The new royal war is not only on, it’s intense
How to sum up the world of the royal family this weekend? Easy. Everyone has lost their freaking minds.
As the trailer for their six-part Netflix documentary Harry & Meghan heralded this week, the war between Prince Harry, Meghan Markle and Buckingham Palace has roared back into crazy life.
The palace—presumably smarting that Prince William and Kate Middleton’s trip to Boston was derailed first by the Lady Susan Hussey racism controversy and then by the trailer release—is already set on a much more aggressive stance than its defensive crouch after the couple’s 2021 Oprah interview, and the explosive accusation an unnamed senior member of the royal family questioned the skin color of Harry and Meghan’s then-unborn child—and didn’t support Meghan as she contemplated suicide.
Prince William and Kate Middleton have reportedly indicated they will fight back against what they see as any unfounded claims Harry and Meghan make—with their team getting ready to watch the first episodes of the series when they are released on what may be Thursday of this week. A source tells the Sunday Express: “The Prince and Princesses’ team will wait to see what’s in the Netflix series before deciding what to do, but you can see the direction of travel.” For William, Harry and Meghan’s sabotaging of his and Kate’s U.S. trip was seen as a “declaration of war.”
On Tuesday—almost a week after one of the longest serving palace aides, Lady Hussey repeatedly asked Black British charity boss Ngozi Fulani where she was from—Harry and Meghan themselves will receive Robert F. Kennedy Ripple of Hope award at a gala in New York City for confronting “structural racism” in the royal family. Hussey resigned, and William condemned her behavior, but what that behavior appears to symbolize gives extra weight to Harry and Meghan’s own claims of the prejudice they claim Meghan faced within the household.
The palace is rolling its eyes in a dismissive fashion already over the content of the Netflix documentary, while some tabloids insist they should be very worried. The Sun on Sunday reports: “Some of the comments made by Harry and Meghan are fiery. If aired, they will be absolutely explosive. The topic of racism is discussed—plus claims that some royals opposed the marriage. The whole TV project is very driven by Meghan.
“The narrative is that Harry had to be removed from his family, in which he felt neglected. Mental health features too, and discussion about Harry having therapy over the loss of his mother and his father’s relationship with Camilla.”
The Mirror quotes a source “in contact with a Netflix production insider.” They said: “I genuinely think it’s going to be worse than the royals can imagine. I’m told that it’s going to be utterly explosive and will be very damaging… A lot of people are either pro-Sussex or pro-William and Kate, but there’s a belief that this documentary will bring people onside with Harry and Meghan.
“The big question is that, whatever the revelations are, who will people side with after seeing the show. It has that feeling like the public will have to choose. Whatever comes out, some people will think that Harry is betraying his family and that it’s unforgiveable. But if what finally airs is as seismic as we’re led to believe then it may be good for the Sussexes.”
In Harry and Meghan’s sights in the documentary, the Sunday Telegraph says, are “the media, the institution and to some extent the U.K. public, with an examination of its culture and the ‘state of the British Commonwealth today.’” Meghan’s mom, Doria Ragland, may make her first public appearance, the paper says.
Sources tell the paper it will “explain to a new audience why the couple believed leaving the working Royal family and Britain was their ‘only choice.’ Their supporters hope viewers, particularly their key new US audience, will ‘come away with empathy for them’ and an understanding of a ‘new context to their departure.”
Royals ‘weary’ over ‘ugly, malicious, pathetic’ Sussexes
The pre-transmission pushback aimed at Harry and Meghan is relentless in the British Sunday newspapers. The timing of Harry and Meghan’s detonated publicity bombs as Prince William and Kate Middleton tried to smile and handshake their way around Boston was “ugly, malicious and pathetic,” a royal source tells the Sunday Times. Another royal source said: “They really didn’t need to drop the trailer in the middle of the visit.”
“The timing is totally deliberate, everything is so predictable,” one friend tells the Sunday Telegraph. The paper reports the palace reaction was closer to amusement than fury. “None of this is a surprise. There’s no subtlety.”
Their source may be right that when it comes to who backs William and Kate, and who backs Harry and Meghan, “People have already taken sides, there aren’t many left that are persuadable.” And again, here comes the jab: “As far as I can tell, only one couple is actively trying to persuade them while the other is getting on with their working program with no drama.”
“No one sees what’s happening behind closed doors. I had to do everything I could to protect my family,” Harry says in the trailer. “When the stakes are this high, doesn’t it make more sense to hear our story from us?” adds Meghan. A royal source told the Times: “The timing! That last line! So Hollywood.”
Meanwhile, royal sources tell the Telegraph that any bombshells are “very wearying,” with the palace hoping not to have to “engage” directly with any claims made about the royals. This implies that the palace won’t respond to anything, and that they are taking a position of lofty disdain when it comes to all matters Sussex.
“It’s the law of diminishing returns,” one source told the Telegraph. “What more is there possibly left to say?” Another said the show would be “Oprah Plus. Oprah with more crying… They’re going to go over a lot of the same points. It will feel more dramatic and they’ll have to up the ante but in terms of narrative points, there can’t be anything left. If she [Meghan] has saved anything from the Oprah interview, I can’t imagine what it is.”
However, another palace insider says, “Everyone would prefer it didn’t exist.”
“For a couple who moved to America in search of privacy, they do seem rather in the spotlight,” another “exasperated” palace insider says.
Which seems to imply that while they’re acting oh-so-above-it-all, royal sources are still—as the Brits would say—bricking it as they wait to see what Harry and Meghan will spill.
Another story in the Telegraph features palace sources suggesting Meghan and Harry did not seek proper permission to have a photographer in Buckingham Palace—the access evident in one of the stills seen in the trailer which sees the couple approach one of the palace’s exits. The pictures were thought to have been taken in March 2020, in what became known as their “farewell tour.”
