"This is a first-hand account of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle's story, told with never before seen personal archive. All interviews were completed by August 2022."
That is the title card that appears when you first press play on "Harry & Meghan," Prince Harry and Meghan Markle's revealing new Netflix docuseries. With the couple's Archewell Productions serving as one of the production companies involved in the project, the first three episodes of the highly anticipated show premiered globally on Dec. 8 and jumped right in with self-taped video diaries by its two titular subjects.
The footage was captured in March 2020, just as the couple was performing their last public engagement as active members of the royal family, and Prince Harry immediately addresses his shocking decision to give up his title.
"My job is to keep my family safe," the royal, currently fifth in line to the British throne, explains, while sitting in a private suite at London's Heathrow Airport. "But the nature of being born into this position amid everything that comes with it and the level of hate that is being stirred up in the last three years, especially against my wife and my son, I'm generally concerned for the safety of my family."
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Markle, meanwhile, is first seen in Vancouver, Canada, sitting with her hair wrapped in a bath towel.
"H is in London and I am here, I don't even know where to begin. I just really want to get to the other side of all of this," Markle says, just before beginning to cry. "Um, I don't know what to say anymore. Unfortunately, in not standing for something, they are destroying us."
The "they" in question seems to be both the royal family and the British media, each of whom Prince Harry calls out in the series' opening scene.
"This is about duty and service and I feel as though being part of this family is my duty to uncover this exploitation and bribery that happens within our media," Prince Harry says. "This isn't just about our story. This has always been so much bigger than us. No one knows the full truth. We know the full truth. The institution knows the full truth and the media knows the full truth because they've been in on it."
Now, in full control of their own narrative for the first time, Prince Harry and Markle are finally spilling the entire pot of English breakfast tea. ("Members of the Royal Family declined to comment on the content within this series," a title card reads at the beginning of the series.)
"I'm not going to say that it's comfortable," Markle says of making the documentary. "But when you feel like people haven't gotten any sense of who you are for so long, it's really nice to just be able to have the opportunity to let people have a bit more of a glimpse into what's happened and also who we are."
So grab a cuppa and settle in because here is every bombshell from "Harry & Meghan's" first three episodes:
More British Royal Family Coverage:
How They Really Met
In 2016, Meghan Markle was on hiatus from her star-making gig on USA's "Suits," fresh out of a relationship and ready to embark on what pal Lucy Fraser called her "single girl summer." Basically she had it all already figured out.
"I had a career, I had my life, I had my path and then came H," Markle explains. "I mean, talk about a plot twist."
And it was all because of the doggy ears filter on Snapchat, which is how Prince Harry saw Markle for the first time on their mutual friend's Instagram account. "That was the first thing and I was like, 'Who is that?'" Prince Harry recalls.
A private e-mail the friend sent to Markle about Prince Harry is then shown, which says that "Prince Haz" is "dying to meet you." Markle's response? "Who is Prince Haz????"
Markle then explains she asked to see his Instagram feed before agreeing to meet him.
"So that's the thing. When people say, 'Did you Google him?' No, but that's your homework," she explains. "You're, like, let me see what they're about in their feed, not what someone else says about them, but what they are putting out about themselves. So I went through and it was just like beautiful photography and all these environmental shots and this time he was spending in Africa."
Shortly after, they began texting and "were constantly in touch," according to Markle, before they finally made a plan to meet for a drink at 76 Dean Street while she was in London for Wimbledon.
Prince Harry's Biggest Relationship Fear
After witnessing how Princess Diana was treated by the media during her marriage to King Charles III and then in the aftermath of their official separation in 1992, Prince Harry says he began to understand the "pain and suffering" that women who marry into the royal family endure.
"I remember thinking, 'How could I ever find someone who is willing and capable to be able to withstand all of the baggage that comes with being with me?'" he says. "Every relationship that I had, within a matter of weeks or months, was splattered all over the newspapers and that person's family harassed and their lives turned upside down."
And after he met Markle, he admits he was "terrified of her being driven away by the media, the same media that had driven so many other people away from me."
Despite that "fear," Prince Harry found himself falling in love with Markle the more he got to know her, he says: "I just opened my heart to see what's going to happen."
His Private Struggle After Diana's Death
In the first episode, Prince Harry opens up about grappling with his royal duties in the aftermath of Diana's fatal car crash in 1997 and the pressure that was put on him and Prince William.
"When my mom died, we had two hats to wear," he explains. "One was two grieving sons, wanting to cry, grieve, and process that grief because of losing our mom. And two was the royal hat, show no emotion, get out there, meet the people, shake their hands."
Prince Harry continued, "The UK literally swept me and William up as their children," and, along with that, came, "an expectation to see myself and William out and about was really hard for the two of us."
