Everything We Learned From the Meghan Markle and Prince Harry Netflix Docuseries

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For better or worse, Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s self-titled docuseries Harry & Meghan has been the talk of the town since Netflix dropped a minute-long trailer for the Liz Garbus-led six-part series on Dec. 2.

The first half of the series arrived on Dec. 8, and in 171 minutes, the three episodes consolidated a lot of what the Duke and Duchess’ have already shared in previous, carefully executed interviews: They dissected their secretive courtship, the historic and present-day flaws of the royal institution, and the challenges that led them to step back as working royals in March 2020.

More novel is the journey Garbus’ direction takes viewers on to examine race and empire in Britain and the Commonwealth, as well as the 2016 European Union membership referendum dubbed “Brexit,” which coincided with Meghan and Harry’s courtship the same year. The docuseries also invites their current and childhood friends, colleagues from outside the royal institution, academics, and Meghan’s mother and niece to shed light on the tumultuous six years that they have spent together.

The documentary opens with a note stating that the documentary is a “first-hand account” from the couple, with a “never before seen personal archive.” It adds that the royal family declined to comment on content contained in the series.

Notably, a title card reveals that “All interviews were completed by August 2022,” a clarification likely due to Queen Elizabeth II’s death the following month, which led to Harry’s father, formerly Prince Charles, succeeding to the throne and becoming King.

With the release of the final three episodes on Dec. 15, the couple shares more about topics including Meghan’s mental health struggles, the circumstances surrounding her miscarriage in 2020, Tyler Perry’s relationship to the couple, and what went down between Harry and his father and brother as he and his wife tried to sort out their plans to leave England.

Here is everything we learned from the multimillion-dollar collaboration between Netflix Archewell productions.

A friend told Harry and Meghan to start filming video diaries that form the documentary

Harry is seen filming a video in March 2020 at a suite in London Heathrow Airport after they finished their “last stint of royal engagements.” He reflects how they ended up here. Meanwhile Meghan is in Vancouver Island, Canada, making the same reflections.

While many viewers who saw the trailer might have wondered why the couple had a wealth of footage at the ready, Harry reveals that a friend told them to start filming video diaries as they made their transition away from working royal roles.

“With all of the misinformation that was going on out there, especially about us and the departure, it seemed like a really good idea,” Harry says via selfie video footage. In her own video, Meghan adds: “We know that right now, it might not make sense but one day it will make sense.”

In response to their decision to make such a public documentary after stepping back from the public scrutiny of the royal family, the couple’s global press secretary, Ashley Hansen, gave a statement to the New York Times.

“Their statement announcing their decision to step back mentions nothing of privacy and reiterates their desire to continue their roles and public duties. Any suggestion otherwise speaks to a key point of this series. They are choosing to share their story, on their terms, and yet the tabloid media has created an entirely untrue narrative that permeates press coverage and public opinion. The facts are right in front of them.”

The couple met over Instagram

A relatable moment in the documentary comes early on when the couple say they met over Instagram in 2016. Harry recalled that he saw a mutual friend post a video with Meghan wearing a now-recognizable dog ears filter and it piqued his interest.

Meghan was on holiday in Europe between filming seasons of Suits, and having a “single girl summer,” according to another friend. Their mutual friend asked Meghan if she was interested in a date with Prince Harry and she asked to see his Instagram profile to get a better sense of who he was.

It was here that they started messaging each other before going for an hour-long drink at London’s Soho House on 76 Dean Street—a date that Meghan says Harry was late to. They met in the same venue the next day, as Meghan was due to head back to the U.S. the day after.

Harry says men in his family typically marry someone who fits the royal mold

Harry said there was a “temptation or an urge” for men in the royal family to marry a partner who would “fit the mold” over someone you are destined to be with. He said there was a tension between thinking with your head or your heart but recognized that he and his mother Princess Diana both had a tendency to let their hearts guide their decisions.

Harry reflects on his childhood

Harry said his childhood often featured intrusions from paparazzi who followed them on holidays trying to get pictures. He said they were “forced” into smiling and answering questions from the “traveling press pack.” He also said that while his childhood was “filled with laughter” as well as happiness and adventure, he doesn’t have many early memories of his mom.

“It was almost like internally I sort of blocked them out. But I always remember her laugh, her cheeky laugh. Her always saying to me, ‘You can get in trouble just don’t get caught,’” he said.