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Documentary may pit Kate against Meghan
The documentary may pit Kate and Meghan against each other, the Telegraph reports, comparing the different ways the media treated both women. Interviewees may “expand on Prince Harry's previous claims of an ‘invisible contract’ between the palace and press, under which the Sussexes felt undefended.”
The palace is already dismissing this. “People are now acting like the Princess (Kate) has never had any bad press,” one source told the Telegraph. “That, and the idea that Meghan wasn’t defended, is simply not true.”
One royal source talking to the Telegraph even defends the press from Harry and Meghan’s expected criticism. This is kind of hilarious, as if there’s one thing all royals have in common is a shared loathing of the media.
“Was the coverage that bad? No, it was glowing,” the source said. “Meghan had great press, until real things happened: staff started leaving, her father started waging war. There might have been a bit of sexist woman-vs-woman stuff, but what is the Princess [of Wales, i.e. Kate] meant to do about that?”
The trailer was one of a few publicity salvos this week from Montecito, also including an Invictus Games video and pictures of Meghan at a female empowerment event. In Boston, William and Kate were determined to ignore all the publicity-sabotage of Harry and Meghan. “We won’t be distracted by other things this week,” William’s spokesperson said. The message: “They’re just not engaging.”
Also, as The Daily Beast noted Friday, William and Kate are happy to be seen as solid and boring in their work. “I think they’re so paranoid about ensuring everything is foot-forward and moving past the last disastrous Caribbean tour, they don’t want to take any risks,” one source told the Sunday Times.
This is a more “serious phase” for the couple, apparently. Another royal source told the Times: “They are now edging into that middle-aged era, and what their team call their ‘box office power’ is different to what it was ten years ago. With the Sussexes, they are up against a highly motivated, highly polished machine that exists for the sole reason to be a brand first, last and always.”
Palace aides told the Times these were “challenging times” for the monarchy, and it had been a “bruising week.”. On the incoming Netflix controversy, and whatever else may be heading their way, a source said, “We’re steeling ourselves for what’s coming in the slight spirit of tedium. It’s a curious-looking form of privacy they’ve sought.”
One royal source indicated to the Times that the palace is resigned at this point about Harry and Meghan, and the damage they could do.
“Most people will already be on one side and won’t change their minds; floating voters will probably swing towards the Sussexes. But life in the royal family is a popularity pendulum—sometimes it swings towards you, other times away from you. The smart people in it tend to operate on five to ten-year horizons, rather than make day-to-day kneejerk reactions. They know there is no value in engaging in constant counteroffensives—that doesn’t pay dividends, except to the observer watching the institution self-combust.”
How Harry and Meghan’s ‘betrayals’ hurt dying queen
Queen Elizabeth was particularly hurt by Harry and Meghan’s decision to betray the family in their interview with Oprah Winfrey, as she knew that she herself was dying of bone cancer, a report in the Daily Telegraph claims.
The respected royal correspondent Camilla Tominey writes in the paper that when the interview with Oprah screened in March 2021, the Queen was already aware “that she was on borrowed time as she began to tie up loose ends.”
The queen’s friend Gyles Brandreth recently wrote that the queen had been afflicted with bone cancer at the end of her life, which the palace has not denied.
The Royalist heard similar rumors while the queen was alive, mentioning them on August 12.
A source tells Tominey that the cancer diagnosis “made the Sussex’s behavior doubly difficult to deal with. The timing could not have been more insensitive.” Although the queen publicly described the Sussexes as, “much loved family members” in statements, behind-the-scenes she was “devastated… bewildered… (and) disappointed,” sources say.
Tominey says that Her Majesty, “repeatedly questioned” why the couple were attacking the monarchy when it had “given them so much.” The author Tom Bower previously claimed that before the funeral service for her husband, Prince Philip, the queen said, “Thank goodness Meghan isn’t coming.”
The Telegraph says that the announcement that Harry was writing a book “appalled” her with a source saying, “News of the book changed everything. It set back any hope of reconciliation because there is a limit to what you can discuss with someone you suspect is taking notes of every conversation.”
Harry and Meghan lose another senior staff member
The Sussexes don’t have the best reputation for staff retention, and this weekend comes news that Mandana Dayani, 40, formerly president of Archewell, has handed in her cards. A spokesperson for Meghan and Harry told the Mail on Sunday that the couple themselves would now “take full lead of their company.”
Dayani had been at Archewell under 18 months, the Mail said. The Sussexes have developed a reputation of being hard to work for, with their professional lives punctuated by a steady stream of staff exits. Valentine Low’s book Courtiers alleged some former staffers refer to themselves as the “Sussex survivors club.”
Harry and Meghan may choose Bradby—again
Harry is in discussions to do an interview with the British news anchor Tom Bradby—who famously asked Meghan, during their tour of Africa in 2019, “Are you ok?”—to promote his upcoming memoir, Spare. A source told the Mirror: “The publishers want Harry to promote Spare in the U.K….Tom Bradby has been close to Harry for a long time. He is someone Harry can trust.”
Bradby, who was once close to William and trusted by him to the extent that Bradby bagged his engagement interview with Kate, said last year that the brother’s feud was “difficult” for him to navigate and he felt “a little bit caught in the middle.”
This week in royal history
Thirty years ago, on December 9, 1992, then-British Prime Minister John Major announced the separation of Prince Charles and Princess Diana.
Will Harry and Meghan say anything significant when they receive the Robert F. Kennedy Ripple of Hope award at a gala in New York City on Tuesday for fighting “structural racism” in the royal family? What will they say in the first episodes of their Netflix documentary, and how will the rest of the royals respond?
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