“So many questions,” replied the Duke of Sussex, as representatives of the media shouted “Are you harming your family, Harry?” and “Are you putting money before family?” while he and the Duchess of Sussex attended a New York charity gala hosted by Alec Baldwin on Tuesday.
As Netflix prepares to stream Volume I of its Harry & Meghan tell-all docuseries on Thursday, two explosive pre-release trailers have already aired none-too-subtle hints at potential bombshells contained within the series, and provoked questions of their own.
Who is Harry accusing when he references “a hierarchy of the family … there’s leaking, but there’s also planting of stories”?
What pivotal moment are the couple remarking upon when Meghan snaps her fingers, saying “And then…”, and Harry completes the sentence saying: “everything changed”?
Harry’s reference to “The pain and suffering of women marrying into this family, this feeding frenzy” – and how, as he prepared to wed Meghan, he felt “terrified” and “didn’t want history to repeat itself” – is bound to provoke comparisons with the experience of his mother, Diana, Princess of Wales.
And then there is his ominous-sounding statement: “No one knows the full truth. We know the full truth.”
None of it appears to bode well for the Royals of Buckingham Palace, who, by remarkable coincidence, were out in glittering force, freighted with tiaras, at a white-tie diplomatic reception at the palace, just as the Sussexes were being feted at the black tie Ripple of Hope New York gala for their activism on racial justice and mental health.
The King, the Queen Consort and the Prince and Princess of Wales may have been all smiles in public, but it seems unlikely they are not braced for further provocative and damaging claims arising from the docuseries.
Judging from previous projects by Liz Garbus, the Oscar-nominated director behind the Netflix series, they would be foolish not to be nervous. Garbus is known for her critically acclaimed exposes and for documenting the stories of “survivors”, which is exactly how the Sussexes have defined themselves.
Her notable titles include The Farm: Angola; USA; Bobby Fischer Against the World; Love, Marilyn and the twice Academy Award-nominated What Happened, Miss Simone?, about the troubled life of jazz singer Nina Simone.
We do know that the docuseries, titled Harry & Meghan, will explore race, with tech entrepreneur Christopher Bouzy, of Bot Sentinel, explicitly saying in the trailer: “it’s about hatred, it’s about race.” But who or what is Meghan’s lawyer, Jenny Afia, alluding to when she tells the camera: “There was a war against Meghan to support other people’s agendas”?
The subject of media intrusion is a given, though the two one-minute trailers released so far have been criticised for using footage unrelated to the couple to illustrate this theme: a Katie Price court appearance; a Harry Potter film premiere; a clip of Donald Trump’s former lawyer, Michael Cohen, being pursued by media. Critics have also pointed out that images of a photographer on a balcony taking a picture of the couple with Archie down below appears to be of an accredited photographer standing in an agreed position during Harry and Meghan’s Cape Town visit with Archbishop Desmond Tutu, rather than some intrusive, unauthorised paparazzo.
In past interviews, Harry and Meghan have accused the royal family of failing to help her when she experienced suicidal thoughts, and also suggested that Archie was denied the title of prince because of his race, though protocol requires him to be the grandson of a sovereign, which he has only just become with the accession of Charles.
Audiences will have to wait to see if there is more to come on both these extremely sensitive subjects, or on Meghan’s estrangement from her father, Thomas Markle, and her half-siblings.
The first three episodes will stream on Netflix on 8 December, with Volume II, containing the final three episodes, streaming on 15 December.