Harry also spoke about the death of his mother in 1997 during a car crash in Paris. He said he and William had “two hats to wear,” one was that of grieving sons and the other royal hat where they could “show no emotion” and greet people.

Prince Harry and Meghan seen in Netflix's 'Harry & Meghan'Courtesy of Netflix

Harry and Meghan’s third date was camping in Botswana

In 2004, Harry arrived in Lesotho amid a number of negative headlines about him and he became close with Prince Seeiso of Lesotho. Seeiso says Harry was allowed to “be himself” in Lesotho and added that they nicknamed him Malahe, or warrior. He began visiting on a yearly basis after this, and said he would stay for as long as three months at a time.

Harry said his time in Africa was “quite special” and so it was “critical” to take Meghan with him. The couple both had a week off between work in the summer of 2016 so Harry invited her to Botswana for their third date. The couple shared a tent for five days and despite initial worries that it might not work, they said “everything felt totally normal and natural.”

Doria, Meghan’s mother gives her first interview

Early into the second episode, Doria Ragland gives her first sit-down interview, saying “the last five years has been challenging” and she is ready to have her voice heard. Doria says that Meghan’s early courtship with Harry had to be a secret from the beginning and the first time she met him, she saw a “six one handsome man with red hair” and “really great manners.”

Doria said there was a “novelty” to their relationship at first but this quickly soured.

Meghan reflects on her childhood and racial identity

Doria says Meghan was raised by a “network of women” and her daughter told her she felt like an “older controlling sister.” The episode reflects on her youth as an activist, a performer, and a straight-A student before turning to a racist incident that Meghan saw her mom experience where a woman “screamed” a racial slur at Doria after a concert at The Hollywood Bowl.

Meghan said she found it “very different to be a minority but not be treated” as one. She added that before arriving in the U.K. most people didn’t treat her like a Black woman so she never had to have a talk with her mom about racism.

Doria added that “in hindsight” she would like to go back and have that conversation but she did later warn her that a lot of the negative attention she was getting was due to her race.

Meghan says the palace told her not to invite her niece to the royal wedding

Samantha Markle, Meghan’s half sister with whom she shares a father, maintains that she and Meghan had a close relationship until 2018, which Meghan denies. Meghan said she was, however, in touch with Samantha’s biological daughter Ashleigh Hale, the Duchess’ niece, who was raised by her grandparents in the absence of Samantha.

Ashleigh tells viewers they began speaking several times a week and traveled to New Orleans together: “It was just the two of us, which I think was really special,” she said. She added that Meghan acted as a sister, best friend, and in a maternal role too.

During her relationship with Harry, Ashleigh said communication with Meghan was less frequent and she assumed that her interactions were being managed by the royal institution. Meghan says the press team she and Harry shared with Prince William and Kate Middleton decided it was to not invite Ashleigh to the wedding if her mother, Meghan’s half sister wasn’t invited. Ashleigh says “I was hurt on some level but I understood where it was coming from.”

Harry says he learned a lot about bias after his offensive Halloween nazi costume

Race and empire plays a central part of the docuseries, with a particular focus in episode three. One instance touches on Princess Michael of Kent, the wife of one of the Queen’s cousins, who wore a blackamoor brooch—which is widely viewed as a racist figure—to a Christmas lunch.

The documentary touches on a series of other racist imagery within the royal households and establishes them as engrained in the royal fabric. Prince Harry says there is a “huge level of unconscious bias” in the royal family and while it’s no one’s fault you must educate yourself when it’s pointed out.

He also touched on his own incident which he called “one of the biggest mistakes of my life.” After wearing an offensive Nazi costume to a 2005 halloween party when he was 20-years-old, Harry said he spoke with “felt so ashamed” and wanted to “make it right.”

He said spoke to a Rabbi and traveled to Berlin to speak to a Holocaust survivor. “I could have ignored it and probably made the same mistakes over again in my life but I learned from that,” he said.

Meghan’s mother opens up about hearing that her daughter was suicidal

In the fourth episode of the series, Markle recounts her struggles with mental health, which ultimately led to suicidal ideation. She says she tried to seek professional help but wasn’t allowed out of concerns over how it would look for the royal institution. Harry says he regrets dealing with his wife’s struggles as “institutional Harry” rather than “husband Harry”.

