So (Very) Many Thoughts on Harry & Meghan, Volume I
Takeaways from the first three episodes of the Netflix series on the Duke and Duchess of Sussex.
It is here! I binged the first three episodes of the six-part series Harry & Meghan on Thursday morning and let out an exhale when I finished. There were no bombshells or explosive revelations. BUT, there was a lot to it. As a longtime royal-watcher, I found all of the small reveals to be so interesting. Below, in my thoughts on the first three episodes, I focused on the bits that struck me as noteworthy.
Related: Did anyone else gasp just the tiniest bit when Meghan talked about her royal wardrobe and said “There was thought in that.” Please note the phrasing! It was not “I did that on purpose” or “That was intentional” but she used the word THOUGHT. We love to hear it.
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Below are my thoughts on the first three episodes of Netflix’s Harry & Meghan, divided into categories (including what delighted me, what enraged me, what surprised me, and so on). I’m operating under the assumption we have all watched by now. So be warned: Spoilers ahead!
ICYMI: The SMT newsletter comment thread on the first three episodes is thoughtful and nuanced and ROBUST — 436 comments and counting! If you haven’t already, upgrade to a paid subscription for $5 a month to join the conversation.
What I found delightful
I had not expected to have rom-com levels of “awwwww” within this. Listening to them tell the story of how they met and what those early days were like was really heartening.
All the glimpses of their private life. Within the first ten minutes, we saw a host of new photographs of the family. It drove home how little we have seen of them since they left the UK and — wow — does it look as if they’ve built a beautiful life together.
Harry’s Instagram. My notes literally read: “He has an Instagram!!!!” And it’s filled with pics of elephants! How did we not know this? Also, learning that he first saw a picture of Meghan on Insta and that’s how she did her own vetting of him? DELIGHTFUL.
BOTSWANA. The third date trip abroad remains one of the most memorable parts of their courtship and to SEE it, with their smiles. I kept thinking: What would it feel like to be swept off on an adventure like this by a prince you just met?! Meghan’s quote really stuck with me: “There was no mirror, there was no bathroom. There was no ‘How do I look?’” A thrilling fast-track to closeness if ever there was one, a Hallmark movie on all its own!
Hearing from Doria. Meghan’s mother has entered the chat! Yes, yes, yes. She’s been such a presence through all of this and you know she had things to say but waited for this moment to share. I loved that she opened with: “I am ready to have my voice heard, that’s for sure.” And how about her description of Harry? “I remember when I first met him,” she said. “He was just a 6’1” handsome man with red hair, really great manners, he was just really nice and they looked really happy together.” Swoon! Also “really great manners” is the most mom thing to say.
The onesie-wearing engagement party. I wish they would’ve share a visual of this BUT I’ll take the imagined one in my head. Just picture this fancy couple and their fancy friends wearing animal onesies. H&M dressed as penguins? I CANNOT.
What it underscored
I found myself saying THANK YOU to the screen so many times while watching it. So much has happened in the last few years, the public and press seem to have forgotten some key points here.
What Meghan gave up to marry Harry. Yes, she married a prince. But — this quote from Abigail Spencer sums it up — “She had a whole life before she met H.” This is something I come back to time and time again. Think of how different this is from 19-year-old Diana getting engaged! Meghan had a vibrant, fulfilling life, a career not just with acting but with The Tig (I appreciated how she said had become a business of its own).
How they traded places. Harry’s quote early on is EXACTLY what I have been thinking for years now — I got chills hearing him sum it up: “She sacrificed everything that she ever knew, the freedom that she had, to join me in my world and then pretty soon after that I end up sacrificing everything that I know to join her in her world.” Also the very next clip shows that world, with Meghan feeding chickens. An exhale!
Where the monarchy stands. James Holt, the executive director of the Archewell Foundation and a former palace spokesman (he worked for both the Sussexes and the then-Cambridges through the Royal Foundation) had an important perspective on the idea of monarchy in 2022. “As new generations come through, people may start to question it — and I say this with absolute pure adoration for the family, for the people I worked with,” he said. “But when you actually put it up to pressure and you say that there is a family anointed by God, by blood, to rule over this country and other countries around the world, it’s a difficult conversation to have.”
The realities of royal life. Robert Hazell, author of The Role of Monarchy in Modern Democracy: European Monarchies Compared, acknowledged the immense privilege of being born into the royal family. But he also noted there is a real downside: “They live for me in a gilded cage” and “They lack most of the freedoms that most of us take for granted.”
How influential the tabloids are. Again, Holt has such an important perspective. The danger of tabloids is not just what they publish, it’s the important place they hold in the collective UK conversation. “The tabloids have been arbiters of public opinion for such a long time,” he said. “They are the popular press for a reason.”
What I appreciated
I recognized a welcome willingness to go there with the tough conversations, including the issues of racism and the effects of colonialism.
Harry’s evolution. The prince’s 2005 Nazi costume clearly haunts him, and for good reason — it was shocking. I was glad he addressed it here, calling it “one of the biggest mistakes of my life,” and sharing the steps he took to repair. I also appreciated Afua Hirsch, the British journalist and author of Brit(ish): On Race, Identity, and Belonging, on how her views towards him evolved. “I always perceived Prince Harry as just another senior royal who’s a little bit racist, very ignorant,” she said. “But I have watched him on this journey and seen that he has really embraced the education that is required of someone like him to transform themselves into an anti-racist.”
Harry on unconscious bias. The prince addressed head-on the blindspots within himself and the royal family, remarking on the “huge level of unconscious bias.” This next bit, though, is so important: “Once it’s been pointed out or identified within yourself, you then need to make it right. It’s education, it’s awareness, and it’s a constant work in progress for everybody, including me, you know?” Add to that his reflections on his children. “My son, my daughter, my children are mixed race. And I’m really proud of that,” he said. “When my kids grow up and they look back at this moment and they turn to me and say, ‘What did you do in this moment?’”
The ways Meghan did, or did not, think about race. Meghan has spoken about this some, but this felt new: “Most people didn’t treat me like a Black woman so that talk didn’t have to happen for me.” (Jada Gomez has written a great piece for Popsugar on this.) I also am grateful for Doria’s comments, especially after their relationship was made public: “I said to her, I remember this very clearly, ‘This is about race.’ And Meg said, ‘Mommy I don’t want to hear that.’ And I said, ‘Well you may not want to hear it but this is what’s coming down the pike.’”
How Brexit inflamed things for the Sussexes. Harry and Meghan’s relationship became public in the fall of 2016, just months after the UK had voted to leave the European Union. Their courtship, and wedding, took place in the two-year period in which the country underwent that transition, known as Brexit. Holt called it a “perfect storm” that “gave people with really horrible views of the world a little bit more strength and confidence to say what they wanted to say.” David Olusoga, author of Black and British: A Forgotten History, said “It was an inauspicious moment for Britain to be trying to live out this fairytale story of this fairytale princess and this diverse, modernizing country.”
Protocol is largely a myth. I feel like I’ve been saying this for years! So much of what is cited in the media as protocol (like what’s an acceptable nail polish color) is fabricated. It’s used to sensationalize or critique — we love to talk about rule breakers. But it’s not written down somewhere! “A lot of invented protocol,” is how Harry put it. And Meghan dispelled the myth of a Princess Diaries-esque prep course. “There is no class and some person who goes, ‘Sit like this, put your legs like that,’” she said, calling her early days “baptism by fire.”
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What surprised me
So many times while watching the first three episodes I thought to myself “WOW!” or “Huh” or “I didn’t realize that.”