And when Prince Harry began attending Eton College at the age of 13, the same paparazzi attention that had been focused on his mother "started happening to us," he said, going on to reference the negative tabloid stories about his partying and dating.
"There's a difference between having to accept, okay, we have this position in the family and therefore there's going to be a level of interest and being swarmed by paparazzi, chasing you in cars through red lights," Prince Harry says. "And then chasing you down the road on foot, which probably happened about 40 times when I was younger. It was too much. Everything that was happening in the UK was so intense. I was trying to balance the experience of being a young boy who was trying to deal with the loss of his mom without much support or help or guidance. It didn't seem right, it didn't seem fair."
Their First Trip as a Couple
Given Prince Harry's strong connection to Africa, which he first visited at the age of 18, he knew it was "absolutely critical to share it" with Markle. So, in August 2016, he invited her on a trip to Botswana with him.
"I was astonished that she said yes," Prince Harry admits. "This woman that I've only met twice, we are going to be living in a tent together for 10 days? Wow."
While Markle says, "It was very awkward at first — I just remembered he handed me a chicken sandwich," the new couple quickly became comfortable around one another.
"You put a lot of faith and a lot of trust in me," Prince Harry says to Markle. "It just felt so right and felt so normal."
Markle adds, "Thankfully, we really liked each other."
Prince Harry's Childhood Memories
When asked to recall if there was a moment he knew his family was different, Prince Harry says there isn't one specific event he can point to and that it was more of a "gradual" awareness.
"My childhood...was filled with laughter, filled with happiness and filled with adventure," Prince Harry says, before revealing, "I don't have many early memories of my mom. It was almost like, internally, I blocked them out." But, he says, "I always remember her laugh, her cheeky laugh."
Given the level of attention that his family, and especially Diana, received at the time, "The majority of my memories are of being swarmed by the paparazzi," Prince Harry recalls. "Within the family, within the system, the advice that's always given is 'Don't react. Don't feed into it.'"
Reflecting on the impact the public pressure had on his mother and "witnessing those tears," Prince Harry says, "I guess those are the moments when I thought, 'Hang on a little, what am I? Who am I? What am I part of?'"
Addressing Diana's Infamous BBC Interview
While reflecting on a ski trip he was taken on as a child, where he was asked to pose for traveling media—"I remember feeling really uncomfortable from the get-go" — Harry commended Diana for advocating for his and William's privacy when the photographers refused to stop following them.
"My mom did such a good job in trying to protect us," he says. "She took it upon herself to basically confront these people." He then goes on to acknowledge the 1995 sit-down with journalist Martin Bashir that some 23 million people watched with rapt attention on the BBC's "Panorama."
"I think she had a lived experience of how she was struggling, living that life," Harry explains. "She felt compelled to talk about it, especially in that Panorama interview. I think we all now know she was deceived into giving the interview. But at the same time, she spoke the truth of her experience. My mom was harassed throughout her life with my dad. But after they separated, the harassment went to new levels."
Markle's Similarities to Diana
In the second episode, Prince Harry compares the paparazzi attention he and Markle receive to what Diana endured.
"Back in my mom's days, it was physical harassment. They had cameras in your face, following you, chasing you," Harry explains. "Paparazzi still harass people. The harassment really exists more online now. Once the photographs are out and the story is then put next to it, then comes the social media harassment."
And, for Harry, it was quite "hard" for him "to see another woman in my life who I love go through this feeding frenzy. It is basically the hunter versus the prey."
Fortunately, that is not the only comparison Harry can make between his wife and his late mother.
"So much of what Meghan is and how she is, is so similar to my mom," he says in the first episode. "She has the same compassion, she has the same empathy, she has the same confidence, she has this warmth about her."
And while Harry can "accept" that some people will "fundamentally disagree" with his decision to leave the royal family, he explains, "I knew that I had to do everything I could to protect my family, especially after what happened to my mom. I didn't want history to repeat itself."
How the Royal Family Initially Responded to Markle
When Harry first introduced his new girlfriend to his family, he says they were "incredibly impressed" by Markle.
"Some of them didn't quite know what to do with themselves," Harry admits with a laugh. "They were surprised that a ginger could land such a beautiful woman and such an intelligent woman."
However, it was her profession that initially gave some members of the family reservations about their relationship.
"The fact that I was dating an American actress was probably what clouded their judgment more than anything else in the beginning," Harry shares. "'Oh, she's an American actress, this won't last.'"
Markle adds, "The actress thing was the biggest problem, funny enough. There was a big idea of what that looks like from the UK standpoint, Hollywood, and it was just very easy for them to typecast that."
