Once again, Prince Harry is attempting to cloak himself and Meghan with Diana’s legacy: A damning verdict from RICHARD KAY, who knew the Princess well

Who could have imagined as Prince Charles took the arm of Meghan Markle, so radiant in her bridal gown on that magical day in Windsor, it could possibly have come to this.

That a Royal Family which didn’t just roll out the welcome mat for the former actress, but showered her with love and affection would, in a little over four years, find itself accused of manipulating the media to attack her.

In the latest and most outrageous trailer yet for their upcoming Netflix documentary series, Prince Harry denounces the Palace – and by implication his own family – for playing what he calls ‘a dirty game’.

Against a soundtrack of ominously pulsating music he accuses the institution for which he was once among its most charismatic of frontmen, of the ‘leaking’ and ‘planting’ of stories.

The targets of this wrongdoing, of course, are the Duke and Duchess of Sussex themselves.

The slick, tightly edited Netflix teaser, complete with a commentary alleging racism and hatred, frames the couple, who – remember – continue to adorn themselves with the royal dukedom that confers on them so much social cachet in the United States, as victims of some vast conspiracy.

The slick, tightly edited Netflix teaser, complete with a commentary alleging racism and hatred, frames the couple as victims of some vast conspiracy. Pictured: Meghan looking upset in the new trailer

Against a soundtrack of ominously pulsating music he accuses the institution for which he was once among its most charismatic of frontmen, of the ‘leaking’ and ‘planting’ of stories. The targets of this wrongdoing, of course, are the Duke and Duchess of Sussex (pictured)

In the latest and most outrageous trailer yet for their upcoming Netflix documentary series, Prince Harry (pictured exchanging tense glances with Meghan) denounces the Palace – and by implication his own family – for playing what he calls ‘a dirty game’

The two clips of film included of the late princess in the trailer were taken after she had voluntarily given up her police bodyguards

And at the centre of this vicious attack is the figure of Princess Diana, Harry’s mother, used as ever as a club to beat the royals.

With long lingering shots of Diana surrounded by the paparazzi, Harry’s reference, tracing a line from what happened to his mother to the treatment he perceives his wife received, is clear. ‘I was terrified,’ he says. ‘I didn’t want history to repeat itself.’

But it is a distorting and highly selective piece of promotion, as manipulative indeed as the campaign he accuses the media of waging. 

The two clips of film included of the late princess in the trailer were taken after she had voluntarily given up her police bodyguards. 

How very different the situation was for Meghan. From the moment of her engagement in 2017 to the couple’s departure for America two and a half years later, Meghan was always under the protection of Scotland Yard. 

The fact is, the duchess’s experience of the kind of intrusion the Netflix trailer imagines bears no resemblance to that which was handed out to Harry’s mother on an almost daily basis.

The fact is, the duchess’s experience of the kind of intrusion the Netflix trailer imagines bears no resemblance to that which was handed out to Harry’s mother on an almost daily basis. Pictured: a still from the latest trailer

If the trailer is anything to go by, the series will be nothing short of a full-frontal and destructive attack on the Royal Family. Pictured: a still from the latest trailer

As a close friend of the princess, I was witness to many of those frenzied moments when the relentless pursuit by paparazzi – who followed her day and night – reduced her to tears of despair.

They followed her from her home to the gym, to restaurants and shops, to medical appointments and even to funerals.

On a couple of occasions, I was photographed with her. It was a paradox that Harry makes absolutely no allowance for. Diana, for all her often valid complaints about intrusion and privacy, had friends in the media too.

They followed the princess from her home to the gym, to restaurants and shops, to medical appointments and even to funerals

So once again we see Harry using the Netflix film to double down on attempts to cloak himself and his wife with his mother’s legacy.

In last year’s Oprah Winfrey interview he spoke of his belief that Diana would have been angry at the way he and the duchess had been treated and even claimed of their departure from royal life, ‘I think she saw it coming.’

Not only is this a bogus argument – Diana did not walk out on her country – but it is also mischievous in the way he casts himself, Meghan and his mother as victims, while erasing the presence of his own brother in the narrative.

If the trailer is anything to go by, the series will be nothing short of a full-frontal and destructive attack on the Royal Family. And it is likely to deepen the rift with Prince William.

Certainly, friends of the Prince of Wales are incensed that his brother should now be cynically using the tragedy of Diana as a money-making exercise to generate sales for Netflix. 

But he is understood to be even angrier at the way in which Harry allows the film – over which he presumably has considerable editorial control – to make the argument that Meghan was a victim not just of racism but a spiteful Palace.

At one stage Meghan’s lawyer, Jenny Afia pops up in the latest trailer to claim: ‘There was a war against Meghan to suit other people’s agendas.’

Who could have imagined as Prince Charles took the arm of Meghan Markle, so radiant in her bridal gown on that magical day in Windsor, it could possibly have come to this

 

So once again we see Harry using the Netflix film to double down on attempts to cloak himself and his wife with his mother’s legacy. Pictured: a still from the latest trailer

Ms Afia has form when it comes to speaking out on behalf of Meghan. Last year, she appeared on a BBC documentary to claim that her client was not a ‘difficult or demanding’ boss. As to whose ‘agenda’ Ms Afia is referring – that is conveniently left unexplained.

