Prince Harry and Meghan Markle‘s Netflix documentary isn’t quite the Royal Family hit job that many people were
hoping expecting it would be, but that’s not to say it isn’t causing media turmoil overseas.
The first volume of the docuseries launched on the streaming platform Thursday, taking the British media to task for what the Duke and Duchess of Sussex say is racist, intruding and unkind coverage of Markle over the years — and it’s sent many of the tabloid newspapers into overdrive.
Britain’s press did not hold back their outrage Friday, clearly taking umbrage with the televised dressing-down.
While none of the major tabloids used their front pages to address the specific claims levelled at them, some splashed angry headlines attacking the couple and channelling their ire into unflattering screengrabs from the series.
The Daily Mail’s headline accused the couple of an “assault on the queen’s legacy,” and cited palace insiders who claim “it’s as if” the Sussexes “want to bring down the monarchy.”
The series, so far, takes a deep dive into the toxic but symbiotic relationship between the palace and the press. The palace relies on the media to share its messaging, but the tabloid newspapers also feel entitled to publish intimate (and sometimes false) stories about members of the Royal Family, since British taxpayers fund their lives.
This unwritten contract, Harry and Markle explain, often leaves members of the Royal Family feeling as though they have to “perform” for the media — they call it a “we pay, you pose” arrangement.
Markle claims in the documentary that the media wanted to “destroy” her, while Harry says his wife was subjected to a press “feeding frenzy.”
The Sun also accused the couple of tarnishing the late queen’s legacy, splashing “Harry the Nasty” across its front page.
The Daily Express accused Harry of hurling “slurs” that it claims have made members of the Royal Family “deeply upset.”
So far, for the record, neither the palace nor any senior members of the family have officially commented on the contents of the documentary. They royals are notoriously tight-lipped, and it’s generally accepted protocol that they rarely publicly respond to matters of the press or politics.
The Mirror went a different direction, leading with the documentary but chastizing all parties — it included a photo of the Sussexes as well as a photo of Prince William and Kate Middleton — for sparring while the British people endure a cost-of-living crisis. “Meanwhile, thousands of ordinary Brits are choosing between heating and eating,” the subhead read.
Even the broadsheet newspapers, like The Guardian and The Times of London, featured the Sussexes on their front pages, though their coverage was decidedly less sensational and focused more on the series’ content than reaction.
Meanwhile, royal experts, critics and columnists across the U.K. have been offering their takes on the series, ranging from anger to pure indifference.
Nick Bullen, editor-in-chief of True Royalty TV, told Reuters it was the most “self-serving piece of television” he had seen in quite a while, describing it as more like a reality show than a documentary.
Lester Holloway, editor of The Voice, Britain’s only Black national newspaper, was more impressed, calling it a “love story” which talked about the struggles and challenges they have faced as a couple and their battles with the media.
Other critics found it a satisfying glimpse into the private lives of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex.
“Does Meghan and Harry’s Netflix documentary live up to its no-holds-barred expectations?” wrote Jessie Thompson from British newspaper The Independent. “Well, within the first five minutes we’ve seen a makeup-less Meghan, hair wrapped in a towel, crying into her phone camera — so I’m going to say yes.”
Bob Seely, a lawmaker with the governing Conservative Party, said he would try to introduce a bill in Parliament to strip the couple of their royal titles, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex. Seely said Prince Harry was attacking important British institutions, “as well as trashing his family and monetizing his misery for public consumption.”
Employment Minister Guy Opperman branded the couple “utterly irrelevant” in an interview with BBC and urged people “to boycott Netflix and make sure that we actually focus on the things that matter.”
King Charles declined to comment on the series during public engagements in London on Thursday or during a visit Friday to Welsh soccer club Wrexham AFC, where he met the team’s owners, Hollywood actors Ryan Reynolds and Rob McElhenney.
Both said they had not watched the series, with McElhenney joking, “I’ve never heard of it.”
— With files from The Associated Press and Reuters