The Duke and Duchess of Sussex’s Netflix docuseries is sparking controversy before it has even aired.
Harry and Meghan faced shouts of “Are you putting money before family?” and “Are you harming your family Harry?” from the media in New York as they posed for photographs on the red carpet at an awards gala.
The duke brushed off the remarks, saying: “So many questions”, just hours before the tell-all “Harry & Meghan” series is released by the streaming giant on Thursday.
Any claims, criticisms and bombshells the Sussexes make in their six part series will face intense scrutiny and challenge in the British press, but what issues are they expected to raise and what questions could be left lingering?
In the trailer for the series, Harry speaks of a “dirty game” and the “leaking” and “planting of stories”.
The duke’s turbulent relationship with the press and distrust of the media has long been documented.
His mother Diana, Princess of Wales died in a car crash while being chased by the paparazzi, and Harry has been open about his fears his wife was “falling victim to the same powerful forces”.
Soon after he began dating the then Suits actress Meghan, Harry attacked the media over its “abuse and harassment” of his girlfriend.
“This is not a game – it is her life,” Kensington Palace warned on his behalf.
In 2019, he blasted certain sections of the media for what he called a “ruthless campaign” against Meghan.
But trailers for the Netflix show appeared to use footage of the press filming events unrelated to the couple to depict them being hounded by paparazzi.
Meghan has faced allegations she bullied Palace staff, with the story published in March 2021 just days before the Sussexes’ Oprah Winfrey interview was aired.
Buckingham Palace said it was “very concerned” and began an investigation into claims in The Times that the duchess drove out two personal assistants and “humiliated” staff, leaving them in tears, which she denies.
Jason Knauf, the Sussexes’ then communications secretary, made the bullying complaint in October 2018 in an apparent attempt to force the Palace to protect staff.
The Times’ royal correspondent Valentine Low wrote in his book Courtiers how Harry and Meghan’s team referred to themselves as the “Sussex Survivors’ Club”.
The investigation into the handling of the claims has never been published.
Private snapshots of the Sussexes kissing while Meghan sits on a kitchen island, as newlyweds dancing with joy at their evening wedding do, cuddling in a photobooth and Meghan cradling her bump while pregnant feature in the trailers.
The series will detail the “clandestine” early days of the pair’s relationship, before sharing “the other side of their high-profile love story” and the “challenges that led to them feeling forced to step back from their full-time roles in the institution”.
Meghan is seen snapping her fingers and saying “and then”, with Harry adding: “Everything changed”.
Will Harry shed more light on his rift with his brother the Prince of Wales or cause further damage?
The duke told Oprah he loved William, but their relationship “was space” and they were on different paths.
He also suggested William and his father Charles were “trapped” in the system, saying: “They don’t get to leave.”
Broadcaster Tom Bradby, a friend of Harry’s, has said the fallout began at the time of the Sussexes’ wedding.
“Really damaging things were said and done. The atmosphere soured hard and early, but few meaningful attempts were made by anyone to heal the wounds,” Bradby said.
The Finding Freedom biography of the Sussexes by Omid Scobie and Carolyn Durand claimed Harry was angered by what he perceived as his brother’s “snobbish” attitude to Meghan after William advised him “take as much time as you need to get to know this girl”.
Meghan told Oprah that Kate, now the Princess of Wales, made her cry ahead of her wedding at a flower girl dress fitting – not the other way round as had been reported.
She added that the false reports were a turning point, and “everyone in the institution knew that wasn’t true” but it was not corrected.
Royal watchers will be waiting to see if Kate faces further criticism from Meghan, with teaser footage including an image of Kate looking stony-faced at the Commonwealth Day service in 2019, when Meghan was pregnant with Archie.
The Finding Freedom book accused Kate of not reaching out to Meghan to help her settle into royal life and of snubbing her sister-in-law at the Sussexes’ final public royal engagement in 2020.
The Sussexes denied co-operating with the authors.
But court documents from Meghan’s legal action against the Mail on Sunday’s publisher revealed she allowed an unnamed individual to speak to the book’s writers to prevent “further misinformation” about her relationship with her father.
Harry told Oprah he felt let down by Charles, now the King, and that “there’s a lot of hurt that’s happened”.
The duke said: “I feel really let down because he’s been through something similar, he knows what pain feels like, (and) Archie’s his grandson.
Harry said his father stopped taking his calls and his family “literally cut me off financially” in the first quarter of 2020 and he went for the Netflix and Spotify deals to pay for his security.
But Clarence House later said that Charles carried on supporting the duke and duchess with a “substantial sum” until summer 2020.
The duke has since lambasted Charles’s skills as father, criticising him for expecting his sons to endure the pressures of royal life, and suggesting his parenting left him with “genetic pain and suffering”.
Harry’s stepmother Camilla is now Her Majesty and a Queen at the King’s side, and will be crowned at his coronation.
Any criticism of the Queen Consort would be likely to do considerable damage to Harry’s relationship with his father.
The duke is also preparing to publish his own memoir, due out in January, entitled Spare, leaving the royal family fearing further revelations.
Will Harry and Meghan unmask the unnamed royal they accused of making a racist remark about her son Archie before he was born or make further accusations of racism against the monarchy?
Meghan said, when she was pregnant with Archie, a member of the royal family – not the Queen nor the Duke of Edinburgh – raised “concerns and conversations about how dark his skin might be when he’s born”.
Buckingham Palace released a statement on behalf of the Queen saying: “Some recollections may vary”.
Meghan also suggested Archie was not made a prince because of his race – even though rules set by George V meant Archie was not entitled to be one at that time.
Archie is entitled to be a prince now his grandfather is King, but it has not been clarified whether he will use the title.
The royal family was embroiled in a race row once again last week when the Queen’s former lady in waiting and William’s godmother repeatedly asked a prominent black domestic violence campaigner “where she really came from” at a royal reception.
– Mental health
Harry and Meghan have accused the institution of failing to help a suicidal Meghan, but will they shed further light on the matter and who they claim failed to help them?
Meghan said she went to “one of the most senior people” and sent emails and begged for help and people said “Yes, yes, it’s disproportionately terrible… but nothing was ever done”.
Harry has also told of his own struggles in the past, saying he turned to drink and drugs as he tried to deal with the trauma of his mother’s death later in life.
– The late Queen
The Sussexes returned to the UK for the Queen’s funeral in September, but will they speak about their experience and their dealings with the royal family during the time of grief?
In their Oprah interview, the couple were careful to praise Harry’s grandmother.
In one trailer, Harry talks of the “pain and suffering” of women marrying into the royal family, accompanied by footage of his mother Diana, Princess of Wales and Kate surrounded by photographers.
– Meghan’s family
Meghan has been estranged from her father Thomas Markle since he was caught staging paparazzi photographs ahead of her wedding.
The topic was not a major focus of the Oprah interview, but will Meghan open up about her family rift?
There is also speculation her mother Doria Ragland could make an appearance in the series in support of her daughter.