Eight days ago Harry’s rage had been contained, just, as he sought to wound but feared to strike.
But today — as the remaining Netflix documentaries were released — the remnants of royal dignity and mystique were shredded before our eyes in a bout of family score-settling that was as ruthless as it was merciless.
The trailers for the Harry & Meghan Netflix series, with their sly digs about ‘scapegoating’ and ‘negative briefing’, had been no preparation for the way the prince set about dismantling both his brother’s and his father’s reputations.
William was portrayed as a bully who had screamed and shouted at Harry when they met to discuss the Sussexes’ exit from royal life.
The trailers for the Harry & Meghan Netflix series, with their sly digs about ‘scapegoating’ and ‘negative briefing’, had been no preparation for the way the prince set about dismantling both his brother’s and his father’s reputations
‘Again and again, Harry and his wife paint themselves as victims of an uncaring, chilly institution so intent on its own survival that it would do anything to maintain the status quo’ (Pictured: The Duke and Duchess of Sussex on the Buckingham Palace balcony, with the Prince and Princess of Wales)
Prince Harry, left, and Prince William stand during the unveiling of a statue of their mother Princess Diana at Kensington palace last year, on what would have been her 60th birthday
Sussexes’ former PR chief rejects claims he gave evidence against Meghan to a court at the behest of Prince William
The Sussexes’ former PR chief has rejected claims that he gave evidence against Meghan to a court ‘with the authority’ of Prince William.
Jason Knauf had worked as joint head of communications for both Harry and Meghan and the then-Duke and Duchess of Cambridge.
He subsequently made serious allegations about Meghan’s alleged bullying of junior staff before quitting and eventually becoming chief executive of William and Kate’s Royal Foundation, the charitable arm of their official operations. He left that role last year.
Much of the last episode of the Netflix documentary series is devoted to Meghan’s decision to take The Mail on Sunday, sister paper of the Daily Mail, to the High Court over its decision to publish a letter she had written to her estranged father, Thomas Markle.
During the newspaper’s appeal against summary judgment in the case, which was awarded to the duchess, new evidence from Mr Knauf came to light over Meghan’s earlier claim in court documents that she did not know if, and to what extent, her communications team had also co-operated with the authors of Finding Freedom, a flattering biography about her and Harry.
He disclosed that he had provided information to the writers ‘with her knowledge’, and had emails to prove it.
Meghan was forced to apologise to the court – but said she had no intent to mislead it and had simply ‘not remembered’ the relevant exchanges at the time.
The Court of Appeal judge who dismissed the newspaper’s appeal described it as ‘at best, an unfortunate lapse of memory on her part’.
In the Netflix documentary, Meghan’s lawyer, Jenny Afia, goes so far as to suggest William would have given his authority for Mr Knauf to come forward in the case, saying: ‘A senior member of the Duke of Cambridge’s team came forward to give this witness statement which wasn’t required. And sadly there is just no way he could have done that without the authority of his bosses.’
Extraordinarily, Harry and Meghan are also filmed by the crew in a friend’s apartment in November 2021 at the very moment they discover that Mr Knauf’s evidence has been disclosed.
Meghan throws her hands up in frustration as she walks around and says: ‘How do we deal with that?… How on Earth?… Like… I… it’s your brother.’ Harry replies: ‘Yep.’ Meghan continues angrily: ‘It’s your brother, I’m not going to say anything about your brother, but it’s so obvious. It’s like…’
Harry interjects: ‘It’s even more that they’ll try and cover it up.
‘That’s why I am now living in a different country. Because all of the comms teams try to outdo each other. But this is the contract.’
The camera crew were even permitted to film the couple in the early hours of the morning waiting for the result of the appeal, and then victoriously calling their friends.
Miss Afia goes on to claim that Mr Knauf’s witness statement ‘had no legal significance on the case whatsoever’ but was filed because ‘the impact on Meghan’s reputation was potentially damaging’. But a representative for Mr Knauf made clear yesterday that he had been a less-than-willing participant in the case, having been approached by both parties to give evidence, and only agreed to submit a statement to the court on legal advice.
They said: ‘These claims are entirely false. Mr Knauf was asked to provide evidence by both the Duchess of Sussex and Associated Newspapers.
‘He was advised by counsel that evidence in his possession could be relevant, and he then provided this directly to the court, staying neutral in the process.’
