After months of anticipation, “Harry & Meghan,” the docuseries about Harry and Meghan, Duke and Duchess of Sussex, has finally landed on Netflix.
The first three of six total episode arrived Thursday, offering a glimpse into the private world of the notorious ex-royals —and enough provocations to send ardent monarchists clutching for their pearls.
Directed by Liz Garbus, an Oscar-nominated documentary filmmaker whose credits include “I’ll Be Gone in the Dark” and “The Fourth Estate,” and featuring commentary from friends, family and a host of experts in British culture, the series places Harry and Meghan’s intimate love story within a broader context about the tabloid press, the royal family and the racist history of the British empire.
The first three episodes cover Meghan and Harry’s early romance — kept secret from the press for a few, apparently blissful months in the summer and early fall of 2016 — the press frenzy that commenced when their relationship became public, their engagement a year later, and the frenzied run-up to their wedding in May 2018.
Garbus gives both her protagonists, Harry and Meghan, a clear arc: We hear how Harry’s childhood in the limelight soured his view of the press, particularly after his mother’s death in 1997, and how military service helped ground him as a young adult. We hear how Meghan, as a light-skinned biracial woman, rarely faced the same kind of open racism her mother did and prided herself on being smart and socially conscious, rather than pretty, but later struggled to find rewarding roles as an actor. Garbus uses a rich trove of material, including archival footage, home movies, cellphone videos, personal photos, social media posts and even text messages, to bring the story to life visually.
“Harry & Meghan” is the first TV project to come to fruition since the the Sussexes signed a lucrative deal with Netflix two years ago (it is also one of five TV shows called “Harry & Meghan” currently listed on IMDb. ) It follows Meghan’s podcast, “Archetypes,” which debuted in August amid a flurry of glossy magazine profiles, and precedes the release, next month, of Harry’s memoir, “Spare.” It’s unclear whether public curiosity in the couple remains high enough to sustain such a massive media onslaught, though by Friday morning “Harry & Meghan” had reached No. 1 on Netflix in the States.
Still, the series pulls back the curtain on royal life enough to keep viewers intrigued (and perhaps inspire a future episode of “The Crown.”)
Here’s a roundup of the juiciest tidbits so far:
Harry and Meghan met on Instagram.
“Harry & Meghan” reveals that the couple met in very contemporary fashion: When Harry slid into her DMs.
Well, sort of.
Harry, who seems to have had a private, anonymous account on Instagram, recalls how he was scrolling through his feed when he saw a video featuring a friend (who is not named in the series) with Meghan. Harry was intrigued, even though Meghan’s face was largely obscured by a dog filter.
The friend then reached out to Meghan to see if she would like to meet “Prince Haz.” Meghan was impressed by his feed, which was “just beautiful photography and all these environmental shots, and this time he was spending in Africa,” she says in the series.
Harry and Meghan call each other “H” and “M.”
In what may be the series’ most disturbing revelation, the Sussexes refer to each other in conversation as “H” and “M” and almost never seem to call each other by their complete first names. As in, “I met H when I was in London for Wimbledon.” Or “M was flying in from Toronto for the weekend.”
Also, their friends know them as “Haz and Meg,” and Harry is in Meghan’s phone as “Haz.”
The royal family isn’t big on hugging.
Haz and Meg do not openly badmouth Prince William and Kate, Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, in the series, but there’s one moment that might be seen as a little shady. Meghan recalls meeting Kate for the first time when William and Kate came over for dinner. She was barefoot and in ripped jeans and, apparently, greeted her future in-laws with a hug. “I have always been a hugger. I didn’t realize that that is really jarring for a lot of Brits,” she says over footage of Kate politely shaking hands at a formal engagement. “I started to understand very quickly that the formality on the outside carried through on the inside … and that was surprising to me.”
Meghan likens curtsying for the Queen to visiting Medieval Times.
Meghan recalls the absurdity of meeting Queen Elizabeth II for the first time with little notice or advice on protocol from Harry. (Get it together, Haz!) In her telling, they were heading to Royal Lodge in Windsor for lunch when Harry casually mentioned his grandmother would be in attendance. She hadn’t been taught to curtsy, so she winged it.
“Americans will understand this. We have Medieval Times, dinner and tournament,” she says, breaking into a giggle as she re-creates a dramatic curtsey reminiscent of an overzealous Ren Faire performer. “‘A pleasure to meet you, your majesty!’ It was so intense.”
But Harry says the family was initially impressed by Meghan and, more than anything, surprised “that a ginger could land such a beautiful woman.”
Meghan did invite her dad to her wedding.
Episode 3 delves into Meghan’s complicated relationship with her father’s side of the family, which became even more strained in the months before her wedding to Harry in 2018. We meet her niece, Ashleigh Hale, who is the biological daughter of Meghan’s half-sister, Samantha Markle, but was raised by her paternal grandparents. Though Meghan was not, by her account, ever close to Samantha, she and Ashleigh became tight as adults. But when Samantha Markle began talking to the press about how she wasn’t invited to the royal wedding, Harry and Meghan had to make the difficult decision to disinvite Ashleigh.
But Meghan says her father, Tom Markle, was always invited to the festivities, and she learned he wouldn’t be coming from TMZ. Though she called him repeatedly to clear the air and find out what was going on, she only heard back from him via text, including a message that seemed suspicious because he used her full name, “Meghan,” even though he always called her Meg.
“I was like, that’s not my dad,” she says. “We knew that his phone had been compromised.”