Clear the decks this week to binge watch the new Netflix documentary – an intimate peek at life with Harry and Meghan …
In the same week that acclaimed director Richard Curtis celebrated 20 years of Love, Actually – probably one of the most enjoyable Christmas rom coms of all time – he also revealed that, on hindsight, he isn’t entirely happy with elements of the film: “The lack of diversity makes me feel uncomfortable and a bit stupid.”
Fortunately, bang up-to-date and redressing the balance is Harry & Meghan, the six-part Netflix documentary scheduled for release on December 8, directed Oscar nominated and Emmy-winning director Liz Garbus. It could be subtitled, Love, Actually: The Royal Sequel.
A montage of black and white photographs of Harry and Meghan shows a series of loved-up poses at their home in Montecito, in their former residence Frogmore Cottage, Windsor, at work and on holiday. They look longingly at each other, their body language and wardrobe harmoniously in sync. Just what we need to brighten up a dull December evening!
Forget the royal love stories of Victoria and Albert, the late Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip, Edward and Mrs Simpson or indeed William and Catherine. The inference is that Harry and Meghan are the stars of the greatest royal romance and “meet cute” ever told: a Prince and a divorced, bi-racial actress. As we know, theirs is a story of long-distance love prevailing against all odds, a victory of passion and diversity over hierarchical snobbery, prejudice and racism.
Having released this teaser on the same day the Prince and Princess of Wales landed in Boston to announce the winners of the £1m Earthshot prize, Harry and Meghan are returning to a narrative begun in their explosive “tell-all” interview with Oprah Winfrey – viewed by some 17m worldwide in 2021. Netflix will be keen to pull in the same sort of audience after all the money and manpower they’ve poured into the project. The deal is reportedly worth more than $100m, though it’s assumed the pair have not yet received the sum in full.
What can we expect? “Past behaviour is indicative of future behaviour”, a psychotherapist once told me, something I’ve never forgotten. While this documentary shows life after “Megxit” – the couple’s decision to give up dreary, damp old Blighty for coastal California and celebrity status – familiar themes will be revisited.
First and foremost, both Harry and Meghan will speak their “truth”. “When the stakes are this high, doesn’t it make more sense to hear our story from us?” asks Meghan in one scene. As we’ve heard in her Spotify podcast series Archetypes with Meghan, Meghan loves to make these sorts of sweeping statements, so expect similar scripted soundbites.
Secondly, Meghan, has Catherine in her sights. It’s hard to find a bad photograph of the Princess of Wales, but in the trailer we see a rather solemn (sour-looking) Catherine. Expect a rehash of the pre-wedding drama (Meghan claims Catherine made her cry), and the lament that the British press has always been more sympathetic and lenient towards Catherine than Meghan. But for years Catherine endured digs at her social-climbing mother, workshy track record, bad shoes and conservative clothing choices – not forgetting the “Waity Katy” years.
Meanwhile, Harry is keen to portray himself as his mother’s natural heir – a “Prince of Hearts”, who is not only a hands-on dad, but an empathetic and enlightened leader, cognisant not only of his own mental health but that of others, a disciple of the power of therapy.
Thirdly, we can expect cameo appearances by carefully chosen friends. Will Misha Nonoo discuss her collaboration with Meghan on the Smart Works capsule collection (sold at Marks & Spencer)? Will Edward Enninful speak about the “Force of Change” issue of UK Vogue Meghan guest edited in February 2020? Designers Clare Waight Keller and Stella McCartney may be interviewed. Meghan chose Waight Keller to design her wedding dress and McCartney to create her gorgeous reception outfit.
As for celebrities, it’s a given that their friend and neighbour Oprah Winfrey will be included. Veteran socio-political activist Gloria Steinem, tennis superstar Serena Williams and TV personality and presenter Gayle King, all members of the couple’s inner circle, may be involved, as may her former BFF and stylist Jessica Mulroney. Not forgetting all those other more recent friends whom Harry and Meghan invited to their wedding in 2018. Will Amal and George Clooney, the Beckhams, or Idris Elba lend their support to Team Sussex?
As for royal inclusions, it’s likely some of Harry’s cousins will participate. Princess Eugenie and her husband, Jack Brooksbank, are known to have visited Harry and Meghan at their home in Montecito, while Zara and Mike Tindall attended Lilibet’s birthday when the couple returned for the Queen’s Jubilee earlier this year.
Naturally, Doria Ragland, Meghan’s mother, will fulfil the role of doting grandmother and sage counsellor. No other members of Meghan’s family are likely to participate (they allege they’ve been ghosted).
Like any good rom com, there will be plenty of cheese: Harry playing the guitar; Meghan reading The Bench; Harry goofing about with recently discredited James Corden; the children romping in the garden; their spontaneity on royal walkabouts; and the couple’s natural affinity with world leaders.
Most importantly, they will also discuss their “special relationship” with the late Queen and how devastated they are by her death. Some might see this as ironic, given the ulterior motive of this documentary: to highlight the alleged structural racism within the British monarchy. At one point, a grim-faced Harry says, “I had to do everything to protect my family.”
This subject was reinforced in a social gaffe by Lady Susan Hussey, an 83-year-old former lady-in-waiting at a Buck House reception last week. Lady Hussey spoke to charity worker Ngozi Fulani who complained afterwards about the “overt racism” of said dialogue. Fortuitously, this coincides with a book Meghan is penning on the subject: Racism and the British Monarchy: A Meghan Markle Reader, co-edited by Professor Duchess Harris and Julie Schietert Collazo.
Like any good rom com, there’s a happy ending. In little over two years the couple have accomplished their goal to be feted as global humanitarians. They will collect a “Ripple of Hope” human rights award from Kerry Kennedy, daughter of US politician Bobby Kennedy, at a ceremony in New York on Tuesday, December 6, hosted by actor Alec Baldwin. Kennedy has applauded Harry and Meghan’s “heroic stance” against the structural racism of the royal family. The award, she says, is: “In recognition of their work on racial justice, mental health and many other social impact initiatives through the Archwell Foundation”.
This week, expect yards of media coverage plus tweets from author Omar Scobie, the Sussexes’ official spokesman. He, like their supporters, will see this as a victory lap for the Sussexes after the turmoil, trauma and tears (all recorded on camera) over the last few years.
However, their haste – barely three months after the Queen’s death – to traduce the family and organisation that has financially supported and nurtured their charity initiatives, may be seen by some as unseemly, to say the least, especially at a time of “peace and goodwill to all men” (bar the Windsors, palace insiders and Thomas Markle). Markle, convalescing after a stroke, has received no visit from his daughter or son-in-law as the couple criss-cross the US and Europe in limousines and private jets to offer hope, help and consolation to the sick, deprived, injured, grieving, homeless and abused.
It seems there will be no Christmas ceasefire in, or respite from, this royal saga, which is set to continue in the new year when Harry publishes his memoir Spare on January 10.
Need to Know: The first part of Harry & Meghan, will be released by Netflix on December 8, the second part will be released on December 15. It is directed by two-time Academy Award–nominated and Emmy-winning director Liz Garbus, with executive producers Erica Sashin, Mark Monroe, Dan Cogan, Ben Browning, Chanel Pysnik, Jon Bardin, Mala Chapple and Angus Wall; www.netflix.com. Images courtesy of Netflix.
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