When it comes to Harry and Meghan, Duke and Duchess of Sussex, their escape from “the Firm” is an essential part of their modern love story — and the final three episodes of their much-talked-about Netflix docuseries, premiering Thursday, walk viewers through what made royal life intolerable.
The first half of the series, which quickly generated discussion on social media, analysis by royal watchers and takeaways by the press (including our own), offered an intimate look at the early days of Meghan and Harry’s romance, the press blitz that followed after their relationship became public, and the tabloid frenzy that accompanied their fairy tale wedding in May 2018 — not to mention the revelation that the couple refer to each other as “H” and “M,” which reached peak levels on the cringe scale for even their most loyal supporters.
Netflix, in its usual selective fashion, revealed that the first three episodes of “Harry & Meghan” debuted with 81.55 million hours viewed in the first four days they were available — making it the highest viewed documentary premiere for the streaming platform.
The concluding three episodes of “Harry & Meghan” open with the couple’s wedding and lead us through the toll that life in the royal spotlight took on their relationship — which ultimately prompted the decision to step away from their royal duties, and opened up familial rifts with the Windsors.
Directed by Liz Garbus (“I’ll Be Gone in the Dark,” “The Fourth Estate”), “Harry & Meghan” is the first TV project from the couple’s multiyear deal with Netflix, made in the wake of their decision to retire as senior members of the royal family in 2020. The British royal family did not participate in the series, nor has it commented on it since its release.
Aside from learning that Meghan struggles with balloon arch kits just like the rest of us, here are the most important revelations from the final three episodes.
Prince Charles was a helpful wedding participant.
Readily stepping in to escort Meghan down the aisle after it became clear Meghan’s father would not show up, Charles also helped the couple secure the gospel choir that performed at their ceremony — who can forget that charming performance of “Stand By Me”?
“He said they could take the best people from certain gospel choirs and put them together and that’s how Kingdom Choir came together, and they were great,” Meghan says.
Harry regrets his handling of Meghan’s suicidal ideation.
In the couple’s much-talked-about sit-down with Oprah in 2021, Meghan opened up about her struggles with mental health and the suicidal thoughts she experienced from the distress of relentless media coverage — and the lack of support she said she received from the Firm when it came to mental health care.
That dark period is discussed in the docuseries, in which Harry expresses regret over his own mishandling of the situation.
“I was devastated,” he says. “I knew that she was struggling and we were both struggling. But I never thought that it would get to that stage. And the fact that it got to that stage, I felt angry and ashamed. “
“I didn’t deal with it particularly well,” he continues. “I dealt with it as Institutional Harry, as opposed to Husband Harry. And what took over my feelings was my royal role. I had been trained to worry more about, “What are people going to think if we don’t go to this event? We’re gonna be late.” And looking back on it now … I hate myself for it. What she needed from me was so much more than I was able to give.”
Actress Abigail Spencer tried to turn the narrative about Meghan around.
As the media storm surrounding her became increasingly negative and unfairly critical, Meghan’s friends rallied to change the narrative. Spencer, who co-starred with the duchess in “Suits,” even approached the editor of People magazine, who was a close friend, with the idea of having Meghan’s intimates speaking out, anonymously, about the Meghan they knew.
“I said, ‘We have to turn this narrative around,’” Spencer says, adding that once the story was out, “there was a little bit of an exhale.”
The story would later come up in Meghan’s legal battle against the British tabloid Mail on Sunday, which revolved around the outlet’s publication of a letter Meghan sent to her estranged father. The newspaper’s lawyers argued in court that the names of the friends who defended her in the People article, which mentioned that Meghan had written a letter to her dad, should be made public.
Prince Harry blames Meghan’s miscarriage on the stress from her lawsuit with Mail on Sunday.
Meghan suffered a miscarriage after the birth of son Archie Mountbatten Windsor — an experience she wrote about in a New York Times op-ed in November 2020. In the docuseries, Harry said he believes the stress from her lawsuit with the Mail on Sunday caused the miscarriage.
“I believe my wife suffered a miscarriage because of what the Mail did. I watched the whole thing,” he said. “Now, do we absolutely know that the miscarriage was created, caused by that? Of course we don’t. But bearing in mind the stress that that caused, the lack of sleep, and the timing of the pregnancy … I can say from what I saw, that miscarriage was created by what they were trying to do to her. “
Meghan eventually won the fight against the Mail on Sunday in 2021.
