Harry and Meghan say engagement interview was 'rehearsed' as controversial Netflix documentary airs

What have we learnt from part one of Meghan & Harry? Chris Ship rounds up the controversial documentary.

The Duchess of Sussex has claimed the time around their engagement was an "orchestrated reality show," during the release of her and the Duke of Sussex's Netflix documentary.

Amongst a series of other claims made by the couple, Meghan added their engagement interview was "rehearsed".

On Thursday, the royal family were bracing themselves for bombshells from the first volume of the Netflix series as it streams across the world.

Episode one opened with words written in white on a black background which said: “This is a first-hand account of Harry & Meghan’s story, told with never before seen personal archive.

"All interviews were completed by August 2022. Members of the royal family declined to comment on the content within this series."

But Palace sources have said that Buckingham Palace, Kensington Palace and members of the royal family were not approached for comment on the content of the Netflix series.

Within the opening minutes Harry said: "This isn’t just about our story. So much bigger than just us. No one knows the full truth.

"We know the full truth. The institution knows the full truth and the media know the full truth ‘cause they’ve been in on it. I think anyone else in my situation would have done the same thing."

The first episode also saw new pictures of Meghan and Harry's son Archie feature prominently.

Meanwhile, excerpts of Diana's Panorama interview - which Prince William said "should never be aired again" - were shown within the episode.

'No one knows the full truth. We know the full truth'

A number of claims were made by the couple within Volume One of the series. They include:

  • In reference to his choice to marry Meghan, Harry said that "for many people in the family - there can be a temptation or urge to marry someone who would fit the mold as opposed to somebody who you are perhaps destined to be with" (Episode One).

  • To this point, Harry added his mother, Princess Diana "made decisions with her heart and I am my mother’s son". (Episode One).

  • The Duke of Sussex said members of the royal family asked why the Duchess of Sussex should be "protected" when they questioned newspaper headlines about her (Episode Two).

  • The Duchess of Sussex said the media would find a way to "destroy" her "no matter how good" she was (Episode Two).

  • Meghan described the time around their engagement as an "orchestrated reality show". She said their engagement interview was "rehearsed" (Episode Three).

  • Harry said that he believes the media see his "trauma" as their story to "control". He addressed the royal rota - which is a system where media are allocated slots to cover the members of the family (Episode Three).

  • The Duke of Sussex said there is a "huge level of unconscious bias" in the royal family. He said: "In this family, sometimes you are part of the problem rather than part of the solution. There is a huge level of unconscious bias." (Episode Three).

ITV News Royal Editor Chris Ship analyses Volume One of Harry & Meghan

So where to start? Essentially, this is a story of so much promise that ended in acrimony and sadness. With family breakdowns on both sides (Harry and Meghan’s).

It’s a pretty sad situation all round.

For the first time, Meghan's mother, Doria Ragland, spoke publicly in Episode Two. She discussed Meghan being mixed-race and revealed how in hindsight she would like to have had a "real conversation about how the world sees you".

Elsewhere, in the episode Harry said he disagreed with the Palace's no-comment approach to media coverage of his wife.

He said: "But what people need to understand is that as far as a lot of the family were concerned everything she was being put through they had been put through as well.

"It was almost like a rite of passage. Some of the members of the family were like 'but my wife had to go through that, so why should your girlfriend be treated any differently… why should she be protected?'

"And I said 'the difference here is the race element'."

How has the public reacted to the documentary?

Before the end of Episode Two, Meghan revealed that friends started to question her relationship with Harry after she received a death threat.

During Episode Three, Meghan reflected on the time leading up to their wedding in May 2018, claiming "salacious" stories were "planted" by the press.

She said: "We were playing whack-a-mole. Every day it was like 'Wait, another one popped up - wait, stop, another story'.

"Constant. They were going through the woodwork and pulling out people to create and plant the most salacious stories that they could. Then it started to get scary."

Elsewhere, in the third release, Harry said he felt "so ashamed" after wearing a Nazi uniform to a private party, calling it "one of the biggest mistakes" of his life.

"I felt so ashamed afterwards. All I wanted to do was make it right," he added.

Harry’s father Charles and brother William, along with Camilla and Kate, are not expected to personally watch the series, but royal aides will be tasked with closely monitoring the output, and considering, if at all, how to respond.

The direction from the palace was ’don’t say anything’

One of the images which appeared in the trailer for the Netflix show. Credit: Duke and Duchess of Sussex/Netflix/PA

The King and the royal family will be carrying on with royal duties as normal on Thursday, with the docuseries also coinciding with the first circulation of coins bearing Charles’ effigy in post offices around the UK – symbolic of the adjustments still continuing in the wake of Queen Elizabeth II’s death.

The six-part "Harry & Meghan" show, billed as "unprecedented and in-depth", is airing exactly three months after the death of Harry’s grandmother the late Queen, with the Windsors still grieving and the King less than 100 days into his reign.

The Sussexes signed lucrative deals thought to be worth more than £100 million with Netflix and Spotify after quitting the monarchy amid the Megxit crisis as they struggled with royal life.

Chris Ship looks at what - if anything - the documentary achieved

They plunged the monarchy into crisis with their bombshell interview with Oprah Winfrey in March 2021, while the Duke of Edinburgh was in hospital.

The duke and duchess accused an unnamed member of the family of racism towards their son Archie before he was born, and the institution of failing to help the suicidal duchess.

The couple quit as senior working royals in 2020 in favour of more freedom and the ability to earn their own money in the US.

Harry said he felt let down by his father and that "there’s a lot of hurt that’s happened" in their relationship. His longstanding rift with William has continued.

The brothers fell out over what Harry perceived to be William’s “snobbish” attitude to his bride, it was claimed.

In the aftermath of the Oprah broadcast, the Queen issued a statement saying “while some recollections may vary”, the issues would be taken “very seriously”, but dealt with privately as a family.

But on a podcast and a mental health Apple TV series, Harry went on to accuse his family of “total neglect” and appeared to criticise the parenting skills of Charles and the Queen and Philip, suggesting he had suffered “genetic pain”.

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