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Netflix’s much-talked-about docuseries Harry & Meghan dropped Thursday, and although the first three episodes revealed little new information, Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s blunt criticism of the British press has elicited a predictably hysterical reaction from U.K. newspapers and some politicians.
In the series, Prince Harry describes how the U.K. tabloids would routinely exaggerate, distort and fabricate stories about the couple. He adds that newspapers would give reporters the fanciful title of “Royal Correspondent” to give their claims “extra credibility.” The Sussexes also recount repeated invasions of their privacy and being hounded by paparazzi.
Prince Harry adds that the royal family’s view on the hostile press coverage of his relationship with Markle was “a rite of passage.”
The Hollywood Reporter‘s review of the series said, “Harry & Meghan offers too little that feels fresh enough to merit its luxurious six-episode sprawl for all but the most fervent royal watchers.” But the reaction in the British tabloids was swift and overwhelming, the wall-to-wall coverage once again illustrating the symbiotic relationship between the royal family and the more downmarket press.
The tabloids The Sun and The Daily Mail, two newspapers Prince Harry has launched legal action against in the past over their reporting, jumped on the debut of the docuseries to flood their sites with content. The Guardian‘s media reporter Jim Waterson writes that “within two hours of the release of the first episodes, the top 12 stories on MailOnline were all about the couple, complete with pictures, gifs, and screengrabs. The Sun managed seven stories about the couple online within the first two hours.”
Television talk shows and opinion shows also covered the docuseries extensively. Piers Morgan, who famously stormed off the set of ITV’s Good Morning Britain when challenged about his views on Markle and subsequently lost his job, dedicated his Talk TV show to the couple, inviting the Duchess of Sussex’s half-brother Thomas Markle Jr. as a guest to slam the couple.
And it wasn’t just the British press that reacted to Harry & Meghan with hostility. Bob Seely, a Conservative member of Parliament, said he plans to bring forward legislation in an attempt to strip the Duke and Duchess of Sussex of their royal titles. “As well as trashing his family and monetizing his misery for public consumption, [Prince Harry] is also attacking some important institutions in this country,” said Seely told the PA news agency.
The front pages of Friday morning editions of U.K. newspapers were also dominated with coverage of the Netflix series. In typically unrestrained fashion, the Sussexes’ bête noire The Daily Mail invoked the late Queen Elizabeth II by splashing its front page with two unflattering pictures of the couple and the headline, “Palace Anger at ‘Assault on Queen’s Legacy.'” Citing palace insiders, the paper’s royal editor claims that the Sussexes “want to bring down the monarchy.” The Daily Mail also teased three different pieces about the Sussexes from its star columnists on its front page.
The Sun, which is owned by Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp., led with “Harry the Nasty” an oblique callback to its “Harry the Nazi” front page from 2005. The paper, like many others, suggests the series’ supposedly tarnishing the legacy of the late queen, and cites sources close to the royal family saying that they are in a “state of sadness.”
The Daily Express, another right-wing tabloid not known for its temperate views on Prince Harry and Markle, splashed its front page with, “Royals ‘deeply upset’ by Harry’s slurs.” The Daily Telegraph, a more upmarket newspaper, but similarly obsessed with covering the royal family, also echoed the press’ feeling that Harry & Meghan was a “direct hit” on the late queen’s legacy.
The Mirror‘s front page similarly led with the Sussexes, but the tabloid chose to castigate all parties for focusing on the royal soap opera amid a cost of living crisis.
The centrist broadsheet newspapers also couldn’t help but feature the Sussexes on their front pages, but the Guardian chose to feature its withering review of Harry & Meghan and the Times of London focused on the royal family’s ongoing feud with Netflix over its portrayal in both the new docuseries and The Crown.
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