The story of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle is one that we all think we know. It’s the story of the American actress who fell in love with Prince Harry, the second son of King Charles III. The couple first announced their relationship in 2016 before tying the knot in a ceremony viewed by 1.9 billion people around the world in 2018. Although the couple had originally intended to carry out royal duties and remain in London, after being hounded and harassed by the tabloid press for years, the pair decided to step back from the royal family and move to California.
Meghan and Harry later sat down with Oprah Winfrey for an in-depth interview about their experience. The couple explained that they hadn’t been supported by the royal family as the press published racist and hateful stories about Meghan.
Now, the two star in a new Netflix series about their experience. Through private photos, videos, and interviews, the docuseries delves into the toxicity of the British tabloid press, the role of the royal family, and what really went on behind the scenes. Needless to say, things got a little emotional.
When Harry recalled his holidays being filled with invasive paparazzi
From a young age, Prince Harry experienced the invasiveness of the British tabloids. Even as a child, Harry was forced to either ignore or pose for the paparazzi. "Paparazzi used to harass us to the point where we had to be forced into smiling and answering questions to the traveling press pack," said Harry. "And that made me feel really uncomfortable from the get-go." We then see Harry and other young royals posing for the press during a ski holiday — not exactly what most kids would want to be doing!
"My mum did such a good job trying to protect us," said Harry. "She took it upon herself to basically confront these people." We then see a shot of Princess Diana approaching a member of the press, putting her hand in front of the lens and saying, "Excuse me, as a parent could I ask you to respect my children’s space, because I brought the children out here for a holiday and we’d really appreciate the space … as a parent I want to protect the children."
It’s horrible to see the impact of the paparazzi on Harry’s childhood, because it seems they really were always there, watching and waiting.
When Harry recounted his mother’s death
Prince Harry faced tragedy early in his life when his mother, Princess Diana, died in a car accident while being chased by paparazzi in Paris. As Harry explained, his mother’s life changed when she and Prince (now King) Charles separated. "My mum was harassed throughout her life with my dad," said Harry. "But after they separated, the harassment went to new levels." Suddenly, she was unprotected from the ruthless British press. While members of the royal family are given some security and protection, those outside of it, Harry implied, are on their own.
After his mother’s death, Harry and his brother, Prince William, were suddenly thrust even further into the spotlight. "The U.K. literally swept me and William up as their children. An expectation to see myself and William and I out and about was really hard for the two of us," said Harry. We then see the famous clip of Harry walking behind Diana’s coffin.
It was heartbreaking to see how the young William and Harry were given no room to grieve. Instead, they were hounded by the press — just like their mother before them.
When Meghan opened up about racism faced by her mother and by herself in the press
In the second episode of "Harry & Meghan," Meghan Markle opened up about how the press attacked her and her mother early in her relationship with Harry. As Meghan explained, she had to confront racism from a young age. When she was still in school, she once heard a woman call her mother the N-word.
Nevertheless, Meghan wasn’t prepared for how racist the British press would be when her relationship with Prince Harry was announced. "I genuinely didn’t think about," Meghan said. And Harry explained that he was also unprepared. "Within that first week that it became public knowledge, the first story was ‘Harry’s new girl is (almost) straight outta Compton,’" Harry recalled. "And I was like, ‘Whoa.’"
Even though the British press was publishing horrifically racist headlines, Harry and Meghan were powerless, and were told to say nothing. In fact, as Harry explained, most of the family saw what Meghan was going through as a "rite of passage" that everyone in the royal family’s circle went through. What they didn’t understand, he said, was the racial element.
When Harry and Meghan spoke about being children of divorce
Even though Prince Harry and Meghan Markle had vastly different childhoods, there was one common theme — divorce. Both experienced their parents’ separation. As the documentary revealed, the impact was huge on both of them. Things got particularly emotional when Meghan recalled a poem she wrote for a school assignment.
