In an incendiary Netflix documentary series, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex also provoked a row with Palace officials over whether they gave the royals a right to reply.The no-holds-barred account sees Harry accuse the Royal Family of racism, complaining about “unconscious bias” inside the Firm in one of the first three episodes of the six-part series, released yesterday.
The programme also seemed to portray the Commonwealth as a plot to retain Britain’s Empire.
And Harry and his wife, who were given special responsibilities by Queen Elizabeth to act as Commonwealth ambassadors before quitting their roles, risked undermining her work and Britain’s interests across the 56-nation association by using the series to question its value.
They also complained about their treatment at the hands of the Royal Family, palace aides, the media and the British public.
Their documentary painted Britain as a country hampered by widespread racism, fuelled by Brexit, and suggested royal palaces were full of racist imagery.
Multiple sources said the family and staff were “saddened” and “upset” by the content of the docu-series. Weekend briefings said that the King and Queen Consort were “wearied” by the Sussexes’ repeated public complaints.
One source said: “Everyone is just full of sadness that it has come to this. They really are full of sadness that it has come to this.”
Buckingham Palace and Kensington Palace have declined to comment publicly for now on the criticism levelled at members of the family and royal aides.
The King, Prince William and their advisers have vowed to take some time to consider whether the accusations merit a response.
But senior Palace sources did take issue with a disclaimer at the start of the series which read: “Members of the Royal Family declined to comment on the content within this series.”
Senior Palace sources insisted there had been no attempt to contact them.
When Netflix insisted there had been, Buckingham Palace and Kensington Palace said they had received an email each purporting to be from a third party production company via a different, unknown organisation’s email address.
A Palace source said: “We contacted [the Sussexes’] Archewell Productions and Netflix to attempt to verify the authenticity of the email but received no response.
“In the absence of this verification, we were unable to provide any response.”
Netflix will air the final three episodes of Harry & Meghan next Thursday, December 15, the day the Royal Family attend a Christmas carol service at Westminster Abbey.
The royals are braced for more turmoil as the later episodes will look at the couple’s decision to quit the monarchy, dubbed Megxit, and ultimately move to the US.
In yesterday’s release, Harry launches into a racism broadside, saying: “In this family, sometimes you are part of the problem rather than part of the solution. There is a huge level of unconscious bias.”
The documentary showed images of Princess Michael of Kent wearing a Blackamoor-style brooch to a Buckingham Palace Christmas lunch attended by Meghan in 2017.
But Harry admitted his own racism after wearing a Nazi uniform to a fancy dress party in 2005.
“It was one of the biggest mistakes of my life. I felt so ashamed afterwards,” he said.
He also defied his brother’s wishes by using footage of Martin Bashir’s Panorama interview with his mother, something Prince William argued should never be aired again.
Harry also appeared to take a dig at his brother and Kate by saying that some members of the family chose women that “fit the mould”.
His wife Meghan made fun of her first meeting with the Queen, mocking the deep curtsy she performed.
“I just thought it was a joke,” she said.
She also told of an awkward first encounter with William and Kate in which she realised she was a “hugger” but they were more formal.
Former aides took exception to Meghan’s claim that she was given no help when she first joined the Royal Family.
She claimed she had no idea what a royal walkabout was and Harry said he could not advise her on what clothes and jewellery to wear.
But palace staff and former aides have insisted that there were people drafted in to help her.
One source said: “We bent over backwards to help both of them.”
Courtiers were also shocked that footage of the Queen making Commonwealth speeches was used in a segment in which historian David Olusoga appeared to question the value of both.
He said: “At the centre of the argument for the monarchy in this country is the Commonwealth. The Queen made it her life mission to fight for this institution. She’s famous for it.”
He was followed by writer Afua Hirsch, who said: “I sometimes call the Commonwealth ‘Empire Two Point Zero’ because that is what it is.”
There was also a section that highlighted the Royal Family’s historic involvement in the slave trade.
Harry and Meghan’s one-sided account might not have met British broadcasting rules, which require balance.
But Netflix is answerable to the Dutch media regulator, which operates much laxer rules.
Despite the show’s launch yesterday, it was business as usual for King Charles, who attended a reception for the Christian Communities group in King’s Cross, north London.