Harry and Meghan warned to heed Prince William's words as Netflix show prepares to drop

·4-min read
LONDON, ENGLAND - APRIL 25:  Prince William, Duke of Cambridge, Meghan Markle and Prince Harry attend an Anzac Day service at Westminster Abbey on April 25, 2018 in London, England. (Photo by Eddie Mulholland - WPA Pool/Getty Images)
Harry, Meghan and William at the Anzac Day Service in 2018. Their royal paths have since diverged significantly. (Getty Images)

The first-look trailer for Harry and Meghan's Netflix documentary has arrived - and with it a storm of criticism.

Piers Morgan said it made him "retch", Daily Mail columnist Sarah Vine called it "weapons grade narcissism" and royal author Tom Bower said the Sussex's have "declared war" on the Royal Family.

Morgan tweeted: "Imagine bleating about privacy then doing a kiss-and-tell reality series about your private lives" and that he believed "if you sell your own privacy for gazillions of dollars, you abrogate your right to privacy".

While the barrage of criticism from these quarters was likely to have been expected, they was another note of caution from Victoria Arbiter, a royal commentator and daughter of the Queen's former long-standing press secretary Dickie Arbiter.

Watch: Harry & Meghan trailer

Referencing comments made by Prince William 2017, she tweeted in response to the release of the trailer: "As Prince William once said, 'One lesson I've learned is you never let [the media] in too far, because it's very difficult to get them back out again. You've got to maintain a barrier and a boundary, because if both sides cross it, a lot of pain can come from it'".

William made the comment in a documentary marking the 20th anniversary of his mother's death. Speaking about Diana's relationship with the media he said: "Most of the time she ever cried about anything it was to do with press intrusion."

He also said the way the paparazzi would chase and try and get a reaction out of Diana "was inappropriate" and that "it was an industry which lost its way quite heavily, lost its sense of decency, lost its perspective on what was appropriate".

With the Sussexes, it seems likely they believe the media crossed the line first. In the trailer, Meghan asks: "When the stakes are this high, doesn't it make more sense to hear our story from us"?

WINDSOR, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 10: Catherine, Princess of Wales, Prince William, Prince of Wales, Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex, and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex on the long Walk at Windsor Castle on September 10, 2022 in Windsor, England. Crowds have gathered and tributes left at the gates of Windsor Castle to Queen Elizabeth II, who died at Balmoral Castle on 8 September, 2022. (Photo by Kirsty O'Connor - WPA Pool/Getty Images)
Kate, William, Harry and Meghan in Windsor viewing tributes left by the public after Queen Elizabeth's death. (Getty Images)

Meghan has previously confronted accusations of hypocrisy that she claims to seek privacy while simultaneously courting the media spotlight.

Speaking to Oprah during the couple's 2021 interview, Meghan insisted the reason the couple decided to leave life as working royals was not about a desire to live an entirely private life. "I've never talked about privacy", she said, also calling it a "false narrative" created in the press.

Instead, in Meghan's words, "it's about boundaries and it's about respect".

The duchess also said there should be limits to access, despite being a public figure: "Everyone has a basic right to privacy".

She described the experience of being in the public eye as if sharing one thing meant you have to share "everything", calling it a "flawed argument and operating mechanism that [the media] are confusing people to think".

The Netflix show nonetheless makes it clear the Sussexes are treading new ground that goes against the House of Windsor's motto of "Never complain, never explain".

POUNDBURY, DORSET - OCTOBER 27:  Queen Elizabeth II tours Queen Mother Square on October 27, 2016 in Poundbury, Dorset.  (Photo by Samir Hussein/WireImage)
Queen Elizabeth, pictured in Dorset in 2016, upheld the Windsor motto of 'Never explain, never complain'. (Getty Images)

This long-held tradition of silence has in some ways served the monarchy relatively well — if they never say anything at all, they manage to not cede an inch of territory of themselves to the press.

The late Queen presented a blank public face that meant the public could often only speculate on her private opinions.

While William is reported to want to end the tradition, it's unclear how far the Prince of Wales would really want to take things. As it stands, Harry has been far more willing to break down the fourth wall between the press and the palace than he has.

Speaking to Oprah in 2021, Harry explained what he called the "invisible contract" between the press and the monarchy.

"If you as a family member are willing to wine, dine and give full access to reporters, you'll get better press", he said.

Once Harry and Meghan's documentary is released, only then will they discover if telling their side of the story in such an intimate way will really change anything.