Meghan’s lawyer responded to the statement, saying they ‘disputed’ this claim and adding: ‘Mr Knauf was not asked to provide a witness statement by the Duchess of her team. Nor do her attorneys believe Mr Knauf remained ‘neutral’ by submitting a witness statement relied on by Associated Newspapers whilst working for the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge.’
Mr Knauf then doubled down, with his representative saying: ‘The Duchess of Sussex and Jenny Afia contacted Mr Knauf in writing, asking him to assist in the preparation of their legal case.’
Harry also accused his father, the then Prince of Wales, a fundamentally honest man, not only of lying but also conniving in the leaking of information about his own son.
These are the gravest charges to have come out of Harry’s mouth in the three years of this unedifying royal soap opera, and it is hard to see how there can ever be a way back for him and his wife.
They amount to the most partisan attack on the Royal Family since Princess Diana’s Panorama interview 27 years ago.
Then, it was Diana’s demolition of Prince Charles and her questioning of his suitability to be King. But hers was a strategic attack, staking out ground ahead of her divorce.
In her son’s skewed narrative, where he sees conspiracy and sinister forces lurking behind every closed Palace door, no senior member of the family is spared, either directly or implicitly, as he rails against his treatment.
Even the late Queen is presented as a passive figure who was unable to influence events.
Again and again, Harry and his wife paint themselves as victims of an uncaring, chilly institution so intent on its own survival that it would do anything to maintain the status quo.
He complains about an institution that was ‘happy to lie’ to protect William but would not tell the truth to protect him.
Harry’s description of his and Meghan’s last official engagement before Megxit, when they joined other royals at the solemn Commonwealth Day service in Westminster Abbey, is as ambiguous as a plotline from The Crown, Netflix’s ‘fictional’ account of the royals.
‘I felt really distant from my family, which was interesting,’ he says, ‘because so much of how they operate is about what it looks like, rather than what it feels like. And it looked cold. But it also felt cold.’ Cue sombre music. Yet no amount of introspection is offered to account for this apparent coldness when even Harry must have wondered about his own contribution.
Instead he wallows in self-pity.
‘I’ve had to make peace with the fact that we’re probably never going to get genuine accountability or a genuine apology [from my family],’ he said, adding glibly: ‘My wife and I, we’re moving on. We’re focused on what’s coming next.’
The smouldering debris of his ad hominem attacks may take a little longer to clear up.
And it is the relationship with his brother that is the major casualty. Fraternal bonds — formed in their shared grief over their mother’s death 25 years ago — which once looked unbreakable have surely been smashed to smithereens.
In the latest instalments of the Netflix series, Harry explains why he and his wife had made their decision to give up royal duties and move to the U.S., claiming they were not supported by the Royal Family, and blaming a barrage of negative media publicity directed mainly at Meghan.
Recalling how the meeting at Sandringham with family members had gone, he said: ‘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 sort of take it all in.’
Today the rift between brothers who had promised their mother they would never fall out is deeper than ever.
Even Harry appears to acknowledge this. ‘The saddest part was this wedge created between myself and my brother, so that he’s now on the institution side,’ he said.
‘Part of that I get . . . that’s his inheritance. So to some extent it’s already ingrained in him that part of his responsibility is the survivability and the continuation of this institution.’ But Harry’s intervention is hardly calculated to help. With breathtaking arrogance, he claims there was envy over the success of his first official tour with Meghan to Australia and New Zealand.
‘The issue is when someone who’s marrying in, who should be a supporting act, is then stealing the limelight, or is doing the job better than the person who is born to do this. That upsets people. It shifts the balance.’
Who on earth can he be referring to? The answer, of course, is his brother, whose wife, Kate, Harry had once described as being so close she was like the sister he’d never had.
When Harry and Meghan learn that a former Palace aide has given a witness statement in their long-running privacy case, their exchanges at the news are revealing.
An assistant points out: ‘He works for his brother.’
To which a flustered Meghan says: ‘Like . . . it’s your brother.’
Meghan: ‘I’m not gonna say anything about your brother, but it’s so obvious.’
