The final episodes of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s Netflix series have been released, the couple chronicling their lives in both the lead-up to and aftermath of their spectacular royal wedding in 2018. Detailing the months ahead of the nuptials, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex discuss the intense media attention on the couple, something that continued throughout their time as working royals. Both Harry and Meghan saw great popularity in the early days of their official roles, with many seeing the young couple as the symbol of a modernising monarchy. Now, the pair have claimed their popularity may have been the beginning of their downfall, with Harry suggesting that they — the “supporting act” — were “stealing the limelight” from other senior royals, or even “doing the job better”.
He said: “The issue is when someone who’s marrying in, who should be a supporting act, is then stealing the limelight or is doing the job better than the person who is born to do this. That upsets people. It shifts the balance because you’ve been led to believe that the only way that your charities can succeed and the only way that your reputation can be grown or improved is if you’re on the front page of those newspapers.”
The couple went on to explain that Meghan was being chosen as the face for the front page, rather than the likes of the late Queen Elizabeth II and Kate, Princess of Wales. Later, Harry goes on to describe a briefing war which saw royal households be pitted against each other in a bid to protect certain royals.
“It was already clear to the media that the palace wasn’t going to protect her. Once that happens, the floodgates open,” Harry said.
Speaking about the circumstances surrounding their exit in 2020, Harry said: “There was no other option,” explaining he had no say in a joint statement issued by him and his brother which rebuked claims of Prince William bullying the Sussexes out of the Royal Family, and saying: “No one had asked me permission to put my name to a statement like that. And I rang M and I told her, and she burst into floods of tears, because within four hours, they were happy to lie to protect my brother, and yet for three years, they were never willing to tell the truth to protect us.”
Writing for Vanity Fair this week, she said: “In fact, one of the only times the brothers fell out, before their terrible recent rift which has divided the Royal Family, was back in 2002 when Harry was caught underage drinking at a Gloucestershire pub and smoking cannabis at Highgrove.
“William was also at the pub with his brother while he was drinking heavily, but unlike Harry, William’s name wasn’t splashed over the tabloids. Aides working for King Charles at the time were locked in damage limitation meetings with the News of the World, which broke the story, and it was agreed that Harry would accompany his father to a drug rehabilitation centre to minimize the damage to his and his father’s reputation.”
Ms Nicholl also explains in her book, William and Harry: Behind Palace Walls, how the episode led to the “first major falling out between the brothers”.
She wrote: “According to one former Palace aide, Harry resented taking the blame while William got away scot-free, even though William had been the one to introduce Harry to the pub. According to the aide: ‘The Palace had to be seen to protect Charles and William so it was Harry who took the stick.’
“Harry refused to speak to his brother and they only made the peace when Charles’s spin doctor at the time, Mark Bolland, took William to Eton to smooth things over. Said a former aide: ‘William felt guilty that his brother had taken all the blame while he came out as Mr Goody Two Shoes. For the first time, their relationship really suffered and they barely spoke…In the end, Harry forgave William but it took some time.’”
This was 10 years before the brothers’ very public rift. For several years now, their relationship has been strained, with some pointing to Meghan’s arrival as the starting point, but others claiming it dates back further.
Their relationship is now back in the spotlight as the Sussexes share rare insight into their “side of the story”, detailing where it all went wrong in the six-part documentary series.
Harry has spoken about his brother, both indirectly and directly, criticised the treatment of women in the Royal Family, discussed the monarchial hierarchy, and slammed the Palace’s prioritising certain royals.
It has been reported that neither William nor his wife will be watching the documentary series, instead choosing to carry on with business as usual. The Royal Family have not publicly addressed any claims made by the Sussexes during the show.
In light if the series, commentators have speculated whether there is any hope for the Harry and William the rekindle their familial bond.
Ms Nicholl wrote: “For Harry, perhaps a lifetime of being ‘the spare’ and what he perceives as being the fall guy has finally taken its toll. For now, his relationship with his brother is at an all-time low.
“How far Harry goes in the coming episodes and his forthcoming autobiography Spare will determine whether there is any chance of the brothers ever being close again.”