Row ignites over whether royals given right to reply to Sussexes’ Netflix show

A row has broken out over whether the royal family and the palaces were given the right to reply to the Duke and Duchess of Sussex’s controversial Netflix show.

A senior palace source insisted Buckingham Palace, Kensington Palace and members of the family were not approached for comment on content in the series.

However, a Netflix source insisted the communications offices for the King and the Prince of Wales were contacted in advance and given the chance to react to Harry and Meghan’s claims.

Duke and Duchess of Sussex Netflix documentary
The royal family together in 2019 (PA)

Harry and Meghan’s tell-all documentary began streaming on Thursday, with Harry accusing the royals of having a “huge level of unconscious bias” and Meghan saying the media wanted to “destroy” her.

The duke also said members of his family questioned why Meghan needed more protection from the media than their wives had been given, but that they failed to grasp the “race element”.

A senior source in the royal household countered the written statement of “Members of the royal family declined to comment on the content within this series” which appeared on a black screen at the start of episode one.

Both Kensington Palace and Buckingham Palace confirmed they did receive an email purporting to be from a third-party production company from an unknown organisation’s address and attempted to verify its authenticity with Archewell Productions and Netflix, but never received a response.

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The royal family (Yui Mok/PA)

“In the absence of this verification, we were unable to provide any response. The substance of the email we received also did not address the entire series,” a source said.

In the first instalment of the six-part show, Meghan claimed “salacious stories” were “planted” in the lead-up to their wedding, with the couple “playing whack-a-mole” as the articles appeared.

The duchess also described her first meeting with the Prince and Princess of Wales, saying she was surprised at the “formality” of the royal family behind closed doors.

“I’ve always been a hugger, I didn’t realise that that is really jarring for a lot of Brits,” she said, revealing she was dressed down in ripped jeans and barefoot.

Harry said his wife being an American actress “clouded” his family’s view of her while Meghan said the media would find a way to “destroy” her “no matter how good” she was.

He also said members of his family challenged him on why Meghan should get “special treatment”, with attention from the media seen as a “rite of passage”.

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The Harry & Meghan series has aired on Thursday (Netflix/PA)

“As far as a lot of the family were concerned, everything that she was being put through, they had been put through as well,” Harry said.

“So it was almost like a rite of passage, and some of the members of the family were like ‘My wife had to go through that, so why should your girlfriend be treated any differently?’ ‘Why should you get special treatment?’ ‘Why should she be protected?’”

“And I said ‘the difference here is the race element’.”

The duke spoke of how there was a temptation in the royal family to marry someone who “fits the mould”.

Speaking in the first episode of the Netflix documentary, he said: “I think, for so many people in the family, especially obviously the men, there can be a temptation or an urge to marry someone who would fit the mould, as opposed to somebody who you perhaps are destined to be with.”

Duke and Duchess of Sussex Netflix documentary
The Duke and Duchess of Sussex’s controversial documentary has been being aired on Netflix (Jacob King/PA)

He added of his family’s response to Meghan: “The fact that I was dating an American actress was probably what clouded their judgment more than anything else at the beginning, ‘oh she’s an American actress; this won’t last’.”

He also spoke about what he called the Windsors’ “unconscious bias”.

The documentary showed images of Princess Michael of Kent wearing a Blackamoor-style brooch to a Christmas lunch attended by Meghan in 2017, for which she later apologised.

“In this family, sometimes you are part of the problem rather than part of the solution. There is a huge level of unconscious bias,” he said.

“The thing with unconscious bias, it is actually no-one’s fault. But once it has been pointed out, or identified within yourself, you then need to make it right.”

The docuseries also controversially used footage from Diana, Princess of Wales’ Panorama interview, which William insisted should never be aired again.

Duke and Duchess of Sussex Netflix documentary
Image released by Netflix of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex to mark the launch (Duke and Duchess of Sussex/Netflix/PA)

In what is perceived as criticism of the King’s parenting of Harry, the duke told of trying to cope with the loss of his mother Diana, who died in a car crash in 1997, “without much support or help or guidance”.

He also said he was “literally brought up by a “second family” in Africa, saying they were “friends who literally brought me up”.

On the aftermath of Diana’s death, Harry said: “I was trying to balance the whole experience of being a young boy who was trying to deal with the loss of his mum without much support or help or guidance. It didn’t seem right. It didn’t seem fair.”

Episode one revealed that Harry and Meghan filmed footage on their phones of their experiences at the culmination of the Megxit crisis, with the duke recording himself at Heathrow airport after his final royal public engagements as he prepared to leave the UK for the last time as a senior royal.

Harry said a friend told them they should document this particular chapter of their lives.

“With all of the misinformation that was going on out there, especially about us and the departure, it seemed like a really sensible idea,” he said.

The footage now forms part of the six-part series.

Harry and Meghan signed a lucrative deals, thought to be worth more than £100 million with Netflix and Spotify after quitting the monarchy, with the docuseries the first major output for them on the streaming giant.