The second half of the Prince Harry and Meghan Markle documentary turned out to be much tougher than the first

There is a moment at the end of Prince Harry and Meghan’s documentary when he is driving in Santa Barbara. Reflecting on the fact that he went there having “changed” and “transcended” his previous environment, the Prince suddenly said, “This is one of the places where I think my mother would most likely have lived.”

This final reference to Princess Diana in six hours of programming is left hanging as the prince drives along the sunny coast to his “sweet home.” But she’s perfectly placed to underscore one of the main themes of the Netflix series – that Diana’s death (and how she died) continues to play a pivotal role in how Prince Harry views the world.

Prince Harry, driving in California, at the end of the Netflix documentary.


Indeed, while Meghan is obviously more at ease opening up to the cameras during her multiple interviews and behind-the-scenes moments, it’s ultimately Harry’s story that feels like the plot. Yes, this is a love story. But this is also a story about a boy born into an institution with intense hierarchies and his relationship with an older brother who was always going to get the top job. It is mostly a story about a boy whose mother was killed while being stalked by paparazzi and the ways he has hated the media ever since.

It will come as no surprise to anyone that the media (in its many and often mixed forms but especially the British tabloids, their websites and social media) have been the villain from the outset in the documentary. But while the pair strongly define their feelings about the stories and critical commentary, the six episodes fail to reveal any new revelations about what this establishment actually did.

Harry and Megan

Harry and Meghan interviewed for the documentary.


But where it lands, at least one new blow, is to the monarchy. For that reason alone, the second half of the documentary hits much harder than the first three episodes. In a move that could change the way some people see this story, the couple provide a specific and fascinating example to explain their grievances. “I was told about a joint statement that was put out in my country and my brother’s name crushes the story of him doing bullying outside of the family,” says Harry. “No one asked me for permission to put my name in a statement like that… They were happy to lie to protect my brother.” The palace has not responded to Harry’s allegations regarding the January 2020 statement (which actually came from the Sussex family’s spokesperson at the time) and said they would not comment on the documentary at all. But this is a moment that stands out as a claim that should not be dismissed.

Elsewhere, however, Harry and Meghan offer little to back up their assertions. The prince’s claim that the stories were leaked and planted by the royal communications teams to “clear a negative story about their manager” comes and goes without much context. Some of what Harry says on this point seems to refer to what he witnessed as a child in his father’s office. But then he said he saw William’s office “copying the same thing he promised the two of us he would never do” without explaining why he believed this or what stories he believed were planted or trafficked.

Likewise, the theme explored in the documentary that the couple were ultimately targeted by a monarchy that wanted them to fail because they stole the limelight offers no evidence. This is often suggested by friends or other contributors — a device that somehow makes you feel like the couple weren’t quite ready to say it themselves. However, one wonders, how many would subscribe to the narrative that the monarchy ravaged Harry and Meghan because Meghan’s friend Lucy Fraser believed “the interiors of the palace were incredibly menacing” due to her popularity.

The claim that Prince William yelled and yelled at Harry during the so-called Sandringham summit discussing their future is disturbing but perhaps not entirely clear given the heated feelings on all sides at the time. And Harry’s suggestion that his father said things that were not true at the same meeting is largely meaningless in the absence of further explanation.

Commonwealth Day Service 2020

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle are in one of their last public engagements before stepping back from their senior royal roles in 2020.

Gareth Cattermole//Getty Images

There’s no escaping the fact that the entire program is a carefully curated presentation of how Harry and Meghan want to look. But there are a few moments in the second half where we feel like we’re getting close to witnessing their real reactions. Among them is Megan, who is waiting to know the final outcome of her legal battle with mail on sunday And Harry reads a text from his brother after meeting Oprah (but of course we can’t see what he’s saying). She’ll be hard-pressed to argue with Meghan’s assertion that “the family and the family business are in direct conflict” when Harry was banned from seeing his grandmother to discuss their plans. Elsewhere, she succinctly releases the criticism that she is responsible for the Prince’s departure, stating that he “would never have been attracted to me if he had not already been in his own way”.

There is a brief appearance by Princess Eugenie in the documentary, but the focus by the end of the six hours is that Harry’s new path has him abandoning much of his old life. He describes having “lost a few friends” in the process and the passage of time has clearly not been a remedy for his relationships with his father and brother.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the overwhelming response to the Netflix project in the British media, particularly the print media, has been negative. Accusations of attacking the Queen’s legacy were front-page news along with ongoing discussions about making money, presenting themselves as victims and violating their privacy. Globally, it’s fair to say that reviews have been mixed.

But this project has given them a huge platform to tell their side of the story, and there are likely to be people who now feel they understand their point of view a little better because of it.

Diana and Harry

Prince Harry with Princess Diana in 1987.

George de Curl//Getty Images

Megan has the final word on the chain with a poem she read on their wedding day ending with the line, “Above all things, love wins.” But the last shots are mostly of Harry. He’s on the beach in shorts and a T-shirt and turning away from the camera with a towel under his arm. We will never know, if she lived, whether or not Princess Diana would have moved to California. But if this documentary series makes you sure of one thing, it’s how central her influence is to the life of her son who now calls it home.

Harry & Meghan Preview - Official Trailer (Netflix)

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