One of the most damaging allegations Harry and Meghan have made about the royal family to date was their claim that an unnamed royal made racist remarks about their son, Archie
Meghan said during her interview with Oprah that a royal voiced ‘concerns about how dark [Archie’s] skin might be when he was born’ – but this was not addressed in the docuseries
Another story to emerge from Harry and Meghan’s wedding involved a so-called argument over what tiara the bride would wear on the couple’s big day
Harry embraces Meghan after Buckingham Palace releases a statement about them stepping back as working royals
Pictured: Harry at Nottingham Cottage, in the grounds of Kensington Palace as is shown in the documentary series
Barely a headline about the couple escapes Harry’s cod psychology. When a picture of Meghan, predictably, appeared on the front page of newspapers after she’d attended her first Remembrance service at the Albert Hall, it is identified as a moment of jaw‑dropping discovery.
Recalling his wife’s reaction, Harry said: ‘She was like ‘but it’s not my fault’. And I said I know. And my mum felt the same way.’
Cut to another egregious clip from Diana’s notorious Panorama interview, where she explains how Prince Charles had been consumed with jealousy at attention coming her way rather than his.
Just as last week, parallels with Diana are sprinkled throughout each episode as the couple persist in cloaking themselves in the prince’s mother’s legacy.
For Harry, it was as though he needed to remind viewers that he was his mother’s son.
‘There was an expectation, right?’ he said. ‘Diana’s boy. There was an expectation to have a public wedding. It was like: ‘Mission complete with William. Now let’s see if this goes the distance with Harry and then we can actually go: ‘Job done.’ ‘
Meanwhile, Meghan had inherited the late princess’s fame as a global icon. The unsubtle message was that it was Harry’s wife who was the royal superstar and, by implication, not his sister-in-law, Kate.
And just like Diana, he believes he and his wife are victims of an uncaring monarchy.
As for the wicked media, he recalled one of his mother’s comments. ‘My mum always said: ‘If they’re writing c*** about you in the tabloids, you’re probably doing the right thing.’ ‘
Prince Harry delivered the most partisan attack on the Royal Family since Diana’s, writes Richard Kay
Harry shushes the camera during the latest episode of his Netflix documentary series
Singing from the same hymn sheet: (Front row left to right) King Charles III, the Queen Consort, the Prince of Wales, Prince George, Princess Charlotte, the Princess of Wales and the Countess of Wessex during the ‘Together at Christmas’ Carol Service at Westminster Abbey on Thursday evening
But when it isn’t the Press, it is William who is portrayed as the bogeyman. The day after their Oprah Winfrey interview was broadcast, William sends his brother a text. The content is not disclosed, but Harry passes the phone to his wife.
‘What am I looking at,’ she asks before exhaling: ‘Wow!’
It is reasonable to conclude that the Duke of Cambridge was not offering heartfelt praise for the broadcast.
Asked about attending his grandfather Prince Philip’s funeral when family tensions were still running high, Harry says: ‘It was hard. Especially spending time with my brother and my father, who just were very much focused on the same misinterpretation of the whole situation.’
Referring to a newspaper report that one of the reasons he and Meghan were leaving the country was because William had ‘bullied’ them out, Harry said he was told a joint statement had been put out in both his and his brother’s names squashing the story.
‘I couldn’t believe it. No one had asked my permission to put my name to a statement like that.
‘I rang and told M (Meghan), and she burst into floods of tears because within four hours they were happy to lie to protect my brother, yet for three years they were never willing to tell the truth to protect us.’
When he wasn’t setting about his brother, Harry turned his fire on his father. Concerned about the sensitivity of committing his and Meghan’s plans to paper, he says Charles insisted Harry put their suggestion that they move to Canada in writing. Five days later the details appeared on a newspaper front page.
‘The key piece of that story that made me aware that the contents of the letter between me and my father had been leaked was that we were willing to relinquish our Sussex titles.’
Some will now be urging that rather than the Sussexes giving them up, it is high time those titles should be formally removed.
The Harry and Meghan saga took a ‘terrible toll’ on the Queen and left her ‘very low’, reveals REBECCA ENGLISH
The finalé to Harry and Meghan’s modern-day Elizabethan revenge tragedy concludes with our hard done-by duchess reading out the speech she penned for her own wedding.
What a happy coincidence that she miraculously managed to find it on her phone with the pressure of a Hollywood director being there!
In it, she talks about ‘the man that I love and the way that we met’, telling viewers soothingly: ‘Let’s call it a modern fairytale.’
Well, there’s no doubt who the hero and his princess bride are in this particular story (with entertainment mogul Tyler Perry, who lent the couple his private jet, home and security team without ever having met them, as the ultimate cash-splashing fairy godmother).
