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The Guardian view on Harry and Meghan: the ring of truth | Editorial

The Guardian
The Guardian
 2022-12-08
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Harry and Meghan appear in a trailer for their new Netflix documentary. Photograph: Netflix

Faced with the Duke and Duchess of Sussex’s six-part Netflix documentary series , many will dismiss them as a distraction at a difficult time for the nation. In one perspective, that is a completely fair response. If you weigh the anger and hurt felt by two exceptionally wealthy and entitled people living in California against the struggles and deprivation facing millions of underpaid Britons grappling with a daunting cost of living crisis and unable to afford a Netflix contract, there can only be one conclusion. It is the underprivileged many who have the deeper grievances against contemporary Britain, not the super-privileged few like Harry and Meghan.

The disjunction between the world of the royals and ex-royals on the one hand and the world of ordinary people on the other feels particularly glaring and cruel this week. The documentaries are being launched in a battened-down, battered country in which 3 million families cannot afford to heat their homes as the winter weather turns Arctic across a continent blighted by war. It is a country in which more than 7 million people are waiting for treatment from the National Health Service. It is one facing prolonged industrial disruption over low wages. And it is one in which a divided and broken government has given the go-ahead for a new coalmine forecast to pump out more carbon emissions than Cardiff, Edinburgh and Belfast combined. In this real Britain, the bread and circuses of the royal family seem infantile.

And yet it is not as simple as that. As in the past, the royal family is still a looking glass in which Britain can see itself. The picture it sees is often distorted. But it is almost never irrelevant. The picture is also changing after a long period of predictability. That has been particularly obvious this year, following the Queen’s death and funeral, and the succession of Charles III. The monarchy is searching for a new form of stability while absorbing the disgracing of Prince Andrew and, if the documentaries and Prince Harry’s forthcoming book are a guide, the worsening relationship between the crown and the Sussexes. The kaleidoscope has not yet come to rest in a settled pattern.

The documentaries say a lot about the Sussexes’ views of the royal family and its failings. At their core is a critique of the monarchy’s reactionary and conservative attitudes to women, foreigners and minority women in particular, embodied by its inability to accept Meghan in all three respects. The critique is sometimes a bit light on direct evidence. Its editing techniques are likely to be attacked. But the recent scandal triggered by Lady Susan Hussey’s comments was evidence that the Sussexes’ critique rings true. When Prince Harry talks about the “pain and suffering of women marrying into this institution”, he speaks from the heart about both his mother and his wife. The monarchy should take those words very seriously.

But the monarchy and the royals are not the only target of the documentaries. Much of the Sussexes’ anger and indignation is focused on the British media, which they view with implacable hostility and contempt, often with very good reason . The royals have to live with constant media intrusion, including phone hacking. Meghan is surely right to say, at one point, that she was, in effect, left to be the prey of stalkers , as Diana, Princess of Wales, whose tragedy looms over this series, was before her. It is not just the royals who need to be compelled to learn from these films. So do the media , too much of which remains blind to its own failings as well as to its role in the sad personal stories that these documentaries ultimately reveal.

Comments / 34

Laura Brecht
12-08

These narcissists will run out of “Royal” material soon, and where will they be when the money dries up? Megan will move on to her next victim. Harry is either husband number 2 or 3, depending on the source.

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Whoever
12-09

Now Meghan admits that she lied and now she blames the royals. I won’t watch that BS. I already know it was staged and that she is a great liar. Nothing new to me, covered with sweet soap opera for those who want to hear their lies. On my side I’ll cancel Netflix. I’m not paying to hear their “new” truth.

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26
junebug
12-09

Wow - just watching her horrible mocking fake bowing comment with arms outstretched making fun of how she was supposed to bow to the Queen, her husband’s grandmother, upon their first meeting, was simply disgusting. Yet she had no problem deeply and slowly curtsying at the Queen’s coffin during her funeral when cameras were on her, was she???

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