Meanwhile, Markle’s mother Doria said it was tough to learn about Markle’s suicidal thoughts: “To constantly be picked at by these vultures, picking away at her spirit, that she would actually want to think of not wanting to be here. That’s not an easy one for a mum to hear. And I can’t protect her. Harry can’t protect her.”

Harry says William screamed and shouted at him at crisis talks

The duke says he attended crisis talks in January 2020 at Sandringham about his and Markle’s decision to step back from royal duties, with the Queen in attendance. Markle says she had requested such talks while she was in the U.K. but they were rejected until she left despite being the mother, wife, and “target” of concerned parties.

Harry also says that he attended the meeting with a range of options on the table, from “all in” to “all out” but personally chose a middle option, whereby they would have their own jobs in Canada while supporting the Queen in the Commonwealth. Harry adds: “But it became very clear that option was not up for debate.”

“It was very terrifying to have my brother scream and shout at me and my father says things that were just simply untrue, and my grandmother quietly sit there and sort of take it all in,” he says in the docuseries. He also says that in order to squash claims that William bullied him and Markle out of the family, there was a joint statement on behalf of the brothers that he did not consent to.

“I couldn’t believe it. No one had asked me. No one had asked me permission to put my name to a statement like that. I rang Meghan and I told her and she burst into floods of tears because within four hours they were happy to lie to protect my brother, and yet for three years they were never willing to tell the truth to protect us,” Harry recalls.

Harry accuses his father of leaking his plans to move to Canada

One of the more shocking aspects of the documentary is Harry’s accusation that his father is responsible for leaking private information about his request to transition into a new royal role in Canada. The couple say they had explored various relocation options since 2018, considering New Zealand and South Africa as potential new homes where they could continue cause-driven work for the Commonwealth. They explain that these plans would fail to come to fruition when they were leaked to the press, which they often were.

They also expressed new plans to move to Canada to escape the reach of “royal rota” news publications. Harry says his father asked for the request in writing in order to consider it, but his emails were leaked to the press weeks later. “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. That was the giveaway,” Harry recalls, adding that the only person aware of that specific detail was his father.

Tyler Perry reveals that he is Lilibet’s godfather

A notable part of the docuseries is Tyler Perry’s appearance in episode six. Harry and Meghan previously told Oprah that the movie mogul housed them when they moved to Los Angeles in 2020—at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic—because he had enough security to protect them.

But in the documentary, the couple reveal that though they had never met Perry, he had reached out to them with well wishes around the time of their wedding in 2018. Perry let the couple stay for as long as they needed before they settled into their Montecito home in June 2020.

Perry also tells interviewers he received a “pretty serious” call in 2021 asking him to be Lilibet’s godfather and he was “absolutely honored.”

He adds that his second thoughts led him to call the couple back and ask if he would have to take part in a formal ceremony with the royal family in the U.K. because he didn’t want to do that. “Maybe we can do a little private ceremony here and let that be that, and if you have to do it there, then that’s OK,” Perry recalls.

They blame the Daily Mail for a miscarriage Meghan suffered

In the final episode, the couple dedicates a lot of time to the invasion of their privacy by the Daily Mail, which led to the tabloid publishing a five-page handwritten letter Markle sent to her father Thomas Markle ahead of her wedding in 2018. She adds that the royal institution encouraged her to send the letter. Markle ultimately sued Associated Newspapers, the publisher who owns the tabloid, and won her legal case, which included an appeal by the Daily Mail. But she said she experienced a miscarriage during the same time.

Speaking of the experience, which happened before their second child Lilibet was born, Harry says: “I believe my wife suffered a miscarriage because of what The Mail did. I watched the whole thing.” He adds: “Now, do we absolutely know that the miscarriage was caused by that? Of course, we don’t. But bearing in mind the stress that caused, the lack of sleep, and the timing of the pregnancy, how many weeks in she was. I can say from what I saw that miscarriage was created by what they were trying to do to her.”

Markle previously spoke about her miscarriage in a November 2020 op-ed in the New York Times entitled The Losses We Share. Outling her decision to write the article, Markle says, “When I reveal things that are moments of vulnerability when it comes to having a miscarriage and maybe having felt ashamed about that, like, it’s OK, you’re human. It’s OK to talk about that. And I could make the choice to never talk about those things, or I could make the choice to say, ‘With all the bad that comes with this, the good is being able to help other people.’”

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Write to Armani Syed at armani.syed@time.com