Her late Majesty was left devastated by her grandson’s actions the way in which the saga played out so acrimoniously was recently described as having taken a ‘terrible toll’ on the Queen’s wellbeing, Rebecca English was told
And the villains?
Step forward, the Prince and Princess of Wales, openly portrayed as the sneering and jealous ugly sisters, eaten up by envy of Meghan’s success and conspiring with the evil media to secure her downfall.
There’s a scheming step-mother, naturally, married to a rather hapless father figure, content to live in studied ignorance of his child’s servitude in order to pursue a quiet life. And then there’s the Queen – not wicked in this case, of course – but one who is actively portrayed by her own grandson as a weak figure, manipulated by her family and scheming courtiers.
I’m off: Meghan after the Commonwealth Service in March 2020 – her last day as a working royal
In a frighteningly venomous statement, Harry (who, let us not forget, survived two front-line tours in Afghanistan) says: ‘It was terrifying to have my brother scream and shout at me and have my father say things that simply weren’t true and my grandmother quietly sit there and sort of take it all in.
‘You have to understand that from the family’s perspective and especially hers and her ultimate mission and goal and responsibility is the institution.’
Harry has always been keen to ‘ring-fence’ his grandparents from his increasingly vitriolic diatribes against the monarchy because he respected and revered his ‘commander in chief’. But to many in the family, those protestations, particularly now, are looking weaker by the day.
I am told that, although her late Majesty was left devastated by her grandson’s actions, she had no compunction in taking the tough decisions that needed to be made – whether that would be personally ruling out his participation in the official Remembrance events or sidelining him to a bit part in her Platinum Jubilee.
She had, of course, seen her beloved father, King George VI, go through a similarly painful saga with his brother King Edward VIII’s abdication. And her mother truly believed the strain contributed to her father’s early death.
The Queen was very sympathetic to Harry and Meghan’s desire to seek an ‘alternative’ life, if that’s what would make them happy
But it pained her, of course it did. She adored Harry, his mischievous humour, natural empathy and zest for life, and missed him desperately. In truth, she was actually very sympathetic to his and Meghan’s desire to seek an ‘alternative’ life, if that’s what would make them happy. But the way in which the saga played out so acrimoniously was recently described to me as having taken a ‘terrible toll’ on the Queen’s wellbeing in recent years, leaving her feeling ‘very low indeed’ at times.
She even, I am told, confided in one friend that she was secretly glad Meghan hadn’t been able to come to her beloved Philip’s funeral last year as she simply couldn’t cope with the ensuring public drama, though she was fond of her granddaughter-in-law. It is this that William, in particular, will find difficult to forgive and forget – over and above all of the truly vituperative brickbats he himself has now been subjected to at his brother and sister-in-law’s hands.
One source told me recently that the ‘noise’ of the past few years has been ‘really hard’ on the heir to the throne. ‘It’s honestly broken his heart that such a painful family drama has been played out on a global scale about the people he cares most about most in the world,’ they said.
William, in particular, will find difficult to forgive and forget as the ‘noise’ of the past few years has been ‘really hard’ on the heir to the throne
However, the same person also told me, optimistically, that they believed there was always ‘a hope’ he and Harry could repair their relationship. ‘It’s his brother and he actually has a low tolerance for people being disrespectful about him. Even now people are very careful about what they say to him about Harry,’ the source said.
‘The prince is a decent man and I personally believe he will keep that door open forever. I’d find it impossible to believe there is anything these two brothers could say about each other that would mean they would never talk again.’
Of course, that was before yesterday’s eye-wateringly brutal hatchet-job – and the deafening silence emanating from Kensington Palace was a clear indication of how wounding it had been.
There is no doubt to many of the key players in this sad, sorry saga that more could have been done on both sides. The ‘institution’, a word Harry spits out as if it were poison on his tongue, did bend over backwards to accommodate the couple in its own funny way, but almost certainly could have been less unwieldy.
And perhaps if Harry had allowed the family to work through their many issues over time in private, as the Queen had so desperately wanted before she died, an awkward peace could have been brokered.
But Harry’s thirst for revenge – for that surely is the only reasonable interpretation of his Netflix gig – has ensured that any hope of a fairytale ending, modern or otherwise, is hanging by a thread.