"When I was 12, I was at Immaculate Heart [her school] and one of the assignments was to write a poem about your life," Meghan said. "And I remember this poem to this day." Meghan went on to recite the heartbreaking poem to the camera: "Two houses, two homes, two kitchens, two phones, two couches where I lay, two places that I stay, Moving, moving, here and there from Monday to Friday I’m everywhere. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not that bad, but oftentimes it makes me sad. I want to live that nuclear life, with a happy dad and his smiling wife, a picket fence, a shaggy dog, a fireplace with a burning log, but it’s not real, it’s just a dream, I cannot cry or even scream, so here i sit with cat number three, life would be easier if there were two of me."
That poem definitely paints a picture of how hard life was for the young Meghan, who split her time between two families.
When Meghan’s friends described her perfect life in Toronto before she met Harry
What makes Meghan Markle’s story particularly tragic is the fact that before she was thrust into the tabloid spotlight, her life was, well … pretty much perfect. She had a close circle of friends, a vibrant acting career, a growing online business, The Tig, and a burgeoning career as an activist and writer.
"I feel like Toronto is kind of a safe haven for actors who are working in the city," said her former personal assistant, Chantelle Humphrey. While Meghan was often recognized for her acting work, she said, she was never threatened or imposed upon. Instead, she lived a happy, normal life. "She had so much freedom," said Humphrey. "She had such a beautiful life before everything exploded." Looking back, it’s definitely painful to see what Meghan lost by marrying into the royal family.
When Meghan Markle was stalked by the press in Toronto
Meghan Markle’s blissful life in Toronto fell apart as soon as everyone found out about her relationship with Prince Harry. "My face was everywhere, my life was everywhere," Meghan said, describing the time after she and Harry announced their relationship. And it only got worse and worse. Soon the British press had arrived in Toronto to try to get pictures of Meghan on the streets or on the set of "Suits."
"It really did take a dark turn quickly," said one of Meghan’s friends. Soon, the paparazzi were trying to buy call sheets to find out where and when she’d be at work. "They’d get these really long lenses and, like, hide on hills so they could get a view of her. There were people breaking into the area where the trailers are and trying to get pictures of her coming in and out of her trailer. It started to feel a little bit dangerous for her."
When Meghan tried to seek out help from the royal family and the Toronto police, neither seemed to be able to offer any support. In fact, the police even said she’d simply have to deal with it because of "who she was dating." Eventually, Meghan received a death threat and was finally given her own security detail. It’s hard to imagine how scary and isolating that time must have been for Meghan.
When Harry proposed to Meghan
Not all of the emotional moments in Netflix’s "Meghan & Harry" are sad. In fact, some of the early moments between the royal couple seemed to be utterly joyful. In fact, it was like something out of a rom-com.
"From my perspective, I fell head over heels in love with her," Harry gushed. "Because my heart told me that she was the one that I was going to spend the rest of my life with." Harry then recalled how he proposed. It happened in 2017 after Harry had asked permission from his grandmother, the queen. The proposal itself was pretty low key — Harry popped the question after a quiet dinner at home. "Of course I got down on one knee," said Harry.
"I was just like, ‘Yes!’ We were so joyful and excited," added Meghan. "I was like, ‘Ugh, we’re doing this!’" It’s hard not to watch the couple recount the magical moment when Harry got down on one knee without getting emotional — after all, at the time, it seemed like something out of a fairy tale. And it’s even sadder to watch the proposal knowing what happened to the couple next.
When we learned about the impact of the royal family’s invisible contract with the press
In the third episode of Netflix’s "Harry & Meghan," the royal couple began to open up about just how toxic the relationship between the royal family and the British press really is. As they explained, there is an "invisible contract" between the two institutions that essentially relies on the royals "performing" for the press so that the press get the content they need, and the royals get the publicity they need.
However, when it came to Harry and Meghan, this contract really took its toll. As James Holt, the executive director of Archewell, Harry and Meghan’s foundation, said, "You have to ‘perform’ for the press or they’ll publish horrible things about you." He added, "Imagine all of these people that have published horrible things about you, horrible things about your family, horribly things about your mother, you’ve got to perform for them. It’s a real cutthroat business. And with Meghan there was no limit." It’s pretty clear that the press was willing to publish just about anything about the princess-to-be, and it’s emotional to watch it happening in real-time as the documentary unfolds.