Harry’s decision to step back from royal duties led Prince William to ‘scream and shout.’
One of the most explosive revelations comes when Prince Harry claims his brother screamed at him during a family meeting at Sandringham Estate in 2020 that was convened, without Meghan, after Harry and Meghan’s plans to step back from some royal duties became public.
“I sent an email to the three most senior private secretaries saying, ‘Let’s get together and have a meeting and talk about this,’” Harry says. “Because what was happening, what was playing out in public, was crazy. And that meeting was rejected …. It was only once Meg had left and gone back to Canada that it was then arranged.”
“Imagine a conversation, a roundtable discussion about the future of your life, when the stakes are this high,” adds Meghan. “And you as the mom and the wife and the target, in many regards, aren’t invited to have a seat at the table.”
“It was clear to me that they planned out so that you weren’t in the room,” Harry says.
Harry says he was given five options: One being “all in, no change,” five being “all out.” He chose Option 3: half in, half out: have their own jobs, but also work in support of the queen. Still, the decision provoked intense feelings.
“It became very clear very quickly that that goal was not up for discussion or debate,” Harry said. “It was terrifying to have my brother scream and shout at me, and my father say things that simply weren’t true and my grandmother quietly sit there and sort of take it all in …. But you have to understand that from my family’s perspective, especially from here, there are ways of doing things, and her ultimate mission-slash-responsibility is the institution.”
That day, a story came out that said part of the reason for the couple’s decision to step back was William’s bullying. Harry goes on to allege that the joint statement he and William issued hours after the meeting, with the intent of quashing the story and downplaying any rift between the brothers, did not have his approval.
“We couldn’t believe it,” Harry says. “No one had asked me permission to put my name to a statement like that. And I rang M and I told her, and she burst into floods of tears because within four hours [of the meeting] they’re happy to lie to protect my brother. And yet, for three years, they were never willing to tell the truth to protect us.”
Beyoncé texted Meghan after the Oprah interview.
The morning after Meghan and Harry’s splashy interview with Oprah aired in March 2021 — when Netflix’s cameras are already following them — the couple is sitting side-by-side at their home when Meghan receives a text from Beyoncé.
Harry gasps when he learns who has messaged. “Shut up!” he says, jazz hands out. “I still can’t believe she knows who I am,” Meghan adds, before paraphrasing the text out loud: “She said she wants me to feel safe and protected. She admires my bravery and vulnerability and thinks I was selected to break generational curses that need to be healed.”
Also that day, Meghan receives a call from Tyler Perry, where the friends take in a statement that has just been issued by the queen in response to the allegations made in the Oprah interview. Harry interrupts to place his phone in front of Meghan’s face to show a text he’s received from William. The contents of the text are not shared, but it’s clear it left Harry in distress.
“Wow,” Meghan says.
“I wish I knew what to do,” Harry says.
“I know,” Meghan replies, as they embrace. “Let’s take a breather, get some air and then decide.”
Meghan shares the speech she gave at her wedding.
The final moments of the docuseries feature Meghan reaching for her phone to read the speech she gave on the night of their wedding in 2018 — an atypical thing for a bride to do in the U.K., she is quick to point out. Here is the full text of that speech:
Onto the crux of why I wanted to speak tonight — first of all, it’s been a while. [That got a big laugh.] But mostly I wanted to share a story that I wrote about the man that I love and the way that we met. Let’s call this a modern fairy tale: Once upon a time, there was a girl from L.A.; some people called her an actress. And there was a guy from London; some people called him a prince. All of those people didn’t fully get it. Because this is the love story of a boy and a girl who are meant to be together. They meet on July 3, 2016, in London, and they giggle endlessly. So the next day, they have their second date and he brings her cupcakes because it’s the Fourth of July. “A bittersweet celebration,” he says. Ironic, really — her country’s independence from his country.
Yet in this moment they know they don’t want to be independent of each other. And after a month of long-distance courtship, they settle into the quiet of Botswana and amidst whatever momentary worries that creep in, they look at each other and think, “Whatever, world. We’re in.” They would love and garden and travel and laugh and rack up more air miles than any couple could have. And when the tides were rough, they squeezed each other tighter. “Nothing can break us,” they’d say, “for this love, she was a fighter.”
I appreciate, respect and honor you, my treasure, for the family we will create and our love story that will last forever. So I ask you to raise a glass to the astounding assurance that now life begins and the everlasting knowing that above all, love wins.