Harry takes aim at William in new episodes of Netflix documentary ‘Harry & Meghan’
The younger prince made several incendiary allegations about his brother, who is now heir to the British throne.
By Mark Landler, New York Times Service
LONDON — The world knew them as the brothers who walked together behind the coffin of their mother, Diana, Princess of Wales, during her funeral procession in 1997 — two young princes with a bond deepened by grief, the divorce of their parents and a life lived under the camera’s unblinking eye.
Twenty-five years later, Prince Harry said, “It was terrifying to have my brother scream and shout at me, and my father say things that simply weren’t true, and my grandmother quietly sit there and sort of take it all in.”
Harry’s comment, in the latest installment of “Harry & Meghan,” a popular six-part Netflix documentary, refers to a stormy meeting, convened by Queen Elizabeth II in early 2020, to hash out the terms by which Harry and his wife, Meghan, would withdraw from royal duties. His brother, William, and father, Charles, were on hand at the queen’s country estate, Sandringham, but Meghan had been left out.
It was the most raw, personal claim made by Harry about how his relationship with William had broken down after his marriage to Meghan Markle, a biracial American-born actor, in 2018. And it was only one of several incendiary allegations about William’s role in the three episodes released Thursday. The litany of grievances — some petty, some profound — seemed all but certain to worsen a sibling feud that has long been a sad subtext of the Harry-and-Meghan soap opera.
Harry, 38, suggested in the film that communications aides to his brother planted negative stories about Meghan with the London tabloids, particularly as her celebrity threatened to eclipse that of other family members.
“I would far rather get destroyed in the press than play along with this game,” Harry said. “To see my brother’s office copy the very same thing we promised the two of us would never, ever do — that was heartbreaking.
“The saddest part of it,” he added, “was this wedge created between myself and my brother so that he’s now on the institution side.”
Critics in Britain and the United States have panned “Harry & Meghan” as vacuous, self-aggrandizing and narcissistic, but it’s clear that viewers are lapping it up. The first three episodes had the best debut of a Netflix documentary in history, generating 81.55 million hours of viewing in its first four days, the service said Tuesday. It ranked No. 1 among Netflix releases in Britain.
If anything, the new episodes cover even more fraught ground than the earlier ones, which dwelt on the toxic relationship between the couple and the tabloids. That is a well-trod issue, although Harry did make a new assertion that he believes the stress of Meghan’s legal battle with one of the papers, The Mail on Sunday, was responsible for her miscarriage in 2020. The Mail did not respond to a request for comment.
The primary focus of the new episodes is on the rupture itself, in which Harry’s brother, father and grandmother all played critical roles. After the couple made clear that they wanted to step back from royal life, negotiations over their status quickly grew tense. In the documentary, Harry painted a picture of a family more determined to preserve a facade of unity than to treat him and his wife humanely.
After the Sandringham meeting, he said, Kensington Palace, where the two princes used to live and share an office, issued a statement, without his permission but in his name and his brother’s, denying a press report that William’s “bullying” of the couple had contributed to their decision to break away.
“Within four hours, they were happy to lie to protect my brother,” Harry said, adding that the statement caused Meghan to dissolve in tears.
Buckingham Palace declined to comment on the three new episodes, as it had on the first three. Palace officials instead noted that King Charles III and Camilla, the queen consort, would take part in a Christmas carol service at Westminster Abbey, along with William and his wife, Catherine.
Still, these latest allegations are likely to sting. The Daily Telegraph declared that Harry and Meghan had “declared all-out war on the royals.” The Daily Express said on its website that “Harry says palace got scared after he and Meghan ‘stole the limelight’ and ‘did the job better’ than Kate and William.”
At a minimum, it suggests that a very public walkabout by the two couples in the days before the queen’s funeral, which drew lavish attention in the media, was something less than a true rapprochement.
Beyond the rift between the brothers, the film digs into the seething rivalries among the family’s royal offices, where public relations spinners competed to present their bosses — whether Harry, William or Charles — in the best possible light, sometimes, Harry said, dishing dirt to the tabloids on other royals.
There are telling omissions. Charles, who ascended to the throne after the queen’s death in September, features little in the film, aside from Meghan’s fond recollection of how he agreed to walk her down the aisle at her wedding at Windsor Castle, after her estranged father, Thomas, did not attend.
The film also touches only glancingly on allegations that Meghan bullied members of her own staff when she was still at Kensington Palace. Those accusations were investigated by Buckingham Palace, after being reported by the couple’s communications secretary at the time, Jason Knauf, to the private secretary of William.
A spokesperson for the couple dismissed the allegations at the time as another attempt to smear Meghan’s reputation.
Knauf, who stayed on at the palace to work for William after Harry and Meghan left, had a cameo appearance later when the couple suggested that William authorized him to hand over incriminating emails and texts from Meghan to the court in the case she was bringing against the publisher of The Mail on Sunday.
In a statement shown on screen, Knauf denied the claim. He said he stayed neutral in the lawsuit and had been asked to “provide evidence by both the Duchess of Sussex and Associated Newspapers,” publisher of The Mail. Lawyers for Meghan rejected that and argued that he could not have been neutral while working for William.
Although the film amply documents the couple’s famous televised interview with Oprah Winfrey in March 2021, it makes no mention of Meghan’s most sensational claim: that a member of the royal family expressed concerns about the skin color of her unborn baby. Harry has declined to identify the person; Winfrey later clarified that it was neither the queen nor her late husband, Prince Philip.
The film does linger on home video footage of the couple digesting the galactic fallout from the interview the next day. A tickled Meghan is pictured reading out a congratulatory text from her friend, pop star Beyoncé, while Harry appears to blanch at a text from William (viewers are not told what it said).
Some royal watchers speculated that Harry would explore his troubled relationship with his father in a new memoir, scheduled to publish next month. But after the Winfrey interview and six hours of “Harry & Meghan,” it was difficult to imagine what bombshells were left to be lobbed.
This article originally appeared in The New York Times.
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