Harry and Meghan Netflix documentary criticizes royals’ ‘unconscious bias’


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CNN

Prince Harry and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, have taken aim at “unconscious bias” in the royal family and defended their decision to leave the institution as their long-awaited Netflix documentary series threatens to deepen the rift between the couple and Buckingham Palace.

The first three episodes of the project, titled “Harry & Meghan,” were released Thursday after months of speculation that the couple would star in an all-encompassing series.

They detail the couple’s initial romance and Meghan’s first exposure to the structures and demands of royal life, as well as Harry’s childhood, the pervasive nature of Britain’s tabloid media and the death of his mother, Diana, Princess of Wales.

And Harry accuses the royal family of “unconscious bias” that blinded them to the struggles he and Meghan experienced in the years and months leading up to their dramatic departure.

Buckingham and Kensington Palaces are likely to be braced for the fallout from the series after ongoing tensions between Harry and his father, King Charles, and brother, Prince William.

“It’s really hard to look back on it now and go, what on earth happened? How did we end up here?,” Harry said in a video diary shown in the first episode, recorded shortly after the couple completed their final royal duties in March 2020.

He said he became “genuinely concerned for the safety of my family” and attacked media intrusion, which he has often lamented in recent years.

Harry took aim at the media within the first few minutes of the show. “Nobody knows the full truth. We know the full truth, the establishment knows the full truth and the media knows the full truth because they’ve been in on it,” Harry said. He said he considers it his “duty” to “expose this exploitation and bribery that is happening in our media.”

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A still from the documentary shows Meghan in tears.

The series comes more than a year and a half after the couple’s bombshell interview with Oprah Winfrey, which included a barrage of criticism of members of the royal family and caused turmoil in the palace.

It marks a first major PR test for the monarchy under King Charles III, who himself has been tacitly criticized by Harry since their separation from the family and whose relationship with his son has frayed.

Buckingham Palace said on Thursday it will not comment on the Duke and Duchess of Sussex’s new docu-series, which was released on Netflix on Thursday.

CNN understands that neither Buckingham Palace nor Kensington Palace, nor any members of the royal family, were contacted for comment on the content of the series. The Netflix documentary noted in the series that members of the British royal family “declined to comment on the content.”

“I accept that there will be people around the world who fundamentally disagree with what I’ve done and how I’ve done it,” Prince Harry said of the decision to leave the royal family in early 2020, which set the stage for years of revelations from the couple and turned their relationship with Harry’s relatives frosty.

“But I knew I had to do everything I could to protect my family, especially after what happened to my mother,” Harry continued.

The couple have previously spoken about the restrictions placed on them while members of the royal family, and that frustration surfaced repeatedly in the documentary.

Meghan described her engagement announcement in 2017 as an “orchestrated reality show”. And speaking of the media’s initial fascination with the prince’s then-girlfriend, Harry recalled how other members of the royal family struggled to share his concern.

“As far as a lot of the family was concerned, everything she was put through had been put through as well. So it was almost like a rite of passage,” Harry said. “My wife had to go through it, so why should your girlfriend be treated any differently? Why should you get special treatment? Why should she be protected?,” he said, paraphrasing their arguments.

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“I said the difference here is the racial element,” Harry added. The couple have often spoken out against racist undertones in tabloid coverage of Meghan, who is biracial.

“These are the skeletons in the closet that often make an unwelcome appearance in the day-to-day life of this family – sometimes, you know, you’re part of the problem rather than part of the solution, and there’s a huge level of unconscious bias,” said Harry.

“The thing about unconscious bias – it’s actually nobody’s fault. But once it has been pointed out or identified in yourself, you have to do it right,” he said.

Elsewhere in the first series of episodes, Harry commented on some past marriages among his relatives and ancestors. “I think for so many people in the family, especially the men, there can be a temptation or an urge to marry someone who fits the mold as opposed to someone who you might be destined to be along with,” he said.

And the couple remembers Meghan’s first meetings with the Queen, Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge and other senior royals.

“I remember my family first meeting her and being incredibly impressed. Some of them didn’t quite know what to do with themselves,” Harry said.

“They were surprised … the fact that I was dating an American actress was probably what clouded their judgment more than anything in the beginning,” he added. “Funnily enough, the actress was the biggest problem,” added Meghan.

Throughout the first three episodes of the series, the pair spoke of their frustration at the hands of the notoriously noisy British media.

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“My face was everywhere, my life was everywhere, the tabloids had taken over everything,” Meghan said of her early encounters with the press.

Harry also compared Meghan to his mother Princess Diana, who died in a car crash while being chased by paparazzi in 1997. “So much of what Meghan is and how she is is so much like my mother … She has that same confidence, she has this warmth about her,” he said in the first episode.

Harry said he “learned things” from his mother’s anger at the media while she was alive that influenced his view of royal life, including seeing first-hand “the pain and suffering of women who marry into this institution.”

“I remember thinking, how can I ever find someone willing and able to withstand all the baggage that comes with being with me?” he said.

The second episode also features a rare interview with Meghan’s mother, Doria Ragland, who said “the last five years have been challenging.”

And it charted the breakdown of her relationship with her father, over a controversy over whether he staged a series of paparazzi-style photographs in the run-up to their 2018 wedding.

“Obviously it’s incredibly sad what happened – she had a father before this and now she has no father. And I took that on because if Meg wasn’t with me, her dad would still be her dad,” Harry said.

The first three episodes were released Thursday, with three more scheduled for next week. Interviews were completed in August, the month before the Queen’s death, according to the series.

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