 1995, was mentioned with a short clip shown. Harry acknowledged Barshir’s deception to get the interview, but unlike his older brother, Harry didn’t silence his mother with a sexist reference to Diana’s paranoia. Instead, Harry gave grace to his mother’s truth about the turmoil and erosion of her marriage.
Several friends added their testimonials not only about what the couple endured, but also about how much the couple loved each other. One such friendship was Prince Seeiso of Lesotho who met Harry in 2004 for his “timeout from that aggressive treadmill” after Harry’s physical confrontation with the media. Away from England, the British media, and the institution, Harry matured and turned his focus to sharing in his mother’s legacy. They jointly founded Sentebale in 2010, a program that is still successfully operating.
The love and respect shared between these two men and the community earned Harry his Sesotho name Mahale, which means warrior. Prince Seeiso said, of Harry, that he’s a “warrior in spirit and is a warrior in character.”
The biggest star of episode two belonged to Mama Doria, Meghan’s mother. We all saw her at the wedding looking on with such love at her only child marrying her prince. Through all the ghoulish headlines and malicious comments, she remained in control of her emotions and counsel. Unlike Meghan’s dad, she wasn’t lured by money, she didn’t take advantage of her daughter’s global influence, nor did she devolve to pettiness to not attend the wedding.
David Olusoga, author of Black and British, stated that “British media exists as a series of publications but also a mentality. And it’s toxic. This is a White Industry. Black people are 3.5% of the population, and 0.2% of the journalists. They get to decide when something is deemed racist. Black and female is fair game.”
Meghan’s mixed-race heritage, specifically as an African American, became part of the public criticism, whether overtly or imbibed with classism and anti-Americanism (the foreign element). Here was a woman as seen in the documentary, who has an abundance of confidence, assertiveness, firm boundaries, and a philanthropic drive and energy that are on full throttle. The British media and institution deemed her a threat. The jewel in their midst is pushed aside against the backdrop of the Brexit movement with the toxic overtones about immigration and fervent nationalism . The British media known for their power to sway governments, pick prime ministers, and instigate disastrous referendums had their new project to destroy the marriage and send Meghan back to America.
By the third episode, you can understand why people who loved her asked, “Is he worth it?” Because this ancient institution that had the recent passing of its longest living monarchy had failed to come into the 21st century with genuine action toward diversity and transparency of their hiring practices. Should we then elicit surprise at the mention that the British monarchies received financing directly from the slave trade and commerce in the Caribbean and the US from as early as Queen Elizabeth I? Or when compensation was given to the slave owners in the amount of 20 million pounds for over 180 years, right up to 2015? Or at mention of the paintings, sculptures, and other pillaged bounties of the enslaved that are displayed in the royal palaces and homes? The gilded cage is a proper house of horror.
With that racist mindset, the British media expected the Black side of Meghan’s family to be problematic and easily lured. However, the Markles said “hold my beer” and outdid whoever may have been duped on Doria’s side. Between Samantha and Tom, Sr., they were the grift that kept on giving with such knuckle-dragging depravity that whatever hellish conditions they are in now, are at their own cause and effect in this world. So, stop with the madness of telling Meghan she must make up with her father. That’s a decision for her.
We got to meet Ashleigh, Meghan’s niece, who shed light on the strained relationship with her birth mother, Samantha. She confirms Samantha’s unhinged resentment toward Meghan to the point that she is no longer talking to her. The unfortunate fallout of this family drama was that Meghan, upon Jason Knauf’s counsel, uninvited Ashleigh from the wedding because Samantha wasn’t invited. Reminder: Jason is the snake who testified (with royal permission) against Meghan regarding her letter to her father.
The documentary ended with a cliffhanger—the day before the wedding. And we know the news about her father not attending is about to drop. At the end of the day, the people who support Harry and Meghan didn’t need this documentary to validate their feelings. This was an exclamation point directed at the British media, the royal institution, and those hater accounts that Harry and Meghan have not only invented a way to make it work, they’ve also removed the weak links holding them back, and they have refortified defenses because they weren’t supposed to win. Others have surrendered or left defeated. This power duo changed that narrative.