How Prince Harry Went Against the Family to Protect Markle
After their relationship went public, both Harry and Markle admit to being surprised by what they called "racial undertones" and then "outright racism" from certain media outlets. "At that time, I wasn't thinking about how race played a part in any of this," Markle says. "I genuinely didn't think about it."
Upset over the treatment Markle was receiving, Harry says he was told to not say anything by the palace.
"But what people need to understand is, as far as a lot of the family were concerned, everything that she was being put through, they had been put through as well," Harry explains. "So it was almost like a rite of passage. Some of the members of the family were like, 'But my wife had to go through that, so why should your girlfriend be treated any differently? Why should you get special treatment? Why should she be protected?' And I said, 'The difference here is the race element.'"
Harry ultimately went against the palace's protocol, issuing a statement in November 2016 that condemned the "abuse and harassment" Markle was being subjected to by the media.
Despite Harry's efforts, the media's treatment of Markle didn't change. But at the time of their engagement in 2017, Markle said she still believed what she was being told by the royal family.
"'It will pass, it will get better. It's just what they do right at the very beginning,'" Markle shares. "This promise of, 'Once you're married, don't worry, it will get better. Once they get used to you, it will get better, of course it will get better.' But truth be told, no matter how hard I tried, no matter how good I was, no matter what I did, they were still going to find a way to destroy me."
The First Time Markle Met Prince William and Kate Middleton
While discussing her naïveté when it came to royal customs, Markle opens up about the first time she met her future brother-in-law and his wife, Kate Middleton, when they came over for dinner.
"I remember I was in ripped jeans and I was barefoot," Markle recalls. "I was a hugger, I've always been a hugger. I didn't realize that that is really jarring for a lot of Brits."
And the formality between Markle and the couple continued throughout the encounter, she shared.
"I started to understand very quickly that the formality on the outside carried through on the inside," she explains. "That there is a forward-facing way of being and then you close the door and go, 'Oh great, okay, we can relax now.' But that formality carries over on both sides and that was surprising to me."
One of Prince Harry's "Biggest Mistakes"
In episode three, Harry addresses the 2005 incident where he wore a Nazi uniform to a costume party, calling it "one of the biggest mistakes of my life."
"I felt so ashamed afterwards," he continues. "All I wanted to do was make it right."
After the scandal, Harry met with the chief rabbi in London — which he said "had a profound impact" on him — and he also traveled to Berlin to speak with a Holocaust survivor.
"I could have just ignored it and just got on and probably made the same mistakes over and over in my life," Harry explains. "But I learned from that."
In the same episode, Harry discusses the 2017 controversy when Princess Michael of Kent, who is married to Queen Elizabeth's first cousin, wore a "racist" brooch when meeting Markle.
"In this family sometimes you're part of the problem rather than part of the solution, and there is a huge level of unconscious bias," Harry says. "The thing with unconscious bias is it's actually no one's fault. But once it's been pointed out or identified within yourself, you then need to make it right. It's education, it's awareness. And it's a constant work in progress for everybody, including me."
The Heartbreaking Reason Markle's Niece Wasn't at the Wedding
While Markle doesn't have a relationship with her outspoken half-sister Samantha Markle, she has a close bond with Samantha's daughter Ashleigh Hale, who appears in the docuseries. Raised by her paternal grandparents, Ashleigh and Markle forged a friendship after Samantha reconnected with her daughter in 2007 and Thomas Markle gave Markle Ashleigh's email address.
"There's a sister element, there's something maternal," Ashleigh says of Markle. "She's a best friend, she's kind of all the things." And after Samantha began speaking out against Markle in the press, Ashleigh "stopped talking" to her mother. Which is what made the decision to not invite Ashleigh to her 2018 wedding "painful" for Markle.
Explaining that they shared a "small" communications team with William and Kate, Markle says that the "guidance" at the time was to not to have her niece at their nuptials because, as she recalled they put it, "'How do we explain that this half-sister isn't invited to the wedding, but that the half-sister's daughter is?'"
Markle and Prince Harry called Ashleigh to explain the situation, an emotional conversation that Ashleigh reflected on.
"I think I said I was hurt on some level, but I understood where it was coming from," she says. "To know that it was because of my biological mother that this relationship was so important to me was impacted in that way. To feel like because of her it was taken away. It's been hard."
No School For Royal Rules
While addressing the protocols that are in place for royals, Markle references "The Princess Diaries," explaining there is "no class" to teach someone joining the family how to act in public à la Anne Hathway's lessons in the 2001 movie.
"It doesn't happen," Markle says. "So I needed to learn a lot, including the national anthem." To do so, she turned to Google and practiced on her own. Yet she still felt the media only focused on her missteps, saying, "It was baptism by fire."
"Harry & Meghan" is now streaming on Netflix.