It looks like the gloves are well and truly off for the Sussexes.
The couple didn’t pull their punches in the final episodes of their tell-all docuseries, providing an extraordinary insight into why they left the UK.
The episodes picked back up from 2018 as Prince Harry married Meghan at Windsor. The pair recalled fond memories, such as when then-Prince Charles – whom Meghan described as “very charming” – stepped in to escort her down the aisle after helping with musical arrangements ahead of the big day.
A montage of previously unseen blissful moments – Harry cutting their wedding cake with a sword, emotional toasts and Elton John serenading guests – soon took a more serious turn. Harry and Meghan accused the rest of the family of becoming envious of their rising popularity before serious claims that damaging stories about the couple were planted by the institution to distract from negative coverage about other royal members.
With few real revelations in last week’s Netflix release, these episodes were more forceful. The picture Harry painted of the royal household wasn’t especially flattering. He presented a frosty, siloed environment, where suspicion and mistrust guide household staff, who are unsympathetic to their experiences.
“The issue is when someone who is marrying in, who should be a ‘supporting act,’ is then stealing the limelight or doing the job better than the person who is born to do this, that upsets people. It shifts the balance,” Prince Harry said. Going further, he described how the various palace press offices “end up working against each other.”
The subsequent press attacks, the lack of action from the palace to prevent them and the couple’s increasing suspicions that the royal household was actually feeding the media pushed Meghan to a dark place.
“All of this will stop if I’m not here. And that was the scariest thing about it, it was such clear thinking,” she recalled, elaborating on the suicidal ideations she first raised while speaking to Oprah last year. Harry went further and blamed the constant media intrusion as a critical stressor that ultimately led to his wife’s miscarriage in 2020.
Unlike last week, this batch of episodes saw Harry and Meghan target specific members of the family, with the duke recalling his brother losing his temper during a crucial crunch summit at Sandringham as they discussed the couple’s long-term future.
“It was terrifying to have my brother scream and shout at me, and my father say things that just simply weren’t true, and my grandmother quietly sit there and take it all in,” he said, recalling the conversations with William, then-Prince Charles, and the late Queen Elizabeth II.
“But you have to understand that from the family’s perspectives, especially from hers, there are ways of doing things. And her ultimate mission and goal, responsibility, is the institution … she’s going to go on the advice that she’s given,” Harry said.
The duke said that the “saddest part” was the “wedge created between myself and my brother.”
He added: “Part of that I get – that’s his inheritance and to some extent it’s already ingrained in him that part of his responsibility is the survivability and the continuation of the institution.”
The final half of this project was a forensic examination of the couple’s acrimonious split from the Windsor clan, and it was clearly presented through a Sussex lens. But Harry and Meghan’s goal has never been to take down the monarchy. It was to speak their truth and defend themselves against how they have been represented in the tabloid press. The fact that some of their remarks have had a negative effect on the family has been an unfortunate by-product of speaking up.
As Harry himself says, “I’ve always felt this was a fight worth fighting for” even if it’s come at the cost of his relationship with his father and brother.
“I’ve had to make peace with the fact that we’re probably never going to get genuine accountability or a genuine apology,” he said toward the end of the final episode. “My wife and I are moving on, we’re focused on what’s coming next.”
Ultimately, the couple blame the media for the challenges and pressures they faced as working royals. But we now understand their whole position: They also feel that the palace could have stopped the level of vitriol they experienced, challenged the media and prioritized family members before the institution.
Buckingham Palace isn’t going to respond to the allegations raised in the docuseries, with the royal household again telling CNN Thursday that it won’t be commenting. Instead the royals continued with business as usual and carried on with their scheduled engagements. The King and Queen Consort were visiting a community kitchen in London before joining other members of the family at a Westminster Abbey carol concert put on for a second year by the Princess of Wales.
The family has clearly chosen not to give oxygen to the docuseries. That might be their best hope of ending this very public row in the short term. But with the Sussexes’ version of events left unchallenged, it will become part of the national memory.
WATCH: PRINCE HARRY DISCUSSES FAMILY CONFLICT
As the second installment of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex’s documentary released on Netflix, Max was on hand to break it all down. Take a look:
KEY TAKEAWAYS FROM THE SUSSEX DOC
The first three episodes, released last week, touched on the early days of the couple’s relationship, the relentless media attention they’ve faced and what Harry referred to as “unconscious bias” within the royal family. This latest installment saw Harry detail rifts with his relatives, the toll the last few years has taken on the couple and their new life in California. Read more here.
CNN’s Jessie Gretener and Christian Edwards contributed to this newsletter.