Against a snapshot of the Buckingham Palace balcony at the 2019 Trooping the Colour ceremony, Harry also intones: ‘There’s a hierarchy of the family,’ before adding gravely, ‘you know there’s leaking, but there’s also planting of stories.’ The action cuts immediately in a none-too-subtle way to thundering newspaper presses.

Another aide ‘quits the Sussexes’ firm’ 

The Duke and Duchess of Sussex have lost yet another senior aide, it was reported last night.

Rebecca Sananes has quit as head of audio at Archewell after just 18 months in the role, according to the Daily Telegraph and US gossip website Page Six.

She was hired to produce Meghan Markle’s Spotify podcast, Archetypes, in July 2021, but has been replaced by media executive Serena Regan. It has not yet been decided whether a second series of Archetypes will be commissioned. Mrs Sananes is the latest in a string of senior women to have left Archewell.

Mandana Dayani recently quit as president and will not be replaced. Catherine St Laurent joined Archewell as director in April 2020 but left after a year. And Toya Holness, their global secretary who joined in October 2020, left in May this year.

An Archewell spokesman said of Mrs Dayani departure: ‘Her transition was mutually planned, with intent for the Duke and Duchess to now take full lead of their company.

‘There will be no replacement, and Mrs Dayani is fully supportive of the Duke and Duchess in their new leadership roles.’

Rebecca Sananes (pictured) has reportedly quit as head of audio at Archewell after just 18 months in the role

This is Harry’s most blatant accusation yet that the Royal Household were briefing against him and his wife.

And the evidence? Well, we will presumably have to wait for the programme for that.

Happily, another friend appears with an equally provocative contribution.

Self-styled Meghan supporter Christopher Bouzy declares on the trailer: ‘It’s about hatred, it’s about race.’ Cut then to Harry, who confides: ‘It’s a dirty game. The pain and suffering of women marrying into this institution… this feeding frenzy.’ The backdrop here are the ever present photographers and there is film not just of Diana but also of the then Kate Middleton, emerging from her Chelsea home on her 25th birthday when rumours about an engagement to William were rife.

Cue Meghan saying: ‘I realised they’re never going to protect you.’ But Harry gets the final word: ‘No one knows the full truth. We know the full truth.’

It is tempting to wonder if this includes the ‘full truth’ about how his actress girlfriend was welcomed in to the Royal Family by his delighted father Charles and grandparents, the Queen and Prince Philip.

The ‘full truth’ would explain how Meghan got exactly what Meghan wanted: a royal wedding like no other, a gospel choir, a black preacher from the US, a guest list of celebrities and the absence of any pesky family members (bar her mother Doria).

For guess what? The Queen went along with each and every one of the requests Harry put to her. Hardly the response of an institution, as he suggests, that wanted to denigrate and marginalise the couple.

But then the Sussexes’ truth has often been at odds with the other parties in the royal room.

It’s unhelpful to their storyline, but actually Charles, Camilla and the Queen all thought Meghan would be a marvellous addition to the House of Windsor – not because of her biracial heritage, but rather for her intelligence, a wish to play her part in royal activities and her obvious love for Harry. What then of the wicked media?

Meghan’s arrival was universally welcomed and heralded as a vital new element in the monarchy’s long-term survival.

The ‘full truth’ might then reveal what happened next.

According to the Sussexes in the trailer it was abrupt.

‘And then…’ Meghan says. ‘Everything changed,’ Harry finishes.

What actually changed were the slow-to-emerge revelations of how challenging working actually was for the newly-minted Duke and Duchess of Sussex.

There were reports of a rapid turnover of staff.

Even so, I wrote at the time that this was not unusual in royal households: when Charles and Diana married, there were lots of comings and goings at Kensington Palace and now cultural differences were being cited.

At one stage Meghan’s lawyer, Jenny Afia pops up in the latest trailer to claim: ‘There was a war against Meghan to suit other people’s agendas’

Against a snapshot of the Buckingham Palace balcony at the 2019 Trooping the Colour ceremony, Harry also intones: ‘There’s a hierarchy of the family,’ before adding gravely, ‘you know there’s leaking, but there’s also planting of stories’

The American-born duchess, it was explained, did things at a different pace from other Royal Family members.

The trouble was that the stories did not go away.

A tone-deaf trip to New York where an eye-wateringly expensive baby shower was thrown for the then pregnant Meghan suggested she was not just Duchess Different, she was also Duchess Difficult.

By now a new speciality was being revealed – upstaging other family members.

Was it really necessary that on the day of Princess Eugenie’s wedding, the couple should tell the family that Meghan was pregnant with Archie; or that when William and Kate arrived on a tricky visit to Pakistan, they should release clips from a TV documentary shot in South Africa that was to reveal the split between the two brothers and Meghan with a trembling lip complaining that ‘no one’s asked me if I am ok’?

There are countless other examples, some may be coincidence, others may not.

The question for the Royal Family is how and whether to respond. It’s all very well Palace officials brushing the Harry and Meghan show aside and insisting it is business as usual – but by dragging Diana into this drama, Prince William has now been placed in a very delicate position.

How can he demonstrate his contempt for what his brother has done without making a toxic situation even worse?

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