When Meghan talked about her half-sister, Samantha, selling lies to the press
Things got even harder for Meghan Markle after Prince Harry proposed. As the wedding neared, the tabloids were desperate to get their hands on as many exclusive stories as possible. So, they started contacting her friends and family. While most of Meghan’s circle refused to engage with the press, a few were tempted by the massive payouts. One of these people was Samantha, Meghan’s half-sister on her father’s side, who is 17 years older than Meghan.
Stories began to come out quoting Samantha as saying that she had raised Meghan for 12 years, and that she now called her "Princess Pushy." For Meghan, seeing Samantha supposedly selling these fabrications to the press was devastating. "I wanted a sister," she said sadly.
The whole incident even led to Samantha becoming estranged from her own daughter, Ashleigh. Meghan and Ashleigh had been close prior to Meghan meeting Harry. Apparently, after the engagement, Samantha tried to turn her daughter against Meghan. "What was communicated to me was maybe some resentment," Ashleigh said in the docuseries. "And it felt like no matter what I said, you know, her perspective didn’t change … we stopped talking. There’s some people you just can’t reason with."
When Harry spoke up about his unconscious bias
As the docuseries makes very clear, Prince Harry has always done his best to support Meghan Markle, especially when she has been faced with racist scrutiny from the press. However, he hasn’t always been without fault. As he explained, like any member of the British elite, he was raised in an environment where unconscious bias led to certain racist tendencies. "It’s a constant work in progress for everybody including me," said Harry.
He then went on to recall a particularly bad moment from his past when he donned a Nazi uniform at a fancy dress party. "It was one of the biggest mistakes of my life," said Harry somberly. "I felt so ashamed afterwards." He then explained how he tried to learn from the mistake and grow, going to Berlin and speaking to a Holocaust survivor.
When Meghan explained how she couldn’t invite her niece to the wedding
In the lead up to the wedding, things were getting more and more intense for the royal couple. The press had ramped up their scrutiny of Meghan Markle and security was on high alert, even being instructed to shoot and kill anyone who tried to disrupt the wedding. Naturally, it was more than a little overwhelming for the princess-to-be. "Inside, I was just turtling," Meghan said, explaining that she was closing in on herself.
"Communication with Meg became less and less frequent," said her niece Ashleigh, daughter of Meghan’s half-sister Samantha. "My impression was that her relationships were being managed on some level." At the time, Meghan explained, there was just one press person for the four younger royals. Meghan was trying to find a way to invite Ashleigh to the wedding without inviting Ashleigh’s mother, Samantha, who had been selling stories about Meghan to the press.
"I don’t think anyone understands what that very small comms team was dealing with," said Meghan. "They just couldn’t wrap their heads around, how do we explain that her half-sister isn’t invited to the wedding but that the half-sister’s daughter is?" She was told not to invite Ashleigh to the wedding. Meghan had to call her and explain why she couldn’t come. "And that’s painful," Meghan said.
"I think I was hurt on some level but I understood where it was coming from," said Ashleigh.
When Meghan recalled the story about her father getting paid by the press
Just days before Meghan Markle and Prince Harry’s wedding, rumors spread that her father, Tom, was accepting money from the press to stage photos. For Meghan, it was an extremely emotional time, as he was due to meet Harry for the first time and walk her down the aisle — and then it all fell apart.
Meghan recounted how she called her father to ask him whether or not it was true: "It felt really cagey." Even though he denied the rumor, Meghan had her doubts. "I looked at H and I was like, ‘I don’t know why but I don’t believe him.’"
"I was absolutely stunned that Tom would be a part of this circus," added Doria, Meghan’s mother. Things got even worse when Tom stopped answering Meghan’s calls and instead started speaking to TMZ. "I’m finding out that you’re coming to our wedding through a tabloid," Meghan said. "And then suddenly they were saying he was in the hospital." Meghan couldn’t reach her father — then, she became convinced someone else was texting from his phone.
"It’s incredibly sad what happened," said Harry. "She had a father before this, and now she doesn’t have a father and I shouldered that because if Meg wasn’t with me, then